Something that really interests me is how different forms of media are used to create certain ideas, ideals, and understandings of places. This kind of thing is especially relevant in any study of tourism, since the only way that people can decide to visit a particular place is by looking through guidebooks, websites, history books, photographs, etc. That is, unless they just book a random ticket or start driving somewhere. In much the same way that media helps to inscribe and maintain the "imagined communities" of Benedict Anderson, it is also a part of creating imagined destinations that tourists seek out all around the world. And things get really interesting (and complicated) when the imagined destinations and experiences don't align with the realities on the ground.

Since I am doing work in on the Baja California peninsula, here is an example of the ways in which Los Cabos is represented through tourist media:


Baja California Sur is indeed an amazing place, and there is plenty of beauty to be seen. No doubt about that. But the tourism zone--and the way that it is imagined, sold, and represented in tourism media--only tells part of the story. I am not even sure if it's possible to tell "the whole story," but I do know that these media discourses cover up as much as they explain. There is always a lot more. Of course, tourism media is all about selling a product, which in this case consists of idealized landscapes, leisure, relaxation, luxury, and adventure.

The cracks start to show up, however, when you look a little closer (or when you spend a little more time away from the golf courses and high end hotels in the hotel zone). There is a reason why many vacation packages encourage an all-inclusive experience that basically shields guests from the less than ideal realities of development and expansion along the cape.

Cross posted here.

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Comment by ryan anderson on April 14, 2010 at 6:33pm
(sorry for the lag in responding--the usual excuses about grad school and all that nonsense)

Keith: exactly--this is often all about enclave tourism, and the strange thing is that while this is sold as tourism in "Mexico" the actual place doesn't matter. It's about creating this ideal image of luxury tourism, and Mexico just happens to provide the right backdrop. Many of the hotels are owned by foreign interests, and some of these have been in the area for 50 years. But these are the kinds of things that I need to keep looking into.

John: Mike Davis does some good work. I have not read Ecology of Fear, but it looks good. I do have City of Quartz, and I like how he puts his books together. Thanks for the suggestion.
Comment by Keith Hart on April 5, 2010 at 6:28pm
There are no blacks of course, but also only three Mexicans in service roles and three children in two well-spaced shots. It can't be that would-be tourists imagine there aren't any Mexicans here, any more than Jamaica's North Coast is devoid of black people. So what is on offer here is enclave tourism, whether normal Mexico can be shut out or not. That leads me to ask who owns the hotels, golf courses etc and if what the tourists consume is largely imported.
Comment by John McCreery on April 5, 2010 at 6:46am
P.S. The wikipedia entry on Davis is quite interesting.
Comment by John McCreery on April 5, 2010 at 6:43am
Ryan, if you have a chance, you should take a look at the book I mentioned in my blog, Mike Davis (1999) Ecology of Fear: Los Angeles and the Imagination of Disaster. You will find it directly relevant to the "less than ideal realities" that vacation packages are designed to avoid, in precisely your neck of the woods.

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