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  • Recent Works on Tourism in Latin America
  • Tamar Diana Wilson (bio)
Holiday in Mexico: Critical Reflections on Tourism and Tourist Encounters. Edited by Dina Berger and Andrew Grant Wood . Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010. Pp. xv + 393. $24.95 paper. $89.95 cloth.
Economies of Desire: Sex and Tourism in Cuba and the Dominican Republic. By Amalia L. Cabezas . Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2009. Pp. xii + 218. $24.95 paper.
Negotiating Paradise: U.S. Tourism and Empire in Twentieth-Century Latin America. By Dennis Merrill . Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009. Pp. xvi + 327. $22.50 paper. $65.00 cloth.
Packaged Vacations: Tourism Development in the Spanish Caribbean. By Evan R. Ward . Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2008. Pp. xxvi + 236. $69.95 cloth.

Since the last half of the twentieth century, tourism has been touted in Latin America and the Caribbean as a spur to economic development, as a way to earn foreign exchange or to offset deficits arising from the balance of payments, and as a means to create employment. Organizations such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the Inter-American Development Bank have made such claims, as have administrations of the U.S. government at least as far back as that of Franklin D. Roosevelt. A number of nations in the region accepted these premises as part of their development plans and received loans to create an infrastructure for tourism from one or more of the already mentioned financial institutions.

Some scholars see the growth of tourism in Latin America and the Caribbean as a post-World War II phenomenon; others date it to plans for modernization and economic development instituted in the 1960s and 1970s; still others, mainly sociologists and anthropologists, study it as a contemporary phenomenon, without consideration of its development. The books reviewed in these pages, which study the history of tourism and its sociology, avoid such errors.

Dina Berger and Andrew Grant Wood point out in the introduction to their collection that tourism was a "fledgling industry" in Mexico in the [End Page 259] 1930s; yet by 2005, it had come to make the third-largest contribution to Mexico's gross domestic product and directly employed 5.5 percent of its labor force. The foundation for tourism in Mexico was nevertheless laid long before the 1930s. Attention to this historical dimension distinguishes many of the case studies of Holiday in Mexico from other works on tourism, which tend to neglect the industry's development to focus only on its circumstance today. In a historical vein, Andrea Bradman proposes that the more than 110,000 U.S. troops who occupied Mexico during the war of 1846-1848 can be seen as "soldier-tourists" (25). They cast their gaze on the countryside, volcanoes, ruins, monuments, and cities—Veracruz, Jalapa, Puebla, Mexico City, and others—and on pyramids, bullfights, theaters, and other historical sites and cultural entertainments that would eventually be part of the tourist itinerary. The soldiers sent letters home about their experiences; war correspondents published accounts about Mexico in news media; and, on their return to the United States, some soldiers wrote magazine and newspaper articles, books, and memoirs about what they had seen. Thus, information about the things that Mexico offered to potential tourists was disseminated in the United States, fostering interest in knowing firsthand the sights and experiences available.

Apart from solider-tourists, the Mexican government attempted to attract casual visitors before the Mexican Revolution of 1910-1917. Christina Bueno writes that it was partly to attract tourists to the celebration of the centennial of Mexico's independence from Spain that President Porfirio Díaz had the archaeological site of Teotihuacán, near Mexico City, refurbished. This was the first official reconstruction of a site with pyramids, and the centennial drew tourists from around the world.

Holiday in Mexico also contains essays on tourism in Veracruz in the 1920s, on the U.S.-Mexico border zone from 1938 to 1965, on Acapulco from the 1930s through the 1950s, on San Miguel de Allende from the late 1930s to the early 1960s, and on Cancún and Los Cabos today. Berger dates to the 1920s Mexico's...


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