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Maya migration and the tourist trade in Cancun

By Tyler D. Parry
Indigenous Peoples Issues and Resources

Traditionally, government officials and foreign investors argue that tourism provides methods to boost local and national economies by providing jobs to local populations, access to international capital, and opportunities for partnerships with powerful foreign investors. These accolades, of course, are predominantly based upon tourism’s ability to promote monetary gain. The sole emphasis on the economic component has caused tourism to be placed under intense academic scrutiny. Scholars from a variety of disciplines argue that despite the supposed economic stimuli tourist economies generate, tourism poses a number of problems for marginalized groups, particularly indigenous peoples who are usually rural and ostracized from mainstream government agendas. M. Bianet Castellanos’ work A Return to Servitude: Mayan Migration and the Tourist Trade in Cancun provides an important addition to this literature by looking beyond the paradisiacal splendor of Cancun, Mexico, and arguing that the rural migrants who comprise a bulk of Cancun’s workforce are reentering a form of exploitation that is reminiscent of Mexico’s colonial and postcolonial past.

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