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3262 - A Tale of Two Service Economies in a Mexican Town

A history of municipal and private investment in a service-oriented economy enabled the town of San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato to survive Mexico’s economic crises and transition to neoliberal economic models in the 1980s and 1990s. In fact, the local tourist industry and the town’s expatriate community continued to grow at unprecedented rates during that period. As the Mexican government struggled to redirect its economic strategies and salvage its credibility among its citizens and the global community, the public-private collaboration in San Miguel became a model for future Mexican tourism development.

However, disputes over resources and planning and the shifting social hierarchies in San Miguel reveal that its successes were not without costs. The centrality of foreign tourists and residents to the local economy exacerbated the workforce hierarchy in the traditional service economy. Moreover, the austerity measures imposed on Mexico by international financial institutions reduced already sparse social services and created a vacuum that urgently needed to be filled. Philanthropic organizations founded by San Miguel’s expatriate community met numerous important social needs in San Miguel. In tandem with Mexico’s economic crisis, these organizations created a new kind of “service” economy, one dependent on private funding and generosity that was often as fickle as the global economy.

This paper explores both of San Miguel’s service economies in a transnational context to reveal the unintended social consequences of both official and unofficial economic policies.

Palavras-chaves: political economy, expatriates, tourism

Autores: Covert, Lisa (College of Charleston, Ud States of Am / USA)

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