Mexico: Wal-Mart at the Pyramids

Ken Schwartz has strong feelings about the Wal.-Mart near Mexico's pyramids: He writes: I lived and worked in Mexico for a number of years before returning to New York.  I have shopped at Wal-Marts in various parts of Mexico.  In fact, I have been a frequent customer of Wal-Mart wherever I go, and viewed its contributions to Mexico as positive -- until now.  This most recent development, however, shocks even my Wall Street leveraged buyout lawyer conscience.
As a registered Republican, Cato-libertarian and strong believer in free markets, I am nonetheless amazed at your level of insensitivity (to give you the benefit of the doubt that your are not being insincere): trying to impeach the merits of the argument against Wal-Mart by noting its leftist associations or by disputing that 1 kilometer is “close.” 
One kilometer, by my calculations, is approximately twelve New York City blocks.  We would scarcely allow Wal-Mart to erect one of its big-box mega-stores twelve blocks from the National Mall, the Liberty Bell or the Pueblo archeological sites.  For Mexico, Wal-Mart’s effective sullying of one of its most prominent ancestral cites is the functional equivalent of “flag-burning” in the United States.  There are so few even on the left would defend it that they can be counted on one hand.

RH: Clearly the Mexican officials who gave the necessary permits, including the scholars at the Institute of History and Archeology, are acutely sensitive to the issue raised, as am I. knowing Mexico from one end tot the other since the 1940s and having written extensively about its culture. The argument in favor of the Wal-Mart is that it provides work and reasonably priced goods to an impoverished area.  This may be of no concern to Libertarians, whose morality is reduced to doing no harm to others.  There is more to life than that.  They should read the parable of Lazarus.

Randy Black writes: While I am not arguing for or against the Wal-Mart that will open in December near the pyramids in Mexico, I feel compelled to offer additional facts which may enlighten WAISers and differ slightly from what Mr. Schwartz may have heard, plus some tourist information in the event that WAISers are fortunate enough to visit the ruins.
The store, actually a Bodega Aurrera (a division of Wal-Mart), is just less than one mile “as the crow flies” (1.6 km), not 1 km, from the pyramids. It will not be visible from the ground level areas around the pyramids, although it may be visible for those hardy souls who climb the 248 steps to the top, and it’s quite a climb, but worth it.There are a number of hotels and hundreds of homes even closer than the Bodega Aurrera. The ruins (the archeological site) takes up about one square mile today although centuries ago, the area was about 10 square miles.

The Teotihuacan (The Place Where Men Become Gods) is a gated tourist park housing the main ruins. I’ve been a couple of times. While the idea of a large retail store less than a mile away from the pyramids may be distasteful to environmentalists and purists, WAISers should be aware that there are dozens of retail souvenir shops within a few hundred feet of the pyramids, selling everything from Kodak film to onyx chess sets, fake wool blankets and all the rest of the clap trap that is sold in all Mexican tourist destinations. Additionally, the place has its own museum and café on the grounds.

Contrary to what WAISers may believe, the place is pretty much surrounded by city, hotels, homes, stores, roads, highways (#85D) and all the rest. (As has Professor Hilton, I too have written travel stories about Mexico.) It’s about 20-25 miles, more or less from the center of Mexico City, as I recall, but by no means is it in the boondocks. You can even take a city bus from Mexico City’s north bus terminal to the site in about 30 minutes. The city extends far beyond. The place is actually in the landing path, depending upon winds, for Mexico City’s Benito Juarez International Airport. Here’s a small map of the area of the ruins. It’s a must see if you get a chance to go to Mexico City, or simply to “Mexico,” as the capital is referred to by the nation’s citizens.

Be aware if you go there that they have unusual photo restrictions. They charge you to use your own tripod, with a still camera, and charge you to use your own video camera even if it’s hand held. Kids up to 13 and those over 60 get in free, as do foreign residents and citizens of Mexico, while the rest of us pay. Closed Mondays.


Your comments are invited. Read te home page of the World Association of International Studies (WAIS) by simply double-clicking on: E-mail to Mail to Ronald Hilton, Hoover Institution, Stanford, CA 94305-6010. Please inform us of any change of e-mail address.

Ronald Hilton 2004


last updated: October 8, 2004