It was during my first weekend in Los Cabos, while dining out on the other side of town when that I realized how difficult it is to get around the city without a car, especially after 10pm. It felt as though I was a teenager all over again growing up in the suburbs of North Vancouver begging my parents to drive me everywhere, only to get stuck in traffic and miss my commitments. As I attempted to get around Los Cabos, I couldn’t help but wish that I could develop a more efficient transportation system for the municipality. Perhaps, I could transplant the incredible metro system that I saw in Medellín, Colombia or one of the reliable minibuses that made my trip around Turkey’s western coast so stress-free. On my long journey home along the Los Cabos coast I began thinking about how my travel experiences have shaped my understanding of urban spaces.
I went into this internship thinking I wanted to further my studies in Urban Planning but knowing very little about this field. Being a month and a half away from finishing my time in Los Cabos, I realize now how much my experience here has solidified my future goals. Living in Los Cabos, I feel I have learned so many wonderful things. With the beautiful landscapes and relaxing vibes, it is sometimes hard to remember that I am here for work. That said, this internship has completely re-enforced my ambitions for the future and re-defined what planning means to me and how I would like to approach it. This past week I finished my applications for grad school in the hopes of attending a masters program in September for urban planning and for the first time in a long time, I am sure this is the path I wish to continue on.
From a planning perspective, Los Cabos was the perfect municipality for this learning process. Despite it’s unbelievable landscape, Los Cabos has many challenges. The municipality was created to become a tourist hub and rapidly grew to become one of Mexico’s main tourist attractions. This has resulted in a plethora of hotels being built along the coastline with a certain disregard for environmental issues, a lack of public spaces, limited public access to the beaches, a lack of consistent public transportation and absolutely no recycling. The city has been completely planned for tourists and people with cars. Nevertheless, IMPLAN has many cool projects in the works and plans for the future of the municipality to make the city more sustainable and liveable for its citizens.
All of these elements coupled with my internship have helped me visualize my goals more clearly. Working for IMPLAN Los Cabos as a Social Demographics Assistant, has allowed me to work alongside Statistics Mexico to create urban indicators for the municipality’s long-range plan, facilitate public consultation workshops for youth in the area of food security systems, and exposed me to multiple projects that have taught me about GIS systems, participatory planning and designating environmental protected zones. Through to this experience, I have been able to delve into topics to which I had not yet been exposed: urban agriculture, environmental policies in city planning, the complexities of balancing sustainability and economic growth and most important, that the North American model of urban planning is one of many.
Working on location has taught me so much more than I expected it to and I am excited to transfer these skills I’ve learned into my future. I hope to come back to Los Cabos one day and witness all the progress and good work that IMPLAN has planned for the city.
By Chantal Gougain