The main point that Arlen Davila makes in chapter two of El Mall: The Spatial and Class Politics of Shopping Malls in Latin America is that Latin American professionals are looking to ICSC for guidance on education and training in the shopping mall sector. Yet, the naive assumption that is being made is that Latin Americans and North Americans operate and manage exclusively — i.e., in different ways that are not really interrelated. What Davila shows is that instructors are not attuned to the facts that scholars have uncovered — namely that “the intimate and the economic and business realms are never mutually exclusive or in direct opposition to each other and that capital always draws strength from and reproduces itself through close-knit relations” (p. 66). The main components of this argument are that:
â€¢ 1) shopping malls have truly become international
â€¢ 2) Latin American professionals are eager for training
â€¢ 3) they do not view themselves as operating fundamentally differently from their North American partners.
These three points can be explained by a series of interlocking themes that have emerged over the past decade in Latin America as well as on the world’s stage — and that is the truly international character of the shopping mall and the desire of local managers, retailers, political leaders and investors to work together to expand and develop this sector in these new markets. Places like Latin America — Brazil in particular — are just now catching up with the shopping mall boom that occurred in the U.S. in the 1950s. Having exhausted the economy in the U.S. developers and investors turned to Europe and now are finding welcoming embraces in emerging markets like India, Asia and Latin America. Thus, the shopping mall has truly become international.
In Latin America, moreover, professionals are looking for guidance on how to proceed with shopping mall management, development, maintenance, expansion, retail and so on. The ICSC provides them the opportunity to receive instruction and to network — however, some of the education that is being given them is based on a misguided perspective, in which individuals foreign to the U.S. are assumed to have cultural approaches that nullify the North American methods. Latin American professionals are seeking, though, precisely an understanding of these methods and models so as to be able to better apply them in their own nations.
Thus, Latin American professionals do not view themselves as being different from or opposed to the North American shopping mall lessons that can be learned and shared at events like RECon. The idea that the author seeks to stress is that the professionals in Latin America are, as scholars show, open to learning the nature of the industry and growing the sector in the manner that allowed it to become so successful in North America for a long time.
For further consideration, two questions may be asked: the shopping mall is currently in decline in North America because of the rise of online shopping, e-commerce and sites like Amazon.com that allow consumers to stay at home and have items delivered to them. This, coupled with recession, has decimated companies like Sears. How will e-commerce impact countries in Latin America seeking to grow shopping mall complexes? A second question that can be asked is this: Are the neoliberal logics and policies being implemented in Latin America now simply a way for developers to exploit an emerging market — i.e., are they truly indicators of growth or more likely precursors of collapse?
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