My thesis is an anthropological study of the social construction of Maya ethnicity in the international tourist town of Tulum on the Caribbean coast of Mexico. The study is based on ethnographic fieldwork in Tulum from August to November 2015. I stress that Maya ethnicity is complex, and that my informants vary in their interpretations of their own ethnicity and in their perspectives on tourism, though they do have aspects of their interpretations in common. I conclude that “being Maya” refers to several, at times overlapping, “layers of reality”: Maya ethnicity and thereby identification and categorization; tourist discourse about a glorious past, in which Mayas symbolize a connection to the past; a nationalistic discourse that stresses that Mexico is one nation with cultural diversity, in which Mayas symbolize an element of the cultural diversity; and academic discourse. My informants do not find the promotion of Maya cultural past problematic; indeed they distance themselves from “Ancient Mayas.” However, they do find it problematic that the Mexican government makes it difficult to carry out aspects of their traditions or ways of being Maya.
Key words: Maya, tourism, identity, ethnicity, globalization, authenticity, Mexico
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