Ongoing Struggles: Mayas and Immigrants in Tourist Era Tulum

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Abstract

In Quintana Roo, Mexico, an area once controlled by Maya descendants of the mid–19th-century Caste Wars of the Yucatan, the global tourist economy has led to radical changes. This study analyzes relations between local Mayas and Yucatec and Mexican immigrants in Tulum Pueblo, located south of Cancun and just outside a popular archeological site. Struggles between Mayas and immigrants have centered on cultural, marital and religious practices and physical control of the town's central church and plaza, eventually resulting in the establishment of dual, competing town centers. Questions of cultural politics and the control of space continue to be central to contemporary political movements around the world. This research shows that the fashioning, of cultural places and practices is inherently tied to materially based differences in power and inequality differences are minimized when few disparities in power exist, but conflicts over places and identities are maximized when power differentials increase.

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