Friday, March 6, 2009

A Tourist in Colombia

My quiteness comes from being on holiday with Y~ for a while, yet this has not caused quietness in my pondering mind. There is much I’d like to share about being read as a tourist. Primarily it is a much less enjoyable and priviliged experience than when I am with La Red.

I am seen as someone to make money from, understandably as my very ability to be in there home town comes from having money, and I refuse to accept the bullshit of travellers who claim they have no money to give, and negotiate down as much as they can just so they can stay travelling for longer – a privilige that the fuckers who are ripping us [white westeren tourists] off will never have.

I am much more visibly sexualised, that is I got a lot more sexual hassle walking down the streets, most of the time easy to ignore, but a few times I bit back and got an apology.

It made me really realise the beautiful privilige I have through doing my work, the wonderful insights I am invited in to see in people’s communities; accepted, trusted and seen as an ally.

It made me realise that I have very different criteria for what is a good place to go and relax and be on holiday than others. There is little chance of relaxing if gross injustice is staring me in the face as I am swinging in a hammock. And so begins my rant of Parque Tayrona, Colombia’s second most visited national park and apparentely as “must go place”. The moment Y~ and I arrived we wanted to get out of this artificial environement, created as a piece of propoganda for the Colombian government to show how they conserve the natural environment, run as a business by a paramilitary controlled company that charges extortionate prices for people to get it, thought very kindly lets the indigenous they kicked out come back for free on special sacred days.

We stayed the night and the following day opted for the 5hour walk out, stunning rock formations, trees, and a deserted inidigenous village – El Pueblito. On the display boards it says there was a population of # thousand until the Spanish arrived. No mentions of how many people were living there when the land became a national park. The village has no residents, the park ranger told me that people were not allowed to live in the park, and refused to answer directly my question of whether they were forced to leave. There was an indigenous man there, whose job it is, is to register all visitors in a book. I apologised for being complicit in the continued displacement of his peoples.

My very presence as a paying tourist, great for business, is what prevents his community living there. Maybe at some point the company and state will decide it is good for business to have indigenous living in pueblito and they will be allowed back but only if they play the role of nice cutey dressed traditional indigneous and certainly not as indigenous building their cultural practices and process like is happening in Cauca.

So I wouldn’t recommend Tayrona. Beauty is not just in the eye of the beholder, but also in the knowledge of the beholder.

I would recomment Bocachica, a fishing village on the Island of Tierradentro, Cartagena and Minca, a village in a coffee growing region in the hills behind Santa Marta were beautiful. Both with real, living, breathing, changing communities that are adding to their existing economies with small-scale tourism. Both with warm and kind people who proudly showed off their community to us, and wanted to chat and share opinions about our shared world and let Y~ and me see a glimpse of life for people in these places.

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