Economist Tyler Cowen is in Mexico, in San Agustin Oapan, a Nahua town on the Rio Balsas River valley in the State of Guerrero.
Thirty-five years ago the trip down to the main road involved an arduous climb and then descent, usually with burro, lasting six to eight hours. Ten years ago the trip down to the main road involved a slow four hour drive (but only 25 km) on a dirt road. Come February, when the paving of the road is finished, it will be a 70-minute drive to the nearest Wal-Mart.
And if you are thinking “Wal-Mart — how degrading” there’s another side to modernization.
There was no rain this summer and hardly any corn was harvested. Forty years ago this would have meant starvation but now it is a mere fluctuation in real incomes. People buy more food from stores, albeit at higher expense. By the way, this is one reason why the Oapan corn farmers do not seem worried about the importation of U.S. corn under NAFTA.
Half the girls now wear jeans instead of dresses. I don’t know about that.