Burger King In Downtown Oaxaca
a decade, famed Oaxacan chef Esperanza Chavarria Blando operated
Restaurante Quickly, a traditional Mexican eatery a block
away from the Zócalo on Macedonia Alcalá, the
high-traffic pedestrian walkway. Not only lauded in most Mexico
travelogues, Quickly was patronized by local merchants, bank
employees, street vendors and artists, including on occasion
Oaxaca´s current native son, famed artist Francisco
Toledo who a few years ago spear-headed the successful opposition
to McDonalds opening in the Zócalo.
Without apparent opposition, in mid-September, 2005, Burger
King unveiled its signage at M. Alcalá 100B, the former
Quickly locale, after having seemingly clandestinely completed
its renovation of the premises. A week earlier there was no
clue that the fast-food giant was set to open.
The landlord, a Oaxacan gentleman of means with other downtown
holdings, had been increasing Ms. Chavarrias rent, significantly.
The last straw was the demand for a 5000 peso per month increase
to take effect in January, 2004. She could no longer afford
to stay in business
the late nineties earthquake and
9/11 had already taken their toll, and continuously raising
menu prices was neither what she wanted nor figured the market
Word on the street was with Quickly gone, the landlord was
now looking to double the previous rent. After several months,
Apetito, a sterile fast-food establishment opened. I never
saw many people in the place, for good reason. During the
summer of 2005 it closed its doors, presumably as a result
of a lack of business and the landlord misreading the extent
to which his yearning for top dollar would pay dividends.
A couple of months later voilá, The Whopper appeared.
So what happened? Should we not be looking to protect the
entire Centro Histórico? Is the Anador Turística
that much less preservation-worthy than the Zócalo?
Were Burger King and the landlord in cahoots, to the extent
that they kept the plan secret? Was Mr. Toledo out of town?
Surely the landlord must feel that since Oaxaca, a tourist
mecca in part because of its old-world quaintness and ambience,
has enabled him to lead a comfortable lifestyle, he accordingly
owes a duty to preserve even what the State and City have
apparently not mandated as a priority? Apparently not.
Theres enough blame to go around. I dont fault
Burger King, my own leftist anti-capitalist politics having
evaporated decades ago. Its greed winning out over altruism
and pride in ones city, together with a lackadaisical,
to be generous, government. There is a solution, even though
it would mean yet another layer of bureaucracy
one well worth the cost and effort. Every business that proposes
opening its doors in the Centro Histórico ought to
submit an application to the municipality answering a simple
question: is there a parent company, affiliate, subsidiary
or franchise either American owned or otherwise with multi-national
or extra-Mexico interests? All negative responses would result
in rubber stamping. Otherwise the request would go to a sitting
panel comprised of a broad diversity of individuals. Without
a unanimous decision, public hearings would be held.
Sams Club, Pizza Hut, Sears and the rest have a place
in our city, and to that extent the area outside the downtown
core known as Plaza del Valle provides an important function.
But if whats happening now is not checked, tourist dollars
will evaporate and we wont have patrons with funds to
support such enterprise, anywhere. The next time we pass by
a downtown building under renovation or construction, we should
worry that Wal-Mart might be set to open.
Machaya Oaxaca Bed & Breakfast ( http://www.oaxacadream.com
one or two Oaxaca tours with Alvin, regardless of whether
or not you stay at Casa Machaya Oaxaca Bed & Breakfast
). Alvin is the Oaxaca destinations expert for a major international
travel website, and a founding member of the Oaxaca Bed and
Breakfast Association, whose members provide an attractive
Oaxaca accommodations alternative to lodging in traditional
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