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Soc Sci Med. 2005 Aug;61(4):833-46. Epub 2004 Dec 10.

Coca-colonization of diets in the Yucatan.

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Department of Anthropology, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC 29208, USA.


Over the past three decades, tourism-based economic development has transformed social and economic conditions in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico. Mayan communities have become directly involved in the changing economy as the main source of inexpensive labor for construction and service jobs at tourism centers, and as sites of ecotourism and archeotourism. In this paper, we address how these macro-processes of change intersect locally with the commoditization of food systems, diets and nutrition in four Yucatec Mayan communities with differing relationships to the tourist economy. Yucatec Mayan diets have become increasingly dependent on purchased foods, and reflect a greater consumption of commercialized processed foods. Coca-Cola, an international icon of US culture, along with other local and internationally owned calorie-dense but nutrient-poor snack foods, is now a common element of Mayan diets, leading to what we call "coca-colonization." The consequences of this diet, likely exacerbated by the increased consumption of snack foods, include an apparent increase in overweight and obese adults as well as signs of growth stunting in children. The Maya we talked with recognize both the potential disruption that tourism brings to all aspects of their lives and the necessity of jobs that tourism creates to meet their families' basic needs.

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