infinity on repeat

"It is the imagination pressing back against the pressure of reality. It seems, in the last analysis, to have something to do with our self-preservation; and that, no doubt, is why the expression of it, the sound of its words, helps us to live our lives.”

Tag: Yucatán Peninsula

a travel guide is a tourist’s bible

Before I left, I looked at media representing Mexico–especially media directed toward foreigners and/or tourists. These are some travel books I found, and I think each depicts a specific type of “tourist gaze”…

1. Mexico Chic This travel book represents the luxury gaze. Like Ury and Larsen theorize, the tourists’ gaze depends on his or her own sociocultural ‘centre’–their culture, language, beliefs, daily routine & practices, economic, racial, and social status. This book caters to the contemporary American fashionable female. The implied reader’s lifestyle is heavily influenced by visual and sensual pleasure. The book presents Mexico as an oasis that is isolated from a daily routine of work, offices, and suburban/urban landscapes. It entices via large, colorful photographs of hacienda suites, resorts, spas, and fine dining– all with an “authentic” Mexican flair. Tag-lined with the phrased “you can’t get it at home”, the tourist is lured into an ideal of escapism. Mexico is only partially depicted, as a place void of actual people with actual jobs and actual lives, etc.

2. Graham Greene‘s Another Mexico

PalenqueThis book offers an historical viewpoint of Mexico: a mix of travel writing, social critique, and religious protest written in the 1930’s. After converting to Catholicism, Greene traveled to Mexico and explored the religious landscape. He described Catholics as a suppressed people, ignoring the history of Spanish colonialism and imperialism. Mayan culture was significantly changed by the infiltration of Catholic Spaniards, prompting Mayan religion to take on aspects of Christianity. This syncratic practice is a key notion in the study of Mexican culture.

3. An Archaeological Guide to Mexico and the Yucatan Peninsula, by Kelly Joyce

This book approaches tourism through a scholar’s lens, offering the tourist a how-to guide on a more academically grounded, therefore ‘authentic’, experience. The book emphasizes visually compelling aspects of the Yucatan as an anthropological and archaeological field, and invites the reader into an insider perspective on Mexican culture. Tourism scholars could criticise this book for perpetuating staged authenticity, as the sites listed are all run somewhat like cultural theme parks. The scholarly authority imparted by the voice in the book seems verified and objective, which could be dangerous for a tourist audience.

4. Lonely Planet: Cancun, Cozumel, and Yucatan

 

This is what I would consider a “classic” travel guide. Lonely Planet produces hundreds of guides for destinations all over the globe. The information is a survey of the Peninsula’s hotels, restaurants, museums, beaches, and cultural sites. The design has a visual and photographic emphasis, once again, with historical/cultural information in captions. The book is a self-described authority on “how to get there and get away”, and the place is presented as exotic, foreign, and other-worldly. The American tourist is instructed to see difference primarily, and there is not much about the people who inhabit Mexico today–perpetuating voyeuristic pleasure.

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Backtrack blogging…

I didn’t have reliable access to a computer in the Yucatan, so I’m going to be posting travelogs from my journal. I was traveling the Yucatan peninsula for 16 days for a Communication Studies class at Millsaps College. The class was called “Sun, Sand, and the Cult of the Dead”. We studied theories and writings on different types of tourism, and applied those ideas to tours. We looked at Mayan culture & religion, archaeology, and media to see how they effect each other. It was wonderful!  So, here are some entries from before the trip…

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On the Tourist Gaze…
“We never look just at one thing; we are constantly looking at the relation of things and ourselves.”
The tourist gaze is dependent on contrast–what & how the tourist looks at and percieves at home determines what and how they will experience a “foreign” place. Places are chosen to be gazed upon because there is anticipation, daydream, fantasy, and novelty that is constructed and sustained by the media. I like how one of our readings hailed tourists as the “unsung armies of semioticians”. In tourism studies, there is an ongoing debate on reality & authenticity… le duh. Some accuse tourists as seeking ‘pseudo-events’, events that are orchestrated for foreigners to consume and feel as if they are experiencing the true culture of a place, even though these are just fabricated reproductions of the ‘true culture’. There is a pervacent assumption in this sort of critique–that culture is fixed, and that travelers do not have any part in creating cultures outside of their physical origin.