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Agricultura, sociedad y desarrollo

versão impressa ISSN 1870-5472

agric. soc. desarro vol.14 no.1 Texcoco Jan./Mar. 2017



The magic towns committees and tourism development: Tepotzotlán and El Oro, Estado de México

M. Isabel Rosas-Jaco1 

S. Xochilt Almeraya-Quintero*  1 

L. Gerardo Guajardo-Hernández1 

1 Posgrado en Desarrollo Rural. Colegio de Postgraduados, Campus Montecillo, Km. 36.5 Carretera México-Texcoco, Montecillo, Texcoco, Edo. de México, 56230. México. (


In México, tourism plays an important role as a complementary economic activity in the rural sector, which is why it takes on relevance in the country’s Tourism Policy. As a result of this, financial supports are destined and programs are created like the one called Pueblos Mágicos, Magic Towns. Estado de México has five towns that received this title, thanks to the presence of natural, cultural and human resources, among others, and because of the integration of the Magic Town Committee (Comité Pueblo Mágico, CPM), one of the non-negotiable requirements; the objective of this study is to analyze the participation of the CPMs of Tepotzotlán and El Oro to highlight the contribution that they make to the development of the localities. Surveys were applied (245) to different actors and were analyzed through the descriptive method. The results show that: a) the CPMs lack a work plan to allow the rural communities to be involved; and b) there is disinformation regarding the reach of the program in the local population. The conclusion is that the lack of clarity of the operational guidelines of the Magic Towns Program and the scarce evaluations of the program result in the lack of fulfillment of the program’s objectives and in the designation only benefitting urban sectors of the municipality, broadening the inequality gap with the rural population.

Key words: inequality gap; competitiveness; organization; rural tourism


En México el turismo es parte importante de la actividad económica complementaria en el sector rural, por lo que toma relevancia en la Política Turística del país. Por esta razón se destinan apoyos económicos y se crean programas como el de los denominados Pueblos Mágicos. El Estado de México cuenta con cinco pueblos que recibieron este título, gracias a la existencia de recursos naturales, culturales, humanos, entre otros, y por la integración del Comité Pueblo Mágico (CPM), uno de los requisitos no negociables; el objetivo de esta investigación fue analizar la participación de los CPM de Tepotzotlán y el Oro para destacar la aportación que estos generan al desarrollo de las localidades. Se aplicaron 245 encuestas a diferentes actores y se analizaron a través del método descriptivo. Los resultados muestran que: a) los CPM carecen de un plan de trabajo que involucre a las comunidades rurales; y b) existe desinformación de los alcances del programa hacia la población local. Se concluye que la falta de claridad en las reglas de operación del Programa Pueblos Mágicos y las escasas evaluaciones del mismo hace que no se cumplan los objetivos del programa, y que la denominación sólo beneficie a sectores urbanos del municipio, abriendo las brechas de desigualdad con la población rural.

Palabras clave: brechas de desigualdad; competitividad; organización; turismo rural


Because they are far from urban centers and large conglomerates, rural communities have a great diversity of natural and cultural resources that identify them as community; however, these areas have been scarcely developed and tended to by their governments, so their development depends to a large degree on the adequate exploitation that they make of their resources.

In order to understand the concept of development, a reference is obtained from the first report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (1990) in an effort to explain a the human dimension of this concept. In it, it is mentioned that although it is necessary to increase national production (GDP) so that humans reach their objectives, it is also necessary to understand how this growth is translated into human development in the various sectors of society (PNUD, 1990); therefore, human development is defined as a process in which the opportunities of human beings are broadened in three aspects: i) enjoying a prolonged and healthy life; ii) acquiring knowledge; and iii) having access to the necessary resources to attain a decent standard of living (PNUD, 1990).

Although the agricultural sector is the productive basis of rural areas in many countries, the demands from contemporary societies have caused for restructuring in these zones to arise, making rural tourism a complementary economic activity, so that the services sector employs the greatest part of the active population in the rural environment (Flores and Barroso, 2011).

Because of this, approaches arise such as “new ruralities”, resulting from the changes that the rural space has suffered due to globalization (Martínez, 2013), giving rise to other activities that complement the agricultural ones and adapt to the competitive demands of the markets and their new needs.

As consequence of these new ruralities, Rural Tourism begins to be taken into account as a source of income in the various communities, characterized for being small-scale tourism, of local management, micro recreational and sports equipment, among others, which stimulates for the economic and sociocultural benefits generated by this activity to remain and be reflected in the rural space (Flores and Barroso, 2011).

According to these authors, the local population plays a fundamental role in the development of the communities, being a key piece to guarantee a process of competitive and sustainable tourism development. For this purpose the development of strategies and approaches that give communities the opportunity to develop their capacities and improve the local economy is necessary.

The approach of local development highlights the territorial, identity, diversity and flexibility values that have existed in the past in the forms of production that are not solely based on large size but rather on the characteristics of a specific territory (Llorens et al., 2002).

The active participation of the local population allows the good use of resources and the socioeconomic development of the communities (Tello, 2010), so that citizen participation can also influence the process of Local Economic Development through local “associations” (cooperation, collaboration, coordination or association) between two or more groups of agents (including institutions, community or private organizations, and government entities). These share the common development objectives (Tello, 2010), based on localization, and operate within social, cultural, economic and political relationships that are shaped spatially.

As a result of the problems that many rural localities in the world face, governments from various countries have become organized to work jointly and develop programs and strategies to combat this situation since, according to the OECD, 2007 (cited in Tello, 2010), local associations are territorial entities, product of the need to solve a problem or reach an objective (Tello, 2010).

An example of the development policies that have been implemented to improve the situation of poverty and exclusion in the localities is the LEED Program (Local Economic and Employment Development) of the OECD, which since its creation in 1982 has promoted the exchange between members, and the diffusion to non-members countries, of experiences and innovations in matters of integrated economic and social development, in addition to the creation of employment at the local level. This organization works closely with non-member countries, sharing knowledge in the field of social inclusion, economic cooperation and local development (OCDE, CAF y DNP, 2008). Another example in the European Union is the LEADER initiative, which fosters sustainable development and policies of regional and local development that result in social and territorial cohesion (Tribunal de Cuentas Europeo, 2010). This strategy is an associative network of public and private local actors who work and create strategies that allow local development in the rural environment. This initiative can be analyzed from seven essential aspects: territorial perspective, ascending perspective, local action groups (GAL), innovation, integrated perspective, network integration and financing. In the specific case of the Legal Action Groups (Grupos de Acción Local, GAL) or Rural Development Groups (Grupos de Desarrollo Rural, GDR), their importance lies in that they have become true promoters of the program development in particular and of socioeconomic development in their regions in general (ReDR, 2008). This type of programs work under the premise that regions should base their strategies on values, knowledge, abilities and other local competitive advantages to achieve lasting and sustainable socioeconomic development.

In the case of México, the tourism policy has undergone three fundamental stages that have marked the evolution of the tourism sector; these are: i) Fordism: beginnings of tourism where governments consider this activity capable of sustaining the national economy, local development and social welfare, and standardized products are elaborated at a lower cost; ii) post-Fordism or New Tourism Era (Nueva Era de Turismo, NET): tourism begins to be seen with globalizing influences, so the producers become heterogeneous and mass tourism is left aside; and iii) the New Tourism Policy (Nueve Política Turística, NPT) or Globalization Era: tourism policies are redefined to make room to all those involved in the tourism activity (Enríquez, 2012). This last stage is divided into three levels: the first refers to the local and regional Administrations, level at which the opinion of the society at large began to be taken into account; tourism is seen as an industry of rapid growth, job creation and, mostly, that contributes to environmental care and sustainable development in rural areas [Chuch et al., 2000 in (Enríquez, 2012)]. The second covers the National Administrations; at this level, Enríquez (2012) mentions that the tourism policy includes different levels of the Public Administration where coordination, cooperation and collaboration must be carried out together with the local communities and the private sector; and, finally, the third level is related to the Administrations and supranational organizations that are focused on foreign investment as principal development of job creation; however, Vogler, cited by Dredge and Jenkins (2003) mentions that within society, global cooperation for local actions is rejected, since the decisions must be in charge of the local population and supranational interests should not intervene.

In México, the Ministry of Tourism (Secretaría de Turismo, SECTUR) is the office in charge of formulating and implementing the development policy of the national tourism activity, stimulating the formation of associations, committees and boards of public, private or mixed character of tourism nature, among other attributions (SECTUR, 2014), so that in order for tourism development to take place in the country, a series of tourism products are created which stimulate the arrival of national and international tourists.

For México tourism has been identified as a driving sector of national development. To mention some figures, Banco de México reported that the number of international tourists that traveled to México in 2013 reached 23.7 million, showing a growth of 1.4 % compared to the prior year, figure that became the new historical maximum. In terms of the income from currencies, a historical maximum was also seen, with 13.8 billion dollars; this figure is higher than the number found in 2008, which was 13.3 billion dollars (DATATUR, 2013).

Tourism is one of the most important and dynamic economic sectors in México; therefore, the Ministry of Tourism has developed tourism products throughout the Mexican Republic with the objective of detonating social and economic development, taking advantage both of their natural and their cultural resources. Some of these tourism products are Bloque Pacífico, Frontera Norte, Mundo Maya, Tesoros Coloniales and Virreinal (SECTUR, 2014). The Magic Towns Program emanates from this same management of destinations and under the same objective, destined to increase the value of a set of populations that have been successful at protecting the essence of their towns through their history, legends and transcendent facts that make them single and unrepeatable.

The Magic Towns Program began in 2001 and by 2014 had 83 designations. One of the rules for a locality to become deserving of the designation is that it has a base population of 20 000 inhabitants. In the case of localities that exceed the number of population that the program establishes, they can be considered to become part of the Program based on their attributes, cultural and natural wealth, and historical manifestations (SECTUR, 2002).

Among the objectives of the program there is structuring a complementary tourism offer by taking advantage of the singularity of the localities for the creation of tourism products, placing value on the attractions in the localities, such as gastronomy, handicrafts, amenities and trade in general; also, one of the most important objectives and which refers to the local development of the communities is that the communities that receive the participating localities take advantage and benefit from tourism as a profitable activity and are an option for business, work and lifestyle (SECTUR, 2002), so that the program in its implementation entails an improvement in the inhabitants’ quality of life from each locality and, particularly, the opportunity to gain access to the same benefits.

As has been mentioned, the participation of the local population in projects that benefit the community in general is of vital importance since the actions that are carried out will be by and for the residents, thus achieving an equality of opportunities. Therefore, for all the objectives of the program to take place the participation and involvement of society and local authorities is necessary, therefore in the program’s operational guidelines the integration of a Magic Town Committee showing the participation of the population and prompting collective action is required. This is contemplated in the section called “Commitment to local society”, since, like in the LEADER strategy, the Local Action Groups (GAL) are the detonating agents of local socioeconomic development in the communities (De los Ríos et al., 2011).

Therefore, this study had the objective of understanding the participation of the CPMs of Tepotzotlán and El Oro to highlight the contribution that they generate to development in the localities. For this purpose, the following hypothesis is presented: in the municipalities of Tepotzotlán and El Oro, the Magic Towns Program has allowed reducing the inequality gap present between their localities to achieve a generalized local tourism development.

Study area and Methodology

The two municipalities objetive of this research are Tepotzotlán and El Oro de Hidalgo, which belong to the five Magic Towns in Estado de México. Tepotzotlán was chosen because it was the first municipality in Estado de México to attain the designation (2002) and it is currently in a stage of development. El Oro was chosen because it’s the Magic Town in Estado de México with highest rural population, and because it is one of the most recent to attain the designation.

The research is a case study with mixed approach (qualitative and quantitative) of transversal design. Three types of instruments were used to obtain the data: an interview applied to the members of each Magic Towns Committees and two surveys directed at the rural population adjacent to the Magic Towns and to the shops established in those localities.

The size of the sample was determined by proportion sampling with maximum variance and from the shops, with 115 survey respondents for Tepotzotlán and 110 for El Oro, in addition to the 10 survey respondents for each Magic Towns Committee, with a total of 245 questionnaires.

The field research was carried out from July 23rd to 30th, 2014. For the municipality of Tepotzotlán the communities visited were: Lanzarote, Barrio de la Luz, Ejido Santiago Cuautlalpan, San Miguel Cañadas, La Concepción, Cañada de Cisneros and the Municipal Township.

The municipality of Tepotzotlán has a surface of 209.08 km2, is located between latitudes 19° 38’ 50” and 19° 47’ 30” north of the Equator and between longitudes 99° 11’ 30” and 99° 25’ 10” west of the Greenwich meridian. The altitude varies between 2250 and 2950 m. The municipal township is the town of Tepotzotlán, which is located at 19° 42’ 50” N and 99° 13’ 24” W, with an altitude of 2285 m.

This municipality is located 42.5 km from Mexico City on the México-Querétaro highway to the northeast of Valle Cuautitlán-Texcoco, belonging to region IV Cuautitlán Izcalli; it borders north with the municipalities of Huehuetoca and Coyotepec, both from Estado de México, and with Tepeji del Río, in the state of Hidalgo; south with the municipalities of Cuautitlán Izcalli and Nicolás Romero, both in Estado de México; east with the municipalities of Coyotepec, Teoloyucan, Cuautitlán and Cuautitlán Izcalli, all in Estado de México; west with the municipalities of Villa del Carbón and Nicolás Romero, both in Estado de México.

Tepotzotlán has 88 559 inhabitants, generates a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 10 629.42 million pesos and the Marginalization Index is registered as “very low”, according to CONAPO (2010).

The economically active population reaches 66 652, of which 1280 are devoted to agriculture, livestock production, hunting and fishing, 11o787 to the industrial sector, 20 630 to the services sector and 619 are not specified (H. Ayuntamiento Constitucional de Tepotzotlán 2013-2015).

Among the cultural resources that made Tepotzotlán a Magic Town, there is the Former Convent of San Francisco Javier, whose façade has been called “The crown jewel of Churriguresco art in México”, also recognized by UNESCO in 2011 as Cultural World Heritage. In this same building the National Viceroyalty Museum is found, the second most important historical museum in México, which houses a broad collection of paintings, sculptures, decorative arts and ancient books (INAH, 2007). Among the natural resources there is the Ecotourism and Environmental Education Center “Arcos del Sitio”, where the Xalpa Aqueduct was located, a monumental aqueduct from the 17th Century, of four levels, 43 arches, 61 meters high and 438 meters long, where hiking, mountain biking, and landscape contemplation can be practiced; there is also the Xochitla Ecologic Park where various cultural and recreational activities are carried out (Pueblos de México, 2009).

For the municipality of El Oro, the communities visited were: San Isidro Ejido de Tapaxco, La Mesa, Yomeje, Citeje, Santa Rosa de Guadalupe, Ejido San Nicolás El Oro (Agua Escondida), Tapaxco, Endotejiare, Barrio San Isidro, Pueblo Nuevo de los Ángeles, La Magdalena Morelos, Pueblo Nuevo Los Ángeles, Santa Cruz El Tejocote, Buenavista, Adolfo López Mateos, San Nicolás El Oro, San Nicolás Tultenango, Santiago Oxtempan, La Concepción, and the municipal township.

The municipality of El Oro de Hidalgo has a surface of 137.9 km2, belonging to Region II Atlacomulco and is located on the sierra of Tlalpujahua, northwest of Estado de México on the limits with the state of Michoacán. It borders north with Temascalcingo, south with San Felipe del Progreso and San José del Rincón, east with Jocotitlán and west with Tlalpujahua (state of Michoacán).

The population of El Oro is 34 446; of this, the economically active reaches 11 886, of which the population occupied in the primary sector is 2794; secondary, 2349; commerce, 149; and services, 3093 (H. Ayuntamiento de El Oro, 2013-2015), so the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the municipality is 568.8 million pesos (IGECEM, 2012), while the Marginalization Index is intermediate (CONAPO, 2010).

Some of the cultural resources that the municipality has are The Mining Museum, since El Oro together with Tlalpujahua (Michoacán) were two of the wealthiest and most productive mining provinces. The mines from El Oro were exploited since the 17th Century and until the end of the 19th Century when they reached their highest production. The Municipal Palace is of French Neoclassic style and art nouveau; in the porch, a mural titled “El Génesis Minero” can be admired. Other premises are the Juárez Theater, also of French Neoclassic style and Moorish decoration inside with plant motifs. The train station cannot be ignored, important in the times of mining, in addition to the Handcrafts House. An important natural resource is the Brockman Dam, surrounded by pine and cedar forests, where trout sport fishing can be practiced (México Desconocido, 2011).

Results and Discussion

Characterization of the population

One hundred and thirty four (134) people from seven localities in Tepotzotlán were surveyed, including the municipal township, and from 19 localities in El Oro, including the municipal township. The age of the survey respondents ranges between 18 and 83 years, with an average of 39; 64 % were women and 36 % men. From the results, it can be seen that 63 % mention being married and have a maximum schooling of secondary finished. After married people, the highest percentage corresponds to single people, with 17 % and maximum schooling of university finished.

Human development is a dynamic process linked to the local context (PNUD, 2014), so that according to the Report on Human Development 2010, México is a country with high human development at the global level (0.739); however, results from the Municipal Human Development Index in México (2010) show that there is inequality in human development at the local level.

Regarding the index of education for México, the average degree of national schooling in 2010 was 8.6; that is, the number of years in average that the population older than 15 years have studied, so that Estado de México is above the mean by showing 9.1, which is equivalent to secondary finished (INEGI, 2010). In the case of the municipality of El Oro there is an average schooling of 7.41 (H. Ayuntamiento de El Oro, 2013-2015), while for the municipality of Tepotzotlán it is 8.8 (CONEVAL, 2010). Both averages give as result that the population older than 15 years has schooling of unfinished secondary. This is corroborated with the surveys applied, since in the municipalities of El Oro and Tepotzotlán share the same level of schooling, which is finished secondary, so it is deduced that human development in both municipalities with regards to education is at an intermediate level since higher education means human development is also higher (PNUD, 2010), although according to PNUD (2010), the Human Development Index of El Oro is 0.6607 (high) and that of Tepotzotlán, of 7205 (very high).

According to the guidelines of the public policy, a way of fighting the development inequalities in México is to tend to the municipalities that present a lower HDI, so it is pertinent to join efforts for the decrease of backwardness in educational matters, since it is the dimension of human development that presents the greatest inequality at the national level (PNUD, 2014).

The populations that recorded the highest number of survey respondents in Tepotzotlán were Barrio de la Luz, with 15 %, and Concepción, with 8 %. For El Oro they were Ejido de Santiago Cuautlalpan, with 16 %, and Pueblo Nuevo Los Ángeles, with 9 %. According to CONEVAL (2010) the localities previously mentioned belong to rural zones because there are less than 2,500 inhabitants, which present scarcities because of educational backwardness.

This is because, according to the Index of rurality (OECD, 2005), El Oro is a disperse rural municipality with a GDP of 2119.16 (2005) and accessibility of 1536 min; that is, the average time of travel between the municipal township and its localities. In turn, Tepotzotlán is an intermediate urban municipality with a GDP of 5345 (2005) and accessibility of 25.5 minutes.

Of the people surveyed, 52 % is devoted to the household, followed by 13 % who represent the merchants, and finally, 8 % are farmers; 69 % carry out their economic activity in their same locality or other nearby ones, but not in the municipal township. Regarding this, it can be emphasized that the service sector, specifically touristic, does not appear as economic activity in the rural zones because of a lack of projects in these zones, since the Magic Towns program centers its investment in the urban image of the Municipal Township. When investing all the backing from the Magic Towns program in the Municipal Township the needs of the rural populations that also require support from the program to take advantage of the resources in their localities are left aside; therefore, the inequalities between the Municipal Township and the rural zones are accentuated. Likewise, the inequalities produced by processes of inclusion/exclusion are produced by the same mechanisms of inclusion (Cathalifaud, 2012); in this case, because of taking solely the Municipal Township as beneficiary of the program.

The discourse by authorities of the Ministry of Tourism states that tourism has become an important tool for social development “due to its ability to integrate the local identity, a value chain, investment in infrastructure, growth of public services and because of its ability to integrate regions and groups of people who have traditionally been excluded by including them in the dynamics of social growth of women, indigenous people, and youth” (Ramírez, 2014); however, according to the results obtained, tourism through the Magic Towns Program has not managed to reduce the socioeconomic indicators of the marginalization index (education, housing, distribution of the population and income), since the exclusion of the diverse social groups has been seen, specifically the rural populations, when not enjoying the benefits of the development that the program entails. What can be observed is a broadening of the inequality gap within the communities (Tables 1 and 2).

Table 1 Marginalization Index and Degree of Marginalization. Municipality of Tepotzotlán. 

Source: authors’ elabora tion with data from CONAPO (2000, 2005, 2010), Marginalization Indexes, 2010.

Table 2 Marginalization Index and Degree of Marginalization. Municipality of El Oro. 

Source: authors’ elabora tion with data from CONAPO (2000, 2005, 2010), Marginalization Indexes, 2010.

Marginalization is associated to the lack of social opportunities, as well as to the absence of capacities to acquire them or, in its defect, to generate them, but it is also related to the inaccessibility of the population to goods and services that are fundamental to achieve welfare (CONAPO, 2013). Although it is true that the territorial conditions in which the rural populations are found make it difficult for the benefits of this program to be present, because in their majority the rural populations are found in wild areas of difficult access, it is also true that inclusive projects can be developed which benefit these populations with the exploitation of natural and cultural resources that the communities have, which in their majority have been conserved in good condition thanks to the distance there is from urban centers. This way, the National Tourism Policy can be implemented in its four fundamental axes: sectorial ordering and transformation; innovation and competitiveness; encouragement and promotion; as well as sustainability and social benefit.

Within the framework of the festivities for the World Tourism Day 2014, México’s President, Enrique Peña Nieto, stated that “tourism is a great social tool since it reduces the inequality gaps and allows the advancement of communities, which is why the Federal Government has established that this sector is priority to make México a world class destination” (Lara, 2014); however, according to figures obtained from the National Population Council (2000, 2005 and 2010), the inequalities there are between rural populations and the Municipal Township in the case of Tepotzotlán are reflected in the marginalization indexes and the degree of marginalization (Table 1), for since 2002, the year when the locality obtained the designation, the Municipal Township has maintained a very low degree of marginalization in the last 10 years, while four of the rural localities surveyed showed an increase in the degree of marginalization from 2005 to 2010. It is important to point out that the budget of the Magic Towns Program destined to this municipality is centered in the municipal township.

For the case of the Magic Town of El Oro, until now a comparison of the Degree of Marginalization could not be done, since the designation was received in 2011; however, there can be a historical record of the figures obtained since 2005 and comparing the 2010 figures with those obtained in 2015 to determine whether the degree of marginalization has decreased or not since the time of the designation.

Knowledge about the magic towns

As has been mentioned, the designation as Magic Town is granted to the localities that have been able to keep their natural and cultural wealth, and historical manifestations, as well as the legends and historical facts, in essence, an original town; however, despite the program having been in operation for almost 13 years, only 50 % of the survey respondents understand what it is and what it implies that their locality becomes deserving of the designation of Magic Town, which is why it is important to emphasize these designations through communication campaigns directed to the town’s inhabitants (SECTUR, 2008).

On the other hand, 90 % of the survey respondents say they have knowledge that their municipality has the designation of Magic Town: 39 % found out through signs, billboards and advertisements, which are found in the main accesses to the municipal township and in some neighboring highways, and only 13 % knows exactly the year when this designation was obtained, which shows that despite knowing that their locality has the designation of Magic Town they ignore the importance and the reaches that this implies.

In an evaluation performed in 2008, the Ministry of Tourism mentions that among the program’s aspects that have not been successful is the sensitization in the community, with 16.2 % (SECTUR, 2008); this is because of the scarce or null information that the local population is given, so that the coordination between the three levels of government is of vital importance for the execution of courses and workshops to foster a touristic culture. The aspects that must be improved according to the study (SECTUR, 2008) are: institutional coordination, 17.6 %; program monitoring and evaluation, 15.6 %; as well as strengthening of the Magic Town Tourism Committee, 3.9 %, since the program’s objectives matching the society’s interests to achieve a higher level of involvement depends to a great degree on the latter.

Some of the positive changes that the population has seen in their locality since the designation are the improvement of public services, with 44 %; that is, the creation of new highways, streetlights, etc., followed by the arrival of tourists, with 36 %; and, finally, the improvement of the urban image, with 30 %. This last aspect is one of the areas where there has been success within the Magic Towns Program, according to the evaluation by SECTUR (2008).

With regards to negative changes, according to the survey respondents, it is that out of tourists arriving in the municipality only 41 % visit the Municipal Township; this is due in great measure to the fact that the investment is made once the designation is given to improve the urban image, and it is centered only in the municipal township, so that in order to balance the benefits of the program, it is a challenge to develop products that place value on the resources of neighboring localities so that an integral development of the population at large can be achieved, since 34 % of the survey respondents mention that up until now the population in the surrounding areas to the municipal township have not seen any direct benefit from the Magic Towns Program in their locality.

Magic Town Committee

As the operational guidelines mention, “The Magic Towns Program requires the participation and coordination of efforts between public, private and community institutions” (SECTUR, 2002:16). Therefore, the Magic Town Committee emerges as a tool that allows the connection between the three levels of government and the local population, reason why it becomes one of the non-negotiable rules of the program.

However, as was already mentioned, the lack of knowledge there is in the population regarding the Magic Towns program results in 75 % of the survey respondents also ignoring the existence of a Magic Town Committee, and for the few (8 %) who do have knowledge about the committee to have found out because they are related to local and municipal authorities (Municipal President, delegates, among others). This makes evident that the information moves only at certain levels, which is why it is necessary to institutionalize the operation of the Interinstitutional Committee, the Evaluation and Monitoring Commission, as well as the local Magic Towns Committees (SECTUR, 2013).

Of the survey respondents, 25 % who said they had knowledge of the existence of a Magic Town Committee mentioned that among the activities that the Committee should carry out it ought to function as a link between the three levels of government and the local population, where, through a Likert scale (psychometric scale that measures attitudes) with a range of 1 to 5, where 1 is never, 2 is almost never, 3 is sometimes, 4 is almost always and 5 is always, the result is 3; that is, the Committee only sometimes carries out this function, so it is important to define the rules for the functioning of the Magic Towns Committee, as well as the mechanisms to evaluate their performance.

The descending approach represents the power and the presence of the central government, while when the population is taken into account for the design and execution of projects this is an ascending model, which responds to the strategies carried out by local actors (local population) to make their interests prevail (Carvajal, 2011). Among the strategies of the ascending approach the following stand out: endogenous mechanisms of innovation, development as a result of the local initiative, development directed to knowledge, political action and new local governability (Stöhr 2003 in Carvajal, 2011); therefore, the proposal is to apply the ascending approach in the actions that the Magic Towns Committee performs, as well as to stimulate the participation of the localities adjacent to the Municipal Township, beginning with the needs of the rural population, which is the most vulnerable.

Regarding the social participation required by the program, SECTUR mentions that it is also not addressed, since in a study carried out in 2008 it was found that 48 % of the localities do not have the “Magic Towns” Tourism Committee, or else it does not operate regularly (SECTUR, 2008); this situation should be remedied with the new operational guidelines, since the degree of development that the communities reach will depend on the work performed by the Committee.

Concerning the participation of the Magic Towns Committees, the results obtained show that the members are aware that tourism projects and the urban image have focused on the Municipal Township, despite the main idea of the program being that tourists could take advantage of their stay in a tourism center, whether city or beach, to explore attractive towns in the nearby area, or for tourists who travel by highway to be attracted by a locality they find on their path and stop there to explore and make use of the services offered by the residents (Armenta, 2014). Part of the resources that may be attractive for tourism are found in the rural zones of the municipalities; the local population is the one that has knowledge about its resources and knows how to take advantage of them in a sustainable way, so it is important for members of the Committee to be residents of the localities, but not only of the municipal township, but rather representatives of all the rural communities who can express the needs of each one of them, and for there to be joint work to achieve an integral development in order to reduce the inequality gaps among the population.

Knowledge about the community

For the development and the creation of tourism products, not only in the municipal township but also in all the neighboring localities, it is necessary to perform a diagnosis of the natural and cultural resources present in each one of them, so the population in these localities was asked which were the resources of their community that could be integrated into the municipality’s attractions. In terms of natural resources, the water bodies were mentioned with 54 %. An example of this in Tepotzotlán is the Concepción Dam and for the case of El Oro the seasonal river in Yomejé, Manantial Ojo de Agua, El Chorrito, pools in La Jordana and the El Salto Dam, as well as the Brockman Dam, although the latter is already used for tourism by the municipality.

For the case of the cultural resources that could be used by the municipality and be valued for their attributes, there are traditions, of which the patron saint’s festivities stand out with 73 %. Each one of the localities have customs and traditions that are worthy of being taken advantage of and explored by visitors. The celebration is devoted to a religious image linked to the Catholic tradition, which is complemented with rituals, dances, special dress, etc., and which may be an advanced factor of tourism competitiveness that contributes to generating economic resources for the receiving localities (Perles, 2006).

Another resource for the case of the municipality of El Oro that may be taken advantage of is the Mazahua language, since the population that belongs to this ethnic group is settled on the northwestern part of Estado de México and in a small area in the east of the state of Michoacán. The municipalities that make up the Mazahua region are 11, of which 10 are located in Estado de México and one of them is El Oro de Hidalgo (CDI, 2009). Due to its scarce development, the Mazahua language may be taken advantage of to design courses, poetry readings in that language during cultural events, etc., allowing to rescue this tradition in addition to giving jobs to the people who belong to this ethnic group.


The situation experienced in Tepotzotlán and El Oro, both Magic Towns of Estado de México, is similar. The inequality gap among the population has widened by taking into account only the Municipal Township as beneficiary of the Magic Towns Program; this is product of the processes of inclusion/exclusion that have resulted from the program.

The correct application of the ascending approach could become a path that takes on strength thanks to the organized work in the community, which can be developed and implemented by the Magic Town Committees of each locality, which could develop projects taking advantage of the resources in each one of them, because it is made up of members of the localities both urban and rural. Diversifying the tourism offer and distributing the benefits in all the localities, regardless of how close or far they are from the Municipal Township that was designated as Magic Town, can be a way to decrease the inequalities that there are currently as a result of only the townships receiving government supports.

It is necessary to strengthen the backbone of the Magic Towns, that is, the Magic Towns Committees, in order for them to become the starting point of the projects, from programming the activities to be developed to identifying, monitoring and evaluating them, as well as for their participation to unleash true local tourism development by reinforcing directly the participation of inhabitabts from the different communities where the Magic Towns are established, since they are the ones who understand which are their natural resources and the potentials they have.

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Received: October 2014; Accepted: April 2016

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