Welcome to the blog for Colgate University's interdisciplinary course on food. This is the place to keep up with what students in the course are experiencing in their work at Common Thread Community Farm and through their everyday encounters with food.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Food for Thought–San Miguel

            I have spent the last week in San Miguelle de Allende, Mexico. While out and walking about, I have noticed some interesting things related to food industry, local cuisine, and service. First of all, San Miguel de Allende is a UNESCO Patrimonio de la Humanidad site. UNESCO sites are chosen where there is supposed to be rich and authentic culture. With that in mind, immediately off of the main Plaza is a Starbucks. I find it interesting that there is a Starbucks at the center of this world heritage site. It seems like these large chains place there stores wherever they'll get the most human traffic with little regard about the fact that they may be encroaching on, and contaminating the cultural authenticity of these places–at least in my view. The cafe did was located in an old, historic building, and so was relatively disguised. There was also no large Starbucks logo on the outside, which was also a good thing. Most likely UNESCO guidelines, or the municipality itself prohibits Starbucks from putting their logo on the outside. I observed a similar occurrence in Antigua, Guatemala. Antigua is also a UNESCO site, and not from the center was a McDonalds–also disguised within an old historic building. 

            I think that there should be more regulation in terms of the storefront advertising of western chains in foreign countries, and even regulating their entrance to certain sites. McDonaldization happens more on their terms than the host country's terms. And as I said earlier, I think that it is cultural contamination.To clarify, I do not have any problem with US food being sold in foreign cultures. That is more than fine, it is great–cultural diffusion can be a good thing. As long as the food is authentic, a "good ambassador" than it is okay. But then the question arises: What is authentic food? Is McDonald's not authentic American? No. I think it is an impostor! Just like many people say the chinese food in the states is not "real" chinese food. But then again, I do not feel like this "unreal" chinese food contaminated our culture, so perhaps foreigners feel that fake American food (McDonald's) did not contaminate theirs. But the big difference with McDonald's is that they spread around the world not out of the interest of cultural exchange, but money, and therein lies the problem. Interestingly enough, the Americans in San Miguel felt the same way. When McDonald's was attempting to open up a store in the center of town, they mobilized and protested against it.

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