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Borders within. Tourism growth, migration and regional polarization in Baja California Sur (Mexico)

Alba Gámez, Manuel Angeles


Tourism in Baja California Sur (BCS, in the Baja California Peninsula in Northern Mexico) can be understood as an example of the internationalization of the services sector and the integration of relatively isolated regions to the processes of the global market, particularly that of the United States. The success of the Los Cabos corridor (between San Jose del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas in the southernmost tip of BCS), as one of the most dynamic tourist spaces in Mexico, has been central to this trend in the state. Subscribing to a flexible understanding of borders (Brunet-Jailly 2005) that goes beyond geographical boundaries, this growth has implied a restructuring of intra and interregional interaction patterns not just in Los Cabos but in the whole state. International tourism has fostered internal borders in BCS, due to the enclave nature of tourism growth as expressed by increasing investment concentration, income inequality, and social exclusion. This article analyzes the effects and perspectives of a tourism growth that is tightly related to the US market, has changed demographic patterns locally, and has increased opportunities for BCS, even though the growth has also made BCS more vulnerable to negative external impacts, including environmental deterioration, intraregional economic disparities and social exclusion. The text is divided into three sections: the first addresses the economic importance of tourism internationally and for Mexico; the second part highlights the most recent patterns in the sector's performance in BCS, to which Los Cabos as the state's most important tourist destination is crucial; and the third reflects upon the relationship between growth and development as they are linked to tourism in the region. A call is made about the need to reconsider how to sustain growth while changing the development of negative tourism-related patterns, a concern that government officials, private investors and the local community should share and act upon.

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Print ISSN: 0886-5655
Online ISSN: 2159-1229