Paradise for whom? The privatization of beaches in Punta de Mita, Mexico

How to tell a story about neoliberalism in the water sector through a video? Zaida, Nawid, Abebe, Danneille, Nargiza, Alexia, and Kelly, MSc students in water management and governance, tell what they learnt from this experience.

Beaches are the preferred holiday destination for many around the world. Something about sun tanning and soaking your body in salty waters just screams relaxation. The Guardian’s travel section sums it up: “whether you’re seeking solitude or a party, shallow waters or pounding surf, find your perfect beach”. But in order for some to find their “perfect beach”, local communities in coastal lines around the world, have to bear with the drawbacks, since tourism brings more than just investments.

Have you ever questioned your access to the beach during the holidays? As students of Water Governance at IHE we had the opportunity to question access to water, among other issues, during the making of a ten minutes documentary for the 2019 Water Governance Documentary Festival. Our group of seven – Zaida, Nawid, Abebe, Danneille, Nargiza, Alexia, and Kelly – had to deal with the issue of “Neoliberalism in the Water Sector”.

Our team! Zaida, Nawid, Abebe, Danneille, Nargiza, Alexia, Kelly (left to right

There are numerous neoliberalizations of services and water resources, and we wanted to tell a story that was close to us. This is why we decided to tell the story of Zaida’s community in Punta de Mita, Mexico. The story centers on the re-location of local towns in favor of tourism developments and how this has affected the people by closing their access to the beaches. This means their livelihoods have been put at risk since, being a fishing community, its mayor source of income is the sea. But the developments do not only tamper with revenues, but also to their right to pursue enjoyment. This community finds its identity around the beach, as families gather to spend time together and different generations have been surfing the waves.

We conducted interviews with key actors in Punta de Mita. For us the issue is straightforward: the access to the beach is being contested as the community is aware of the unfair situation, they know their rights and they want people to know about what is happening there. This facilitated the production process, but we faced differing interest and stories. Most of the population consists of surfers, fishermen and property owners. They want access to the beach for different reasons, but their common ground is that they want access.

The more we dug in, we realized that this is a story about being heard and about the fact that, in contexts where local populations do not have a lot of bargaining power, tourism translates into injustice. We are pleased that with this documentary we were able to put the community’s voices on a global platform. Our group worked day and night during three weeks to finish it. With the help of professors on environment sciences and geography, we aimed to strengthen the narration.

We would like to thank everyone who made the documentary possible, all the surfers, the fishermen, the community leaders and everyone on Colectivo la Lancha. They are all fighting for their livelihoods and for their right to access the beach.


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