Tourists, immigrants, and family units
Gullette, Gregory Stephen
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It has been argued that a promising opportunity to reduce Mexico’s internal pressures influencing out-migration remains in targeted development initiatives. By focusing development within economically depressed regions, it is possible to equalize some relative differences between Mexico and the United States. Overtime this would reduce Mexico’s domestic push-factors associated with Mexico-U.S. migration. For the past few decades the Mexican government explored tourism development as one means to strengthen locally depressed economies and meet regional development initiatives. This dissertation explores the outcome of one such development site in Huatulco, Oaxaca, Mexico. In this dissertation I explore how tourism development on the Oaxacan coast, implemented through the Mexican agency FONATUR, created, rather than eliminated, local conditions in the region that produced and sustained out-migration and undocumented migration into the U.S. Central to these local conditions affecting migration are the restrictions placed on local resource access, most notably the contentious issue of land. This dissertation tests three related propositions. First, that local Huatulco residents perceive tourism as reducing the availability of local resources due to the redirection of capital and natural resources to the tourist infrastructure. Second, the redirection of resources towards tourism development and the growing tourist presence has changed the actual or the expected standard of living for local residents. Third, local residents that perceive their standards of living cannot be raised in the context of tourism development decide to out-migrate to the U.S. After analyzing data collected through 12 months of ethnographic fieldwork in Mexico, and drawing on research conducted in economic, political, and cultural migration studies, I argue that the structural conditions emerging through tourism development created the social networks perpetuating out-migration. I determine that the manner in which the state directed the tourism project significantly altered the local communities’ abilities to live in the region and influenced their decision-making process on whether or not to participate within undocumented migration. In the end, the success of the Huatulco tourism development project cannot be measured in pure economic or quantitative factors, but must include considerations on the qualitative restrictions that the Mexican government has created as practice in Huatulco.