From one place to another

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American Anthropological Association / John Wiley & Sons, Inc.


These three photographs are from a large tourism development project that is currently underway in Baja California Sur, Mexico. The project – named “Cabo Riviera” – is situated alongside the relatively small coastal community of La Ribera, in a region of the peninsula known as the “East Cape.” The East Cape is just around the cape of the well-known tourism destination of Los Cabos. Initiated in 2007, Cabo Riviera is one of two development projects proposed for this region. The other was called “Cabo Cortés” (yes, many places around here include the word “Cabo” in their names). While Cabo Riviera is actively being developed, Cabo Cortés was cancelled in June 2012 by former Mexican president Felipe Calderon because of environmental concerns. Both projects were based upon a similar golf course-marina-hotel-residential development model. Cabo Cortés just happened to be about six times larger – which might explain why it drew so much attention and resistance (both nationally and internationally), resulting in eventual cancellation. The development of a new tourism destination requires tremendous work (Figure 1). This includes the physical and material work of literally reshaping a place via large machines and human labor, and the social–political work of acquiring property, building up local support, selling the project to investors, and promoting the final product to tourists and home buyers. In essence, developers reshape already existing places, changing them into sites that are amenable to a new relationship between humans and the landscape. For Cabo Riviera, the end result will be a dramatic transformation in how people use – and access – this coastal landscape.