Monday, March 22, 2010

Being a Tourist Part IV: Problems with Mass tourism

There are just so many complications with tourism and being a tourist. There are problems with sexploitation, and eco-tourist exploitation. Mass tourism brings a lot of garbage, pollution, and depletes resources that may already be scarce for the local community. Usually companies come in and establish their tourist agencies and all these other things and what ends up happening is that these hot tourist spots become so dependent on that kind of business.

Some countries’ main revenue comes from the tourist industry but even then the people who are usually profiteering off of these revenues are the transnational companies from other more economically advantaged countries like the U.S.

There is a lot of cultural change that comes with companies taking over places because it makes it harder for the locals to keep practicing traditional ways with all these waves of foreigners and with being busy catering to them.

This can be seen quite clearly with the case of Morro de São Paulo. This island used to be a real place (as in, there were Bahian people living there) before all the international companies came in and it was converted into a beach resort. As I’ve mentioned in a previous blog, when I was in Morro de São Paulo, I was trying really hard to find people who actually lived there but, no, the majority of the people I saw and met and talked to were all either rich people from other parts of Brazil who were vacationing, or they were Europeans or from the U.S. The restaurants there are also mainly owned by Italians and Germans etc.
The whole thing was about business; they were all stores and most of them brands like Roxy, Volcom, O’neill, Vans-- I don’t even know those brand very well but the point is they’re U.S. and European brands. The rest of the establishments seemed to be tour agencies and souvenir shops. Of course the workers were Bahian although they didn’t own the shops usually. Almost all the people I asked from different places around the area said they commuted every day from other parts nearby. Only two people I met there were actually from the island! I am not sure how this got to be, but I’m sure that something similar to what happened in Pelourinho was the cause.
[This is what lines the alleys pictured above. I took it cause the doggie was so cute]
(Visa and Master Card are really everywhere, well...virtually )

Pelourinho is a major historical place, with colonial architecture, monuments and the famous churches (Nossa Senhora do Rosario dos Pretos and Sao Franciso church) and much has happened there including the beginning of much of the what represents Bahian music. Olodum was started there, for example, with Neginho do Samba who started the Samba-Reggae, which is a big musical movement recognized and loved internationally. What was so great about Olodum was that it was started by community members of Pelourinho who were mainly lower socio-economic status, and generally marginalized people of society. So there were many free lance artists, prostitutes, gays, lesbians, and transvestites. There was also where the first women’s percussion group was started Banda Dida. It was intended as a retention group or women’s empowerment; they were mainly girls from the area that were in it and for free! It was all really great, but then they were all kicked out because companies and local government decided to make Pelourinho a tourist site. So people were just kicked out and told that they could eventually come back or were going to be helped in finding a new place, but the truth is that they weren’t.

It was just made that way so that tourists could go there and shop and take pictures and have a good time. You can see in these picture how business oriented it is now, when it was once a residential area. This is where the Bahian culture is sold, with women dressed up in their ostentatious outfits in imitation of the Baianas for our view. So we can pay 1 real to take a picture with them. It’s just sad that they have to resort to selling their culture like that.
[This plaza is especially crawling with tourists; you can kind of see people trying to take pictures with the lady in the big pink skirt]

And this speaks to the power relations that foreigners/tourists are given priority. That is because the tourists’ side and transnational companies are the ones who have more of a say and control tourism and not the local communities.

This happens a lot that villages and people’s homes are ruined because companies want to set up their hotels or whatever in their place. And again now this brings a different rate of consumption of resources and lots of ecological and sustainability problems. Lots of natural beauty sites are harmed because of ecotourism too and imbalances in ecological communities are also a huge deal.

Then another issue is that tourism artificially raises the prices of products without having the local wages raised, so locals have a harder time affording things and in turn leads to higher rates of poverty.

So there are sooooo many problems with tourism. And I hope it’s not hard to understand why I feel guilty for it regardless of how this was all here before I came. I am supporting this and how much “easier” things are for me here makes me feel bad about this privilege as a foreigner.

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