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2004-09-06
Teotihuacan, Mexico. Wal-Mart Vs. The Place Where Men Become Gods.

Residents in the Mexican community of Teotihuacan, outside of Mexico City, are desperately trying to keep Wal-Mart from affecting an important cultural icon in their midst, an impressive monument known as the Pyramid of the Sun. The pyramid predates the Aztecs, who named the place Teotihuacan, which means "The Place Where Men Become Gods." A huge Bodega Aurrera -- a division of Wal-Mart Mexico -- is being constructed in the shadow of this ancient tourist attraction, and locals are turning to the courts to try and block the commercialization of this site. Wal-Mart Mexico hopes the store will be open by Christmas, but neighbors hope the store will never darken their community. "It's not just that commerce in Teotihuacan will be affected," local teacher Emanuel D'Herrera told Reuters. "It affects first of all our soul, our identity.We are Mexicans and very proud of our history. One of the landmarks of our history and culture is Teotihuacan." The Mexican government admitted recently that a pre-Hispanic altar was found buried under what will be the retailer's parking lot, located in a commercial area within the archeological zone. Reuters says the Bodega construction is within a mile from the tourist park that contains the ancient ruins and the Pyramid of the Sun that dates back at least 2,000 years. Wal-Mart has already obtained local and state sign off on the store, and the government's archeologists say the store's construction is no risk to the ruins. One local official told Reuters the store was simply a "development opportunity." But opponents saw it as an opportunity to file a criminal and a civil complaint in court, charging that local officials acted beyond their legal authority in approving the project. In early August, protestors tried to occupy the site and shut down construction. Wal-Mart says the protestors were violent. "Wal-Mart energetically objects to these violent acts and reserves the right to go before the proper authorities," the company said. The Reuters story quoted Sprawl-Buster Al Norman as saying, "This is a classic case of modern corporate greed against the traditional cultural values of a society. American tourists can go from the monuments to the Wal-Mart store and buy a rubber pyramid, made in Beijing."

What you can do: Wal-Mart is no respecter of culture -- other than their own deification of Mr. Sam. In addition to this controversy in Mexico, Wal-Mart is in the middle of digging up skeletal remains of a historic site in downtown Honolulu, and has unearthered many human remains there, much to the displeasure of Hawaii natives. Roughly ten years ago, the company tried to build on the boyhood home of George Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia. So cultural icons mean little to this company when they find a site on which they want to build. This battle in Mexico is reminiscent of the Casino de la Selva fight with Costco, another example of a North American retailer pushing its way onto an inappropriate construction site. For Wal-Mart, it appears that all history starts in 1962, when Mr. Sam opened his first store, and anything before that just isn't part of corporate history. In this case, the Aztecs should have called the site "The Place Where Merchants Acted Like They Were God." For similar stories, search Newsflash by "Mexico."










 
 
"Norman has become the guru of the anti-Wal-Mart movement" ~ 60 Minutes

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