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January 11, 2015 at 11:00 AM

Ay, yi, yi, the ways Mexico spends its tourism money

At the Tropic of Cancer visitor center in Baja California, this globe shows you where you are. (photo by Brian Cantwell / The Seattle Times)

At the Tropic of Cancer visitor center in Baja California, this globe shows you where you are. (photo by Brian Cantwell / The Seattle Times)

I love visiting Mexico. But having seen a fair share of it, I have a “never ceases to amaze me” view of how the government, in a nation with a good share of poor people, invests money to try to please tourists. I’ve long thought there are more pointless monuments and works of abstruse public art here than any emerging-economy country really needs.

Which brings me to the other day, when I was driving the winding, two-lane Highway 1 northward from Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. I was out in the middle-of-nowhere desert when I came upon a highway sign marking the Tropic of Cancer. And what do you know, there was even a fancy, new Tropic of Cancer visitor center alongside the road.

I had to stop. Being a sailor who has dabbled at celestial navigation, I thought there might be some interesting displays and information about the significance of this line on the globe, which Wikipedia defines as “the most northerly circle of latitude on the Earth at which the sun may appear directly overhead at its culmination, as occurs once per year, at the time of the Northern solstice, when the

Mexico erected this Tropic of Cancer visitor center in remote Baja in 2013.

According to a cornerstone, Mexico erected this Tropic of Cancer visitor center in remote Baja in 2013.

Northern Hemisphere is tilted toward the sun to its maximum extent.” Maybe they’d tell about the first early explorers to cross this line of latitude, that sort of thing. (Geeky stuff, for sure. Guilty as charged.)

But, uh, no, there was no museum. No interpretive display, other than a large papier-mâché-like globe with a dotted line on it to show where the Tropic of Cancer is, in case you didn’t have a map in the car. What there was: a lineup of small booths where local artisans could sell their wares (one of which was occupied), a large, open-air chapel dedicated to the Holy Mother (well, of course there would be), bathrooms and a big, empty parking lot.

Oh, and there was a little booth where you could buy souvenir Tropico de Cancer hats and T-shirts. Thought about it for half a second, then decided I really didn’t want to wear a T-shirt on which the only immediately recognizable word to many folks back home would be CANCER. And I got back in the car.

Comments | More in Trip reports | Topics: baja, Mexican tourism, tourist attractions

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