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Think Locally, Act Globally

Salon magazine has a short but interesting article up called "Think locally, act globally," discussing an attempt to bring the internet to a remote village in Mexico. The story isn't always encouraging or neat, but it's well-worth reading. (If you're not a Salon subscriber, you'll be asked to click through an ad before getting to the article.)

The presence of Morales, the establishment of a municipio office in Yelapa, the appearance of actual police here, plus Yelapa's increasing Internet presence, all attest to the new influence of the outside world on the town. Whether it has the political skill, and influence, to keep local control is questionable. The community leaders are well aware of the effects of development on other Mexican locales that have become tourist centers. Their control of the land and their traditional political autonomy, as part of an indigenous community, give the locals some protection. Nevertheless, Yelapa politicians have frequently been bought in the past, and the land has become very valuable. In addition, the indigenous Chacala community that Yelapa belongs to is in debt to the federal government for unpaid taxes on the land it leases to tourist developers. Urrutia thinks that the combination of fiscal mismanagement and rising crime and drug problems may create a wedge for outsiders to gain control of community land.

As this issue is being decided, Yelapa's people will go on wiring up as fast as they can, and more tourists will be attracted to it from all over the globe. Already, its new commercial villas promise all the comforts of home, rather than jungle romance in a thatched hut. It is hard to say what the impact of the first neon sign will be. Given Yelapa's small size and skimpy economy, the coming of electricity and digital technology may cause very fast growth and make it a frontier boomtown. At the same time, projects like the computer school and the youth center, and the town's new political sophistication in dealing with Mexican governments, rather than relying on its weakening protection as an indigenous community, offer Yelapa some way of interacting with the network that has annexed it to the global economy.


This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on April 16, 2004 10:22 AM.

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