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Crossing Perspectives on Tourism Issues in Latin America

Perspectivas cruzadas sobre temas turísticos en América Latina
Olivier Dehoorne et Christelle Murat
Cet article est une traduction de :
Regards croisés sur les enjeux du tourisme en Amérique latine [fr]


This article introduces the theme issue devoted to tourism in Latin America and the authors explain the approach of the international and interdisciplinary research. Interest in tourism is twofold: 1/tourism allows the study of specific places, types of development and consumption, 2/analysis of the tourism phenomenon helps to understand the world, highlighting the socio-Latin American economy. The phenomenon of tourism must be understood in all its complexity and must introduce the political dimension. The Tourism Studies on Latin America cannot ignore the political strategies associated with the dominant economic model or the restructuring of power relations behind it. Tourism development is not apolitical. The development of tourism is not apolitical.

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Texte intégral

Source: O. Dehoorne

1This issue of Caribbean Studies offers a multidisciplinary encounter around Latin America through the lens of tourism. As part of this pilgrimage, one of our concerns is to address the fact of tourism within the continent and to differentiate ourselves approaches built on a projection of the other and a Besides, where tourism is then as an externality that is "plated" on corporations and territories (Raymond, 2004). Work together researchers come from different geographical backgrounds, Latin American, North American, European-that offer a "reading the world" (Cazes, 2001), intersecting experiences, experiences, positions from which emerge lessons and meet the major questions on the issues of tourism development in Latin America.

2As part of this introductory text, we propose an initial framing of the issues developed in the field of tourism studies devoted to Latin America.

Reading the World

3Addressing Latin America in terms of tourism is a particularly interesting when you hear the tourism phenomenon in all its dimensions. If tourism is proving to be an important sector of the service economy, a strategic tool for development assistance, its implications and impact are complex in terms of the environmental, socio-economic and political side. The fact that tourism cannot be reduced to the simplistic idea of the occupation of places and spaces with specific players and consumers, or be confined to the simple explanation of technical details and the application of predefined templates of "good experience", "tourism is simply too politic, major social and Valuable to Be Dismissed" (Burns and Novelli, 2007: 1). Tourism cannot be analysed without introducing its political dimension, nor considering the relationship between power and the construction of bio-power (Foucault, 2004).

4"Tourism is a powerful mix of cultural, economic and political phenomena" (Burns and Novelli, 2007: 1). The construction of the tourist, the wills of opening or closing conversely, how to host regional planning, policy resource management-when public goods become rival goods (Hardin, 1968) – are all choices that result from power relations, economic issues and power relations. As Burns and Novelli (2007) pointed out, the powerful but unstable mix of political ideologies and economic principles become more elusive, including in addressing the relevant aspects of culture and heritage. In the current environment of heightened competition between tourist destinations, the intensification of market forces, culture and heritage are politicized. The socially constructed consensus in the host country on the "nature", "culture" and the definition of positioning tourism destination can then reflect the political imperatives and ideologies, and, being directly related to issues of democracy, power and citizenship. (Burns and Novelli, 2007).

Latin America starts south of the Border

5For Latin America, we hear the territories that extend from the desert of northern Mexico to Cape Horn (Guru, 1976; Lumsdon and Swift, 2001) is a set which includes tropical America and southern Africa, from 28 ° N at 55 ° south latitude, 20.5 million km² without particular natural unity of order, 580 million (in 2010) distributed among 48 territorial entities, jurisdictions with varying statutes, including some of the richest in the world in terms of biodiversity.

6Cultural, economic and social concepts (Delavaud Collin, 1973), Latin America is built, in all its complexity, through strengthening of the "deep sense of affinity and basic common interests" (Monbeig, 1973:VII) and is also built in opposition to North America, to the dominant Anglo-Saxon, north of the Rio Grande.

7The political-cultural dimension is fundamental in this division that the political border has steadily increased in recent decades. The border between Mexico and the United States, which spans 2,000 miles, is the longest land border from North to South. Despite the economic relationship that combines these two states as part of the Free Trade in North America (NAFTA), the border that protects "the American Eldorado" is militarized and the U.S. turns into the "monument security". This border has turned into a selective "asymmetric membrane" (Hedetoft, 2003) which protects unwanted entry of migrants from the South (mainly Latinos in this case) and remains open to recreational flux emitted from the north (towards the coast of Baja California or Yucatan), this asymmetry migration (Borquez Bustos, 2004) shows that daily Withol Wenden called elitism of freedom of movement (2004).

8The illusory "wall" criminalizes immigrants, but cannot withstand the pressure of Latin Americans north of the Rio Grande with the presence of the first Mexicans that is prior to the signing of the peace treaty known as the "Guadalupe Hidalgo". Hispanics continued their facilities during successive waves of migration, according to the manpower needs of the U.S. economy (as in the two world wars, with the program "bracero" of 1943 removed unilaterally by the U.S. in 1964). In 2006, they totalled 44 million individuals, 15% of the U.S. population. According to U.S. Census Bureau projections, based on 400 million people in the United States, in 2040, the share of the Hispanic population could be around 25% (against 1 of 7 in 2006), becoming one of the main "perils" that threatens the foundations of "America" ​​faces of multiculturalism and the decline of the foundations of WASP culture as explained by Samuel Huntington (2004) in his latest book on U.S. national identity.

9We should take account of this Latin American dimension of North America, with all economic impacts, cultural and political particularly in terms of tourist consumption-on Latin American states. We gather that the Latin American cultural area consists of subregions (Demyk, 2007), the main ones on the American isthmus and Mexico, the Caribbean, Andean, Amazonian world, the Brazilian plateau, the American temperate southern.

10Mowforth, Charlton and Munt (2008) include these territories under the names Latin America and Caribbean (Latin America and the Caribbean [LAC]). They recognize the specific features of the Caribbean spaces (marked by insularity and cultural imprints beyond that of the framework of Iberian colonization) but who do not share the least touristic issues of Latin America. Cuttings must nevertheless not be flexible, variable geometry according to the angles of analysis. Doesn’t Miami figure as the capital of the Caribbean and can we address the issue of cruise tourism without including Florida ports? States in North America (U.S. and Canada) control the bulk of tourism in Latin America and Caribbean, in terms of the issue of international tourists, investment strategies and organization of the main sailings regional. Some Caribbean territories maintain privileged political relationship with the United States, such as the Virgin Islands (U.S. and UK), to the point that some regional divisions put all the Caribbean islands throughout North America as in the Lew’s study, Hall and Timothy (2008).

Studies on tourism issues in Latin Caribbean

11At the origin of this project, the finding of the dispersion and weak tourism studies on Latin American issues, especially in French, and the will to continue the process initiated by N. Raymond, through the publication of a special issue in the journal TRACE, "Turistas y Turismo" (2004), where the tourism study sheds light on both the nature of the phenomenon (for the analysis of practices, the local arrangements and links between tourism and politics) as the realities of the Latin American subcontinent (Raymond, 2004).

12There are few studies that develop an overview of the tourism phenomenon in Latin America. A first synthetic approach was proposed in the work of Lew, and Timothy Hall (2008) where tourism is addressed in the Americas, and in that of Lumsdon and Swift (2001) which deals only with Latin America. The reflections are more advanced on the Caribbean space with the work of Wilkinson (1997), the comprehensive study coordinated by Duval (2004) and the approach proposed by the French review Téoros (2007) with a file devoted to tourism in the Caribbean.

13Development issues are at the heart of reflection. By the late 1970s, the authors discuss strategies for integration of Latin American economies in the world market (Cardoso and Faletto, 1979) and the role of tourism in this context (Wilkinson, 1989). Britton (1977), Weaver (1988) and McElroy and Albuquerque (1995) underline the limits of logical development of international tourism which is a continuation of the cycle of planting. The analyses of the construction of touristic spots highlight the economic and political arguments that motivate their modes of development, primarily the construction of closed beach resorts, these choices are not neutral, as evidenced by the work of Pattullo (1996). Several studies analyse the tourism development of those territories and the urbanization process of the Mexican side (Colin, 1979, Meyer-Arendt, 1990; Hiernaux, 2003, 2005), the Dominican Republic (Meyer-Arendt et al., 1992), Jamaica (Issa and Jayawardena, 2003).

14Hiernaux (2006) identifies the successive steps of the young story of Latin American tourism which can be summarized in these words: "mass model, from statism to market". The implementation of the tourism sector is the company’s first under the aegis of the State, in Mexico, as in other destinations in the region, "as part of a system of Fordist accumulation developmentalist, encouraged by the Interamerican Development Bank", with significant investments, the implementation of major infrastructure projects and significant economic benefits. Since the 1980s, this economic sector is subject to a progressive liberalization for the benefit of transnational groups. In this second phase, the tourism sector, mass scale, standardized, further enriches foreign investors and local claims about the social, economic, cultural and environmental issues (Hiernaux 2006).

15Brenner and Aguilar (2002) emphasize on the effects of liberalization and privatization processes that lead to a territorial fragmentation in these areas that juxtapose luxurious resorts located on reserved beaches and consolidation of local people in urban areas in need of elementary services (Cuevas Ramirez, 2005). The increase in tourist consumption is resulting in additional pressures on resources and the setting aside of the "useless" populations to the consumer society (Bauman, 2006).

16These questions associate the touristic development to the performances of these territories, devices, marked by the weight of colonial stories. Kempadoo (1999, 2004), Sheller (2003, 2004) and Strachan (2002) demonstrate the construction steps of the idea of ​​the Caribbean understood as a "paradise" with all the touristic images built around the "4S" that result from them "when metaphor, power, ideology, and economics intersect in the colonial and postcolonial spaces we call the Caribbean" (Strachan, 2002: 268).

17Environmental aspects and the vulnerability of communities occupy a large place. Reflections feeding experiments conducted from the Gulf of Mexico (Meyer-Arendt, 1987, 1991) and the islands (Baldwin, 2000, 2005, 2007). The work of McElroy and Albuquerque (1998) introduces questions about the impact on host societies and environments through the construction of hints that point to the limitations of capacity costs borne by some popular island destinations.

18It is in this context that we undertake studies on politics about environmental conservation in all its complexity (Grenier, 1998; Raymond, 2007) and reflection is needed on ecotourism (Weaver, 1993), « un nouveau défi pour la Caraïbe ? » (Breton, 2001; Eudes Caribéennes, 2007). Access to resources, the choice of conservation policies, privatization of public property are all factors that put the politics and power relations at the heart of the reflection. Tourism contributes to this process of conquest: the privatization of beaches to the reservation of resources, redefinition of uses through a new "governance" where necessary NGO were created for the occasion (Khosla, 2007). Recent examples are indicative of this liberal villainy such as cruise lines that hold the exclusive enjoyment of beaches reserved for their customers, such as the Royal Caribbean cruise on the peninsula of Labadee Haiti. The combined effects of liberalism and structural adjustment, symbols of the highlights of tourism are gradually privatized, cut off from their national space, in Central America (under the Plan "Puebla Panama") as in Peru with the emblematic example privatization of the "Machu Pichu space", initiated by Fujimori in the 1990s, where the railway luxury "Orient Express Trains & Cruises" has replaced the national carrier of Peru ENAFER the most lucrative segment of the network. Studies of N. Raymond on Peru (2001), those of Chile Volle (2005) and Stonich of the Caribbean (2000) open their tourism studies on the field of political ecology.

19After three decades of experiences, reflections relate to the restructuring of the sector around new land resources (Dalhes and Keune, 2002), focusing on local development, community empowerment, micro-laboratories are ideal locations from which it is possible to engage thoughtful alternatives (Weaver, 1991, 1992), to introduce the ethical dimension (Mowforth et al., 2007) and to imagine "something else" in a post-liberal perspective (Liaudet, 2004).

Photo 2. Caraballeda’s resort (Venezuela)

Photo 2. Caraballeda’s resort (Venezuela)

Source: O. Dehoorne

The proposed approach

20As part of this special issue we propose to open up the issue with the proposed reflection by Klaus J. Meyer-Arendt planning policy of the Costa Maya (Mexico) who moves to a low-density tourism and ecotourism projects in a sustainable development perspective, which announced a break with the massive development and standardized which characterizes the coast of Cancun and the Riviera Maya.

21The issue of the representation and construction of tourist images is addressed through three texts that offer specific entries. Graciela Zuppa Iris analyses the construction of successive images of a tourist through the history of the seaside resort of Mar del Plata (Argentina). The historical dimension of tourism practices of Latin Americans is inserted through the Argentinian social history, when the mandates of President JD. Perón (1946 - 1955); Elisa Pastoriza and Marcelo Pedetta present the steps of the program of "democratization of welfare", which democratizes access to leisure and free time, not without difficulty. Then, the Claudia Asch study analyses the contemporary construction staging of the Mexican city of Guanajuato, the "city of Cervantes in the Americas", as officially awarded by UNESCO in 2005, which aims to become the a center of cultural tourism.

22Aspects related to economic size and development issues are introduced from two case studies: the first, proposed by Louis Dupont, examines the relationship between tourism development, economic growth and poverty reduction from the example of the Republic of Haiti. Then, through the recent development of cruise tourism in the Caribbean, Olivier Dehoorne, Christelle Murat, Nathalie-Charles Petit highlight rationalization and concentration of a range of increasingly deterritorialized where "floating enclave" – the ship – became the "tourist destination", this development is not without economic consequences for Caribbean ports including the local economy lived to the rhythm of the stops.

23The question of resources, particularly the one on beaches, is asked by Virginia Duvat through the case of the BVI. The author presents a methodology for assessing the quality of the beaches, a quality that is a major issue for small Caribbean islands that rely on tourism. On the Pacific coast of Nicaragua, Xavier Matteucci explores new modes of tourist consumption, through the development of second homes, and places the issue of accessibility of natural resources, between destruction and privatization, in the heart of the issues. Camille Le Masne presents the changes engendered by the advent of international tourism on the island of Colon (Panama) for twenty years, describing the processes that characterize the transition to sustainable tourism with a situation became untenable.

24This reflection then analyses the scales of decision-making. On the Pacific side, from the example of Santa Maria Huatulco (Oaxaca, Mexico), Marie Clement says Chirot studies the strategies of the players facing a tourism development project planned entirely by the Mexican state. Also in Mexico, Jorge F. Cervantes Borja, forge lessons of the limits of the tourism urbanization model that prevailed on the Caribbean coast of Mexico, emphasizing the need to reconsider the development of tourism with focus on decentralization of political and administrative functions. It is essential to better take into account the offers of local markets and promote diversification opportunities to promote sustainability of the regional economy. Edegar Tomazzoni Luis and Eric Dorion explain the issues surrounding the development of an observatory of tourism and culture in the service of regional development through the experience engaged in the State of Rio Grande Do Sul (Brazil). The objective is to strengthen the exchange between academic organizations, political and business production and knowledge.

25The last three contributions proposed open areas for reflection between local development and the search for alternatives. Ernesto Barrera Olivia Alvarado Bringas address road development food as a tool for opening reasoned some campaigns, heritage and local identity. Montserrat Fitó analyses the cultural dimension through the religions of African origin in Brazil, Cuba and Venezuela, some events tend to register as cultural attractions with specified pecuniary. Mónica Lacarrieu is studying the issue of cultural tourism, heritage and identity. Through examples from South America, she deconstructs the cliches and questions the concept of authenticity.

"The development of tourism is not apolitical"

26We share the position of Mowforth, Charlton and Munt: "That we take the stance, the development of tourism is not apolitical" (2007: 10). The Latin American experiences teach us that tourism studies are gaining a new dimension in addressing the field of power, the construction of the power structure, often overlooked, history and games of forces internal and external, essential to understanding the development of tourism.

27To take stock of the challenges that are emerging around recent developments in tourism in Latin America, we cannot ignore the political strategies associated with the dominant economic model of neoliberalism, with the effects of privatization, deregulation and elimination of tariff barriers. "And finally, we consider a number of concepts and techniques (Such as voluntary self-regulation and corporate social responsibility) Used to Mitigate the ill effects of These Strategies as They Apply to the development of tourism" (Mowforth et al., 2007: 11).

28This means that issues related to ethics and values ​​are not politically neutral. Interventions and decision-making, for example in terms of nature conservation for the benefit of tourists and their specific consumption-or more– lucrative ones for the construction of enclaves hotel in the heart of secluded territory communities, on a coastal strip or island from the South, and whose daily lives depend on other activities, represent changes in the balance and the exercise of power. Hence the need to clarify the links between economic and political power (Demyk, 2002).

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Titre Photo 2. Caraballeda’s resort (Venezuela)
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Olivier Dehoorne et Christelle Murat, « Crossing Perspectives on Tourism Issues in Latin America »Études caribéennes [En ligne], 13-14 | Août-Décembre 2009, mis en ligne le 15 décembre 2009, consulté le 09 décembre 2023. URL : ; DOI :

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Olivier Dehoorne

Université des Antilles et de la Guyane, Maître de conférences,

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Christelle Murat

Université des Antilles et de la Guyane, Doctorante,

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