Marketing Mexico

Over spring break I was in Oaxaca Mexico and I saw some of the sub-state Public Diplomacy Ellen Huijgh wrote about in action. The state government is working hard to sell its tourism and to increase economic relations with other countries. In particular, the U.S., Canada, Europe, and the more economically developed East Asian countries. Oaxaca is known for its mezcal and coffee as well as Aztec ruins and other natural sights such as a petrified waterfall and hot springs.  I had the privilege of meeting a state employee who majored in English who is helping implement this policy which stems from the economic needs of its constituents. The tourism department is distributing information including a map displaying all the cities that offer direct flights to Oaxaca (there are more than you would think) and selling the weather, food and many attractions. This requires a massive re-branding strategy to convince foreigners inundated by the stereotype of a violent Mexico the media portrays or a beach party scene that Oaxaca is safe and family or retiree friendly. I did not see too many bodyguards and it seemed very secure and safe. The travelers and Mexicans I discussed this with also agreed that disparaging terms and blatant dislike of tourists was also a lot less common place than other parts of Mexico. This may be a sign that the residents of the state are helping shape and implement the governments’ strategy. I think Oaxaca is struggling with an issue that many sub national administrative units are which is to differentiate their identity and foreign policy from the country as a whole and the other sub-national parts of it on the international stage. Are there any other situations that you have personally observed of this re-branding and differentiation strategy?


  1. Thank you for this thoughtful and well-illustrated post about sub-state diplomacy in Oaxaca and implications elsewhere. To answer your question, yes, I have. Immediately, Cuenca, Ecuador comes to mind. It’s a stupendous city in the south that is a UNESCO World Heritage site. With clear memories of a family visit several years ago, Cuenca strikes me as having a unique “branding” strategy even compared to other cultural sites elsewhere along the Equator and despite some pockets of crime in the country. Among other identities, Cuenca is an increasingly popular destination for North American retirees, too. And just for the record, our son found the city’s restaurants, museums, and close-by national park just as attractive as his old parents did.

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