August 30, 2009

East Cape Development, Otra Vez

Development around the East Cape pueblo of La Ribera--which includes a large golf course, marina, and hotel project--is already well underway. Cabo Riviera is described on the project website in this way:

Carefully created in harmony with its waterfront setting on the calm Sea of Cortez, 900-acre Cabo Riviera is the ultimate haven for those who live life to its fullest. Residents can wade, swim, and play along the white-sand beaches, sail a boat or cast a line on the sapphire sea, paddle a sea kayak along the scenic shore, or play 18 holes of golf on the challenging Pete Dye signature course that plays to both the beachfront and the marina harbor.

But there are some local voices who question how harmonious the development plans really are:

I happen to to be reading through a text by Roderick P. Neuman called "Making Political Ecology," which posits the basic idea that ecological issues are often inherently tied to local and global politics. Development around the east cape is no exception. The creation of a new investment community with a marina, golf course, and resort will certainly impact the community of La Ribera, and the East Cape region as a whole (especially since there is another competing project, Cabo Cortes, located just a short drive to the south). There will most definitely be those who gain, as well as those who stand to lose quite a lot. But that's the game, right?

Despite the idyllic ways in which the project is framed by the project developers, there are going to be negative impacts of the project--there is little doubt about that. And the question is: who benefits from the positives and who shoulders the negatives?

One of the main issues that I am wondering about is water, since this part of Baja California Sur is hardly overflowing with moisture. One golf course in this area seems like quite a lot. But still, the marina-hotel-golf course development model, which is both common and popular, is well underway.

A couple of key points about the video (especially if you don't speak Spanish). First of all, this was sent to me by a contact that I made while I was in Baja this past summer, a local environmental activist. The video comes from here. Second, at the beginning of the video the men express their concern about the environmental effects of the project--what will happen to the fish, the birds, etc? With the changes to the landscape, what will happen to local people when the seasonal flood waters come rushing down from the mountains? What will happen to the freshwater lagoons/marshes? Where will the local fishermen go (at about 2:00 into the video one of the men talks about the fact that "the company" does not want them there because the project is for "alto turismo" or high end tourism).

At about 2:44 into the video another man states "We are not opposed to development" and that he understands that the project needs to be closed off and constructed where it is. "There's no problem with that" (no hay ningún problema). He admits that many will benefit from the development, and also states that they are not looking for work, because they already have it: "We are people of the ocean...that's where our jobs are." What they want, he says, is that both the ocean and the laws are respected as these changes are brought about.

Here is a promotional video about the Cabo Riviera project that is quite fascinating. First, it starts off with aerial footage of Cabo San Lucas, which quickly emphasizes the large scale development and crowding of that part of the cape. It almost seems to start off as a kind of anti-development film project, but then it pans to the East Cape, and to the Cabo Riviera project as the "best kept secret". Pay close attention to the romantic, idyllic, isolated touristic images and scenes at the end of the video. The message: get away from the crowds of Cabo San Lucas and enjoy the wide open, unspoiled beaches of the East Cape*

The use of YouTube by different sides in this case is interesting. I have no idea who made either video, or what the actual context of production was (although I can assume certain things from the promo video by Cabo Riviera--well, I suppose certain things could be assumed about both videos, so maybe assumptions are best left aside). What I do know is that change and development are going to happen in this part of Baja California Sur. What's really at stake is how this process is conducted, and who is able to participate in the decision-making process. Videos are used by all sides of this process. Some use video to sell the idea and the dream of investment and development, while others use it to show a completely different side of the story--the side that does not appear in the glossy real estate magazines that circulate throughout Los Cabos.

*Note: Cabo San Lucas was once considered unspoiled too (photo from here):

However, things have changed a little bit in the last 39 years:

Cabo San Lucas, 2009. Photo by yours truly.

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