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2004-09-18
Teotihuacan, Mexico. Wal-Mart Defends Its Construction Near Ancient Pyramids

Angry protestors who have written to Wal-Mart in opposition to their construction of a superstore near the ancient pyramids at Teotihuacan, Mexico, 18 miles from Mexico City, have received the following reply from the giant retailer: "Thank you for taking the time to bring your concerns to our attention. The "Bodega" store being built in San Juan Teotihuacбn has been properly certified by officials at all levels, including an archaeologist with the Mexican Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH). We are not building "next to" the pyramids at Teotihuacбn, but miles away. We have been awarded construction permits by federal, state and local agencies, and our project has the unanimous approval of the town council, the town mayor and neighborhood representatives chosen by the community. Construction is under the ongoing supervision of Veronica Ortega Cabrera, chief of the Technical and Legal Protection Department of Teotihuacбn, located at the Teotihuacбn archaeological site. Our construction is in an area designated for commercial buildings and residences, and hundreds are currently located there. The only opposition to our store has come from a small group of merchants who find competition unwelcome and are seeking to misrepresent our plans for their own interests." Whenever someone speaks out against Wal-Mart, as many residents of Teotihuacan have, they are labeled a "small group" of one sort or another by Wal-Mart, which apparently only represents large interests, like their stockholders. This Wal-Mart store is slated to open by Christmas, near what has ben described in the media as a "major archeological site", and residents there complain that it will disrupt a way of life that dates back centuries. "What they are doing in Teotihuacan is destroying Mexico's deepest roots for short-term interests like lower prices," local teacher Emanuel D'Herrera told about a dozen protesters outside Teotihuacan's town hall. "This is the flag of conquest by global interests, the symbol of the destruction of our culture." The fact is, the Wal-Mart site is less than one mile from the main ruins, and can be seen from the top of the Pyramid of the Sun that was built at least 2,000 years before the retailer from Arkansas showed up. Residents have filed a criminal and a civil complaint, saying local officials have illegally approved the project. When a small, pre-Hispanic altar was found at the construction site, Reuters reported that it would be placed in a plexiglass box and placed for viewing in the store's parking lot. How proud this would have made the Aztecs, who named this site "Teotihuacan", or "The Place Where Men Become Gods." A more appropriate name now might be, "The Place Where Men Become Shoppers."

What you can do: Protests against this store have traveled around the globe. Wal-Mart says the land is zoned for "commercial and residential" uses, but this superstore will no doubt be one of the largest buildings ever constructed in the area, and will be one more major change in character for this small community, that usually attracts tourists, rather than bargain hunters. It is totally the wrong scale for this community, and of a style incompatible with the architecture in the area. Such overdevelopment could ruin the longer-term financial strength of the tourist trade there. I told Reuters that maybe this will all work out in the end: tourists will be able to visit Teotihuacan, then stop by their local Wal-Mart to buy a cheap rubber reproduction of the Pyramid of the Sun -- made in China, no less -- and imported back by Wal-Mart. Such mementos are worth the long journey.










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

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