Coming fresh off its successful construction of a discount store hard by the pyramid at Teotihuacan, Mexico, Wal-Mart is continuing its quest to find sacred places and commercialize them. Cox News Service reports this week that the retailer has its gaze fixed on a town that ancient native tribes considered to be a magical doorway to heaven, from which the gods descended to earth. Instead, it could become a doorway to cheap underwear and Mickey Mouse lawn furniture. The town of Patzcuaro, five hours drive from Mexico City, is one of Mexico’s most popular tourist destinations, a “magic town” that draws thousands of visitors along its cobblestone streets and picturesque lake high in the green mountains of Michoacan. The tourist trade no doubt attracted Wal-Mart, looking to cash in on the pueblo’s attractions. Wal-Mart told Cox News it was only “studying” a locatiion in Patzcuaro, but local officials says Wal-Mart has bought land at the town’s entrance, and is in the process of lining up its permits. Wal-Mart already controls 50% or more of Mexico’s grocery business. Merchants in Patzcuaro have banded together to fight the Wal-Mart plan, and say they will join the National Front Against Wal-Mart, an organization formed to stop big box stores from destroying cultural traditions throughout Mexico. “When Wal-Mart arrives, the identity disappears,” said Escarcega Viveros Juan David, owner of a school supply and toy store in the city’s historic center.Patzcuaro’s colonial mansions are now home to many small businesses, and the town has been careful to regulate the appearance of downtown businesses.
It is amazing that U.S. retailers have become the colonial powers now in Mexico. What the government could not do, the corporations have done: the conquest and domination of Mexico’s economy. Wal-Mart is the largest retailer in Mexico, and has wasted no time, along with Costco, in seeking some of the most inappropriate locations that defy the cultural and historic traditions of Mexico. Someday, Wal-Marts in Mexico will sell rubber pyramids and quaint village souvenirs made in Chinese sweatshops.