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Summer Field School in Ethnography
MIRA: Multimedia Interdisciplinary Research in Anthropology
A Collaborative and Comparative Study of Tourism Destinations and Cultures

Program Locations
MIRA takes place in three locations selected for their cultural, anthropological, and ethnographic value and for their relevance to this program: Mérida, the capital city of Yucatán; Pisté, a transcultural community that borders Chichén Itzá; and Playa del Carmen, one of the fastest growing international tourist attractions in the western hemisphere, home to the world famous beach bar, the Blue Parrot. These three locations provide the opportuntity to comparatively research the local culture and each communities’ relationship with tourism and tourists. The timing of this program is ideal as July is the month one finds the most tourists from Europe and the Americas.

Dancers – Mérida en Domingo

Mérida is rich in cultural activities — in fact, it is rated as among the top cities in México that heavily invests in the cultural life, activities and entertainment of its inhabitants. Workshop participants are thus able to enjoy Mérida’s many museums, libraries, restaurants, coffee shops, theatres, international cinema, and contemporary dance events. Traditional cultural events are scheduled throughout the week in Mérida for both visitors and locals alike, including the traditional medley of music, poetry, and dance on Thursdays in Santa Lucia Park, dancing to live Cuban big band music of the 1940s on Tuesdays in Parque Santiago, a Sunday Afternoon street festival of food, comedy, dance, performance art, live bands, dancing. On Saturday and Sunday nights the downtown is closed to accommodate the street dancing with live salsa bands and romantic music. Here you can dance with tourists, children and octogenarians.

Playa del Carmen
Located on the “Maya Riviera” approximately 30 minutes south of Cancun, Playa has become an increasingly popular tourist destination. It is not the largely constructed city that one finds in Cancun, but more along the lines of a small beach town that was identified by foreigners in the seventies, many escaping to Playa from urban, and often cold, locations. Playa’s main street – Avenida Quinta – is host to a mix of Italian, French, Mexican, and US restaurants, bars, boutiques, and hotels. The city itself is on a scale that is more European than US. There is a preference for small, intimate, environments. The working-class neighborhoods are a short distance away from the main shopping and hotel district and this provides the opportuntity to compare these different places during the program. Most recently, hotel chains and all-inclusive resorts have begun developing the southern area of this city towards the archaeological heritage site of Tulum. Cozumel is a short ferry ride from Playa del Carmen.

This transcultural community is on the road to Chichén Itzá and most of the economy, including restaurants, hotels and inns, and handicraft vendors, of the town is dependent on the tourism that surrounds Chichén Itzá. A stable and small community, Pisté is home to many of the people employed at Chichén Itzá and home to many of the artisans who create the wooden, and stone handicrafts that are sold in the markets throughout the Yucatán. Of particular interest to this program is the visual culture that is manifested in this handicraft work. For an in-depth exploration of this topic, see Quetzil Castañeda’s article: “Art-Writing in the Modern Maya Art World of Chichén Itzá” published in American Ethnologist, 2004 (PDF file).

For more information on these locations, browse, the official site of the Mexican Tourism Board, or access them directly below:
» Mérida
» Chichén Itzá
» Playa del Carmen