Tourism, consumption, migration, and the Maya in Cancun
|"A Return to Servitude should be read widely and carefully by students, teachers and activists throughout disciplines, as it reveals an inspiring story of indigenous peoples struggling to combat marginalization in an increasingly globalized and capitalist economy.
— Indigenous Peoples Issues & Resources
"M. Bianet Castellanos introduces us to Mayas serving in the tourist meccas of the Yucatan where their ancestors built the temples and pyramids that draw people from all over the world. As they refashion their lives in the playgrounds of transnational tourists she reveals how they are acquiring new notions of personhood and gender, leaving behind the old markers of dress and language as they negotiate and sometimes resist neoliberal premises."
— June Nash, Emeritus Faculty, The CUNY Graduate Center
"Weaving Avery Gordon’s notion of haunting with theories of transnationalism and modernity, M. Bianet Castellanos argues that the cultural and material shifts that accompany Maya migration for work in Cancún’s tourism industry enable negotiation, accommodation, and even resistance to Mexico’s neoliberal reforms. A Return to Servitude dismantles romantic representations of tourism and illustrates vividly how the Maya struggle to survive.
— Patricia Zavella, UC-Santa Cruz
As a free trade zone and Latin America's most popular destination, Cancun, Mexico, is more than just a tourist town. It is not only actively involved in the production of
transnational capital but also forms an integral part of the state's modernization plan for rural, Indigenous communities. Indeed, Maya migrants make up more than a third of the city's
A Return to Servitude is an ethnography of Maya migration within Mexico that analyzes the foundational role Indigenous peoples play in the development of the modern
nation-state. Focusing on tourism in the Yucatan Peninsula, M. Bianet Castellanos examines how Cancun came to be equated with modernity, how this city has shaped the political economy
of the peninsula, and how Indigenous communities engage with this vision of contemporary life. More broadly, she demonstrates how Indigenous communities experience, resist, and
accommodate themselves to transnational capitalism.
Tourism and the social stratification that results from migration have created conflict among the Maya. At the same time, this work asserts, it is through engagement with modernity
and its resources that they are able to maintain their sense of indigeneity and community.
M. Bianet Castellanos is assistant professor of American studies at the University of Minnesota.
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