May 25, 2010

From Oaxaca, 2008

I completed my M.A. fieldwork in the community of Santa Maria Atzompa, which is located about half an hour outside Oaxaca City. This was an amazing, challenging, and unforgettable experience. This photograph was taken during one of my interviews in 2008. Atzompa is a community with a long history of ceramic production; since around the 1960s the government has encouraged these ceramicists to start producing their wares for tourism markets. Today, many members of the community do in fact make pottery in hopes of selling to tourists who find their way to Atzompa in search of "traditional" crafts. While I was there in 2007 and 2008, the overall flow of tourism was pretty severely reduced--much of this was due to the social and political upheavals that took place in 2006.

My research started off in one direction, and, after several conversations with community members from Atzompa, ended up focusing on something completely different: tourism. This was my introduction to the politically charged nature of tourism. While the Mexican government and many international institutions continue to push tourism as an unquestionable answer to economic "underdevelopment," communities such as Atzompa deal with the fickle nature of the industry. One small hint of political trouble and the spigot of international tourism runs dry all too quickly. Sure, tourism can be beneficial in many ways--but the key word is CAN. There are no guarantees by any means. Along with the positives come a whole slew of hard to predict (let alone control) drawbacks. And this is why there is rarely one all-encompassing solution to "development" issues.

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