Towards a Tourism of Recognition

Jaime Martínez Luna

Honouring the Possibilities that Tourism Brings, While Apprenticing its Conquesting Consequences

Translator’s Note: The title “A Tourism of Recognition” is a direct translation from the Spanish. In Spanish, the word for “recognition,” “reconocimiento” is a literal mirror of its English counterpart. Etymologically, both mean “to think again,” and in Spanish this is more overt than the contemporary English interpretation that points to “attention given,” or “praise.” The term, idea and practice of “comunalidad” is one uniquely tied to the work of the author and evades translation. For more on “comunalidad” in English, you can read more here and here.

Every tourist wants to resolve unsatisfied needs in the place they live in. In recent times, tourism’s purpose or goals have diversified. In other words, certain types of tourism have been designed, which far surpass the range of local people and ecologies to catch economic surplus that helps to satisfy local needs, a surplus which is also attractive to broad sectors.

Let us focus our reflection on international tourism. If we affirm that tourism wants to solve or resolve needs that the foreigner’s place of residence does not satisfy, it can be deduced that they come to fill gaps, that they want to live experiences otherwise unknown to them.

This means that you are a tourist because you need to have what you don't have. And even if it's just looking at a landscape, it's because it's lacking in the place one comes from. To think that tourists only come to spend their money - a resource that is required locally - is to devalue our own way of life (here). That is, we can explain it in economic terms, as opposed to the needs that tourism satisfies.

To reason from the point of view of comunalidad (communality) leads us to value what we are and what we do with our own logic, with a natural vision that cannot be found everywhere. Thinking from one’s own, from here and now, leads us to invert the interpretation of tourist behaviour. It implies knowing that we are the bearers of a rationale that is not found in the places where tourists live. That we offer lessons from a civilization that our ancestors have guarded with great zeal. That our way of life shows a different way of interpreting life, outside of racism, classism, economism.

What a tourist buys is displayed in his place of origin, he carries it with pride, with satisfaction. This means that they do not have it, that is to say that they learn that our way of being encourages them to bear what they cannot find in their place. In other words, we are transmitters of knowledge or actions that are of global benefit, that we help them to perceive that other, possible worlds exist.

Of course, this can be interpreted as a romanticization of what is ours. But no. It is to dignify our ways of being. It is to recognize that we give life lessons, that we satisfy the needs of others. Since the meaning of Guelaguetza embodies the depths of a Civilization, both we and those who visit Oaxaca must understand that attending a celebration is the foreigner’s opportunity to know that there are alternative ways of life that are opposed to the understanding that in life everything is profit.

Let us be clear. This does not mean that we reject the lessons that teach us that this process of touristification expands the power of foreign capital. In market relations, our geography contributes to the process of invasion, extraction of resources, and the exploitation of our work. For the same reason, let us recognize the one who arrives and recognize our contribution to life.

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