Cultural Tourism in Latin America

The Politics of Space and Imagery


Cultural tourism has become an important source of revenue for Latin American countries, especially in the Andes and Meso-America. Tourists go there looking for authentic cultures and artefacts and interact directly with indigenous people. Cultural tourism therefore takes place in close engagement with local societies. This book analyse the effects of cultural tourism and the processes of change it provokes in local societies. It analyses the intricacies of informal markets, the consequences of enforcing tourist policies, the varied encounters of foreign tourists with local populations, and the images and identities that result from the development of tourism. The contributors convincingly show that the tourist experience and the reactions to tourist activities can only be understood if analysed from within local contexts.

Contributors: Michiel Baud, Annelou Ypeij, Lisa Breglia, Quetzil E. Castañeda, Ben Feinberg, Carla Guerrón Montero, Walter E. Little, Keely B. Maxwell, Lynn A. Meisch, Zoila S. Mendoza, Alan Middleton, Beatrice Simon, Griet Steel, Gabriela Vargas-Cetina.

“Tourism in Latin America – especially the sort of cultural tourism that plays to desires for authentic experiences – has become a key foreigner currency earner for many countries. This important volume examines the impact of tourism across the region, providing a rich survey of the range of experiences and teasing out the theoretical implications. From the almost surreal Mi Pueblito theme park in Panama to mushroom-hunting tourists in Oaxaca to the eco-trail leading to Machu Pichu, these chapters present compelling cases that speak to identity formation, nationalism, and economic impacts. As the contributors show, benefits are differentially accrued to various actors – and often not to the communities that tourists come to see. Yet, the contributors also make it clear that in struggles over ownership, authenticity, and political representation, local communities actively shape the contours and meanings of tourism, at times successfully leveraging cultural capital into economic gains.”
Edward F. Fischer,
Director Center for Latin American Studies, Vanderbilt University
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Biographical Note

Michiel Baud (PhD in history , 1991, Utrecht University) is Director of CEDLA and Professor in Latin American Studies at the University of Amsterdam. He co- edited with Rosanne Rutten, Popular Intellectuals and Social Movements: Framing Protest in Asia, Africa, and Latin America (Cambridge University Press, 2004).

Annelou Ypeij (PhD in anthropology, Utrecht University 1995) is Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology at CEDLA. She co-edited with Annelies Zoomers La Ruta Andina. Turismo y desarrollo sostenible en Perú y Bolivia (Quito: Abya Yala etc., 2006).

Table of contents

List of Contributors
List of Illustrations

1. Cultural Tourism in Latin America: an introduction, Michiel Baud and Annelou Ypeij

Part I. Culture and the Production of Regional and National Identities

2. Tourism, Folklore and the Emergence of Regional and National Identities, Zoila S. Mendoza
3. The ‘Three Roots’ of Panama’s Cultural Heritage: The Construction of Racial and National Identities in Theme Parks, Carla Guerrón Montero
4. Through the Othering Gaze: Yucatecan Trova Music and ‘the Tourist’ in Yucatán, Mexico, Gabriela Vargas-Cetina
5. ‘A Symbol of Wisdom and Love’? Counter-cultural Tourism and the Multiple Faces of María Sabina in Huautla, Oaxaca, Ben Feinberg

Part II. Local Livelihoods and Tourist Encounters

6. Sacamefotos and Tejedoras: Frontstage Performance and Backstage Meaning in a Peruvian Context
Beatrice Simon
7. Tourism, the State and the Marketing of Traditional Andean Artesanías: Problematic Encounters, Pitfalls and Competing Interests Lynn A. Meisch 8. Dishing up the City: Tourism and Street Vendors in Cuzco, Griet Steel
9. Caught Between Nature and Culture: Making a Living within the World Heritage Site of Machu Picchu, Peru, Keely B. Maxwell and Annelou Ypeij

Part III. Politics of Heritage Tourism

10. Trivializing Culture, Social Conflict and Heritage Tourism in Quito, Alan Middleton
11. Contesting Heritage in Antigua, Guatemala, Walter E. Little
12. Hacienda Hotels and Other Ironies of Luxury in Yucatán, Mexico, Lisa Breglia
13. Heritage and Indigeneity: Transformations in the Politics of Tourism, Quetzil E. Castañeda



All those interested in cultural tourism, local change, the Andes, Meso-America, regional and national identities, local livelihoods, state tourism policies, politics of cultural heritage, street vending, Latin American indigenous peoples.

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