Tourism and a Telenovela: Magic and Money in Representations of Tequila, Jalisco, Mexico

Nayive Sarahi Gaytán, 21C Spanish and History

My honors thesis explores how ideas of the “magical” are used to magnify the existing cultural appeal of tourist destinations in Mexico. I use the Pueblo Mágico, or “magical town” of Tequila in the state of Jalisco as the primary site of my case study. My research questions center on the commodification of the culture and landscape of Tequila the town and its primary cultural product, the beverage tequila. I am particularly interested in how the discourses conveyed through state-sponsored tourism initiatives and privately funded broadcast media promote symbols associated with Mexican national identity. Concepts from film theory and tourism theory inform my analysis. I argue that messaging about Tequila and messaging about Mexican national identity both work to privilege affect and emotion while camouflaging the role of neoliberal financial transactions. Despite highlighting the local and the traditional, I find that these discourses ultimately affirm global capitalism.

In the first chapter, I focus on the history of the Mexican Ministry of Tourism’s Pueblos Mágicos program. In the second chapter, I explain the town of Tequila’s transformation into a tourist destination following its acceptance to the nationwide Pueblos Mágicos program. In the third chapter, I analyze the popular telenovela “Destilando Amor,” which is set in Tequila and is centered around a family-owned tequila corporation, within the context of melodrama. Throughout this project, my goal has been to show how a national strategy for fomenting tourism, by focusing on the local and the regional, on cultural traditions and landscapes, and on the magical and the emotional, is continually revealed to be following the money across the globe.

The Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry has offered me a productive virtual space to interact with brilliant scholars at different stages in their academic careers. It has been wonderful to learn more about my colleagues’ research this semester as we refined our research goals and worked on presenting our research in a cogent and engaging manner to an interdisciplinary audience. The constructive feedback I received throughout this process was tremendously helpful as I worked on (and recently completed!) my thesis. I am grateful for the support because writing this thesis was by far the most challenging academic endeavor I encountered as an undergraduate. I am a first-generation, low-income student and feel confident in my ability to navigate academic spaces without feeling like I have to pretend to be someone I am not. I look forward to continuing with researching and writing in graduate school and hope to join more engaging and supportive communities along the way.

Nayive Gaytán is a senior double-majoring in Spanish and History. She is currently writing an honors thesis on the representations of landscapes and iconic market products associated with Tequila, Jalisco, Mexico in tourism promotional materials and digital broadcast media. Mexico’s Secretariat of Tourism named Tequila a pueblo mágico, or magical town in 2003 as part of a nationwide initiative to attract domestic and international tourists to small towns with rich history and culture. She hopes to learn more about how ideas of the “magical” that are used to market these tourist destinations are connected to the creation and promotion of a mythical version of culture in a process we might think of as auto-folklorization. 

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