From September 15th to September 21th 2015 our Research Team met for the second of three site-specific workshops.
This time, we all gathered in Mexico City, for an intense week, visiting both the City at large and the extraordinary Tepito neighbourhood. The three principal investigators and three researchers from the London School of Economics, The University of Amsterdam and the Ludwig Maximillian’s University of Munich were joined by five guests. From Jamaica, guests included Lakeisha Ellison, Organiser of the Trench Town Rock Saturdays and creator of the food and clothing brand of the same name, and Vuraldo Barnett, Manager of the Trench Town Restorative Justice Centre. From Brazil, we were joined by Salete Martins and José Carlos Pereira, two tour guides from Santa Marta in Rio de Janeiro, and Thainã Medeiros, a social activist and media specialist from Complexo de Almeao.
During the workshop, we visited the city’s vast Historical Centre, the National Autonomous University of Mexico, and the much toured area of Coyoacán, home to the Frida Kahlo museum with a tour guide. We visited the neighbourhood of Ciudad Nezahualcoyotl, situated on the outskirts of Mexico and undergoing much change. These various tours allowed us to understand the overarching tourism landscape of Mexico City and enabled us to put Tepito, the neighbourhood our study concentrates on, into a wider frame.
We then embarked on three distinct tours of Tepito. The first tour was led by Alfonso Hérnandez of the Centro de Estudios Tepiteños. The second was led by Gabriel Sanchez Valverde, an architect involved in a garbage and recycling project, and the third by Luis Arevalo Venegas a shoe maker and cultural activist and his assistant Jacobo Noe Loeza Amaro. All three tours highlighted different areas and aspects of the neighbourhood, taking us through and around the area’s vast informal market – to various sites of worship, crafts and dwellings. This allowed us to understand the role of the tour guide in shaping a touristic narrative and delivering representations of the community. It was fascinating to note what each guide chose to include or discard from his tour, and this hinted to the multiple and contested readings of Tepito. A very informative part of our workshop included an afternoon sit down with participants of the cultural project ‘Las 7 Cabronas’ of Tepito – strong women who shared their thoughts and experiences of the neighbourhood they live and work in.
As it had done so in Brazil, this Mexican leg of our tour based workshop stimulated discussions and exchanges between participants, enabling us to highlight similarities and differences between community tourism in Rio, Kingston and Mexico City. This comparative approach confirmed commonalities and questions that bind all three research sites. It allowed the researchers and guests to probe questions pertaining to commodification, (il)legality, security and violence, poverty, marginalization, change, transformation and / or gentrification, architecture and urban landscapes through the lens of tourism.
The following week, we were in Kingston!