Touristification, rent gap and neighborhood change in San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas

Authors: Felicia Berryessa-Erich*, El Colegio de la Frontera Sur (ECOSUR)
Topics: Tourism Geography, Latin America, Urban Geography
Keywords: touristification, gentrification, rent gap, patrimonialization, urban ethnography
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Lincoln 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

San Cristóbal de Las Casas, a small city in the Chiapas highlands founded in 1528, gained international fame after the 1994 Zapatista uprising that brought a slew of activists, academics, nonprofits and curious onlookers from all over the world to bear witness to this unprecedented political happening. While this was a watershed moment for the city, in fact, the historically ladino San Cristóbal valley had been experiencing a major population shift since the 1970s with the arrival of tens of thousands of mostly Tsotsil and Tseltal indigenous people displaced from nearby communities in the Chiapas highlands. In a concerted effort by local elite to redirect traditional capital flows that had lost footing after the uprising in 1994, San Cristóbal’s local economy and political resources were shifted markedly towards tourism, a shift that in the last 25 years has brought about a very local brand of gentrification in the central city with a wide range of impacts on the distinct populations (Spanish-speaking Coletos, Tsotsil and Tseltal-speaking indigenous maya, and foreign visitors and residents) that now inhabit the valley. This research, based on two years of urban ethnography in the historic city center and neighboring El Cerrillo barrio, focuses on the activation of the city’s previously stagnant real estate market through the process of touristification, and the development of a locally-specific rent gap situation that is now transforming the central urban landscape and helping shift social dynamics in the traditional barrios adjacent to the touristified downtown.

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