26 December 2009


Admittedly, I put up Kubla Kahn on Christmas Day as a filler with all due apologies to Samuel Taylor Coleridge. But I received a very interesting comment.

John has pointed out a new article in the New York Times Travel Section entitled 36 Hours in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. There is included a link to a moderately interesting slide show. This article appears on line today but will be the featured article in the Travel Section of the Sunday edition tomorrow.

I was startled to notice that it is currently the most emailed article from the Travel Section. I was more startled to note that for a a time it was the second most emailed article from the entire New York Times site according to the listing on the home page. So I read it with interest. It is a fair, journeyman-like job for a travel writer writing for people in the market for a travel destination. Not just any travel destination. A travel destination suitable for inclusion in their list of previous travel destinations. You know. That crowd.

This statement about the town was puzzling to me, however: Old-timers started grousing about its Disneyfication.

I can only wonder which old-timers the writer spoke with. From my point of view, there is no “Disneyfication,” or I would most certainly have noticed it. Old timers may grouse about the increase in the cost of living—a cost of living that has increased only in the tourist haunts and establishments that cater to norteamericanos. They may grouse about the construction of a shopping center on the edge of town that included an Office Depot. They may grouse about the construction of a Mexican Walmart, the Megastore, on the edge of town. But “Disneyfication?” I am at a loss to explain why anyone would be grousing about such a thing, which in fact does not exist here in any form.

But then again, perhaps I am the most gullible of the gullible. When I encounter an old, stooped gentleman in the street leading two donkeys with bags of vegetables on their backs uptown, I believe. I believe that the bags are full of product from the old man's field that he is off to sell, hopefully at a small profit. It never occurs to me that he might be a hired actor in costume and the bags full of the concession product of a large corporation that has fabricated all this.

When I put my hand on the side of a building that appears to have been constructed in the time of New Spain, it feels like stone. It does not feel like papier-maché or plastic. Perhaps some multinational corporation has developed a new papier-maché or plastic that perfectly mimics stone. I suppose that I must concede that anything is possible.

The old beggar women appear real to me and in the midst of real destitution.

The mariachi players seem to me to be real mariachi players earning tips for themselves in order to feed their families, not a return on investment for some remote stockholders.

Mexicans who stream to the churches here seem to be earnestly seeking the confirmation of their own blood offspring in the faith, or sincerely celebrating the marriage of a daughter who actually exists, or mourning a real death. I am certain that these people would be shocked to learn that none of it is real, and they are actually only capering about for the amusement of visitors.

None of the tortillas, produce, meat, or pastries that I purchase in the little stores near where I live are shrink wrapped.

The place is not plastered with signs warning me of the danger of severe physical injury or death if I undertake some mundane activity in an unsafe way and disclaiming any liability if I do.

I do not sense that I live in a place where culture has been displaced by commerce; where the shared goals and beliefs of the people are exemplified only in advertising; where my identity is a fungible one and I am solely defined as just another consumer.

I could go on.

Really though, I would like to know who the hell it is who is complaining about the “Disneyfication” of the place and what the hell it is that they are seeing and sensing that I do not see or sense at all. Maybe I am missing something.


Stephen said...

I shall comment.


All the shit we left in the "everything is for sale" US of A is not, cannot be and, hopefully, never will be found here.
Yes, I do like buying great cheese, but it's made in Queretero, by MEXICANS! Not by Kraft foods. And I do like having good wine, made in the Americas and not by corporate Gallo with a gold label.
Oh, and I do like our new, seasonal, one and only stop light in town. It's the policeman standing on a box directing traffic atop of Calle de San Francisco. I think he is sponsered by Qualcom. Or maybe Nike.
Yes, it is getting crowded with gringo tourists but after January they all seem to go away and the Jardin is peaceful and sane again.
All except for the Mickey Mouse walk around. He/ she will be with us forever

John said...

Disney is not even remotely real. If it were real, nobody would go there. San Miguel de Allende is perhaps, in the mind of the author of the travel article, an escape from reality. Nevertheless, it is a careless comparison, as you so eloquently point out.