Friday, May 25, 2012

FTTN: Salta and Jujuy- culture and tradition as tourist attractions

You see it in a lot of places, but I guess it was most obvious to me in Salta and Jujuy: the attempt to package and sell the local culture and past to tourists. Whether it's the handcrafts (artesanias), whether native or pseudo-native, in museums, in hostel and restaurant names, in local (or "local") music and dance, etc. I always ask myself how much of it is honest and real, and if it actually conserves the culture or does the exact opposite.
I think that it's generally positive, and I have learnt a lot about the area and the people that live and used to live there, both before and after the Europeans came. But you can't avoid a certain feeling of fakeness, especially when you have all those colourful and highly designed brochures and posters printed on chromo paper and exalting the "real people" or the "autenthic tradition".
Maybe any tourist attraction will inevitably become commercialised, and the word "authentic" itself has become nothing but an overused cliche. It's probably not the fault of the artesanias, museums and folkloric music, but of the brochures, chromo paper and Ad agency phrasing. Maybe anything that modern culture (there's a generalization for you...) touches ends up becoming commercialised, and catches the globalization virus that makes everything bland, pale, a mere photocopy of the original wrapped in nylon. Just heat up for five minutes in the oven, or thirty seconds in a microwave, and you will receive a Diaguita ritual fertility dance!
Hmmm... I do come out as very negative on the subject. I might really be so negative about it. In any case,  I'm sure that the actual cultures that lived (and live) around here are much harder to digest, and would be impossible to spoon-feed us with. That's probably one of the main sources of my negativity: my knowledge that if I would get a taste (enough with the food metaphors already!) of the real thing, there's a good chance it would end in discomfort, superiority/inferiority complexes, or simply general misunderstanding
Oh, well... At least the music was good, the costumes were pretty, and the food... no, I've talked way too much of food

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