Enclosures within Enclosures

Enclosures within Enclosures: Privatization Practices, Uneven Development and the Governance of Hurricanes in Cancun (Yucatan, Mexico)

Matilde Córdoba Azcárate, Fulbright Visiting Fellow, The Graduate Center, CUNY, mcordoba@gc.cuny.edu

Fernando Domínguez Rubio, Marie Curie Visiting Fellow, NYU fr547@nyu.edu

Idalina Baptista, Research Fellow, Oxford University, UK, Idalina.Baptista@sbs.ox.ac.uk

This paper discusses the emergence and transformation of Cancun (Yucatan, Mexico) from a small fishing village in the 1970s into one of the major global tourist enclaves since the mid 1990s. We contend that this transformation has taken place through the production of different modes of spatial enclosure coupled to differential forms of urban governance and privatization practices that become especially evident in reconstruction processes after a natural disaster, as a hurricane, takes place.

Originally planned as a dual space organized around a high-end and low-density tourist area and a city of workers, Cancun has gradually evolved into a complex amalgam of ‘enclosures within enclosures’ characterized by both an increasing regimentation of people, capital and objects within tightly controlled spatial circuits and by the privatization of services and public areas as the beach and certain shopping malls and main streets. This transformation is deeply intertwined with a growing complexity of governance practices, as the city has become the site of an ever more intricate assemblage of actors with uneven access to its spaces and resources– from the politicized lideres de colonias in workers’ settlements to the different scales of government as well as national and international hotel chains. The dynamics and evolving logic of this transformation will be unpacked through the study of reconstruction processes after hurricanes Gilberto (1988) and Wilma (2005). Reconstruction processes help us to identify the different logics of privatization, urban governance, subordination and socio-spatial segregation which have transformed Cancun into a space of uneven development.

The paper draws on the analysis of a preliminary set of seventeen semi-structured interviews with local actors, participant observation and on-site archival research. It is part of the ongoing research project “Understanding the Dynamics of Urban Flexibility and Governance” of the Oxford Programme for the Future of Cities (Oxford University, UK).

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