I’m writing this from Guanajuato, Mexico; we’ve been traveling and studying Spanish since December 26. My wife and I were also here 22 years ago for an extended trip, and I notice differences in the business world since then.
The most obvious is how much more advanced the infrastructure has become. A few examples:
Making a long-distance call within Mexico had been rather an ordeal. In 1984 and 1985, a person would contact the operator, you’d get a call back in an hour or two when the line became available, and the sound quality was iffy. These days, just buy a phone card, slide it in, and dial, and usually get a good clear signal. However, you may have to try two or three phones before you find one that likes your card. And everybody that we met had a cell phone; many also have land lines. In the old days, most people had no phone at all.
Intercity bus travel has become a joy (other than the constant barrage of poorly chosen TV and movies). Luxurious seats, immaculate restrooms, even a snack.
Banking has been computerized, and transactions such as changing travelers checks that used to take half an hour or more now take only a few minutes.
Purified water is common, and a healthfood consciousness has begun to be felt in the culture. A few examples–even Wonder offers packaged whole wheat tortillas…natural foods stores, though small, are easy to find…a few restaurants and cafes proclaim that they use organic ingredients.
However, there are some less attractive changes as well.
It seems that the strong local traditional culture is harder to find. Norteamericano fashion boutiques have replaced many of the traditional clothing vendors, and we saw almost no one wearing Mexican styles. And, like so many other parts of the world, some of the U.S.’s worst cultural exports have begun to crowd out local stores. We saw several Wal-Marts, McDonald’s, and–in picturesque downtown Guanajuato–even a Domino Pizza. And despite the wonderful varieties of Mexican soda and beer, Coke is enormously popular.
Worse, Coke owns at least a few of the brands of bottled water, and that could be a dangerous trend. I beleive firmly that water rights and water privatization will be major focal points for the struggle for economic justice, increasing in intesity to the point that water may be the oil of 2020 and beyond. And it should not be yanked out from under the local populace by multinational corporations.