Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




David J. Robinson


Heritage, Mexico, Tourism

Subject Categories



UNESCO's World Heritage list aims to protect tangible and intangible World Heritage of "universal value." Mexico ranks third worldwide, surpassed only by Italy (16) and Spain (12), with ten World Heritage cities, an accomplishment frequently touted in official rhetoric and tourism promotion. This dissertation seeks to shed light on the "World Heritage experience;" the designation history, what occurs after the designation, in relation to long-term planning, investment, and how do local, state, and federal government infrastructure cope with the pressures and obligations of preservation. Drawing on newspapers, official government reports, and interviews with officials, civil servants, and tour guides, I address the following research questions:

What is behind the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designation process, and what does it entail? How has Mexico protected its heritage? How have the cities of Guanajuato, Morelia, and Oaxaca specifically achieved the World Heritage designation and how have they continued to preserve and manage their historic centers? What planning and legislative measures have they taken to aid preservation? And how, if at all, does World Heritage figure in tourism promotion?

My research reveals a politicized UNESCO designation process, little continuity and limited actual implementation of planning tools in aid of preservation, short political cycles and lack of institutional memory, frequent large-scale public works in the historic centers that often seem to duplicate efforts, sporadic and patchy public participation, with the exception of deliberate obsolescence as far as private property was concerned, uneven application of legislation and regulation, and tourism promotion simply for the sake of promotion.


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