WalmartLand: How US Stores Colonizing Mexico are Displacing Local Culture

Foreign corporations have a lot of freedom in Mexico, and they are backed by trade agreements like NAFTA and USMCA that were created within very unequal power dynamics. One activist, Gustavo Esteva during the 2002 protests against plans for a McDonald’s in the main square of Oaxaca put it succinctly, “This is nothing less than a cultural conquest.”

August 27, 2021 | Source: Counterpunch | by Tamara Pearson

The historic center of Puebla city, where I live, is a World Heritage site. The main square is flanked by a cathedral which was built in 1575, and the nearby post office, like many buildings in the area, is beautifully decorated in the traditional tiles. But among theses buildings there is also a McDonald’s, Dominos, Oxxo (a Coca Cola store), Subway, and Burger King, and there is a Pizza Hut, KFC; and Starbucks one block away.

Starbucks has 670 stores in Mexico, Subway has 900, and Walmart has 2,610 – the largest number in any country after the US, and a figure that is likely to increase given their profits during the pandemic.

The impact of this change in urban landscape and consumption on Mexicans’ identity, lifestyle, and culture, shouldn’t be underestimated. More and more US transnationals have opened up in Mexico over the past few decades, taking advantage of unfair trade agreements, super-exploitative labor conditions, and cheap utilities. Local restaurants and traditional Mexican tianguis markets struggle to compete, and many Mexicans see the US companies as a source of social status.

“There isn’t any equality of conditions, so it isn’t really a competition,” says Iktiuh Arenas, an expert in urban planning and human rights, and a specialist with Mexico’s Secretariat of Agrarian, Land, and Urban Development (SEDATU).