Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Sarah Lyon


This research explores the politics of development on the East Cape of Baja California Sur, Mexico. Based upon twelve months of ethnographic research and participant observation, primarily in the coastal community of Cabo Pulmo, the researcher investigates and documents how local residents respond to the social and political implications of impending mass tourism development in the region. Rising land values, real estate speculation, and intensifying conflicts over land ownership were some of the earliest symptoms of this process. The central argument is that social conflicts over development are often based in deeper, fundamental political struggles over land—and the ability to participate in the development process itself. This represents an important contribution to our understanding of the political and social dynamics of development, which, in the literature, are often framed in abstract terms of debate that remain highly detached from the lived realities of the people who stand to lose the most if development goes awry. Using the concepts of value, development, community, and sustainability as theoretical starting points, this research argues that conflicts over development should be seen as struggles for inclusion and participation above all else. Ultimately, the conclusion of this research is that conflicts over ownership of and access to land continue to impede alternative forms of development that seek to avoid the negative social, political, and economic consequences of traditional mass tourism models.