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

i told you i would melt

“We must never allow the future to collapse under the burden of memory.”
~Milan Kundera

By the end of our trip, all of my nights ended tequila drunk and a thousand feet deep in a philosophical shit‐shooting session. It makes sense. You cannot talk about tourism for long before you have to start laying down some serious theoretical definitions.

I don’t think tourism can be fixed within its own terms, because tourism is rooted in bad faith. It must go. What are we touring other than power and control? In practice, to “be a tourist” is to surrender one’s agency. After about a week in the Yucatan, I started to feel extremely hostile and restless, like I couldn’t breathe. I was losing interest in the sites and I strayed from the group as much as possible, just to look at something no one told me to look at. I didn’t understand what my problem was, because wanderlust runs through my veins. I travel whenever the opportunity presents itself, because travelling has always made me feel so free. I wasn’t feeling free. I was feeling like a puppet… Then I realized that I had traveled before, but I had never been a tourist. I had never been on a trip with a tour guide. A tour guide, however well meaning, defines the group against their surroundings and constantly directs their gaze. The experience is mediated and implicitly ineffectual. I had been existing vicariously through a guide. But once I grasped that underlying conceptual framework of tourism, I regained my agency. I had the freedom to choose how I would operate within the situation. So, tourism is crippling by design…  and I don’t know how to demolish such a powerful industry. But it seems that tour guides are the symbolic prophets of tourism, so maybe the model could at least be decentralized.

I know I have criticized the tour guide model a lot, but I just want to clarify that I don’t think tour guides themselves are dehumanizing or evil people… and the same for tourists. Getting to know our tour guide, Miguel, was one of the best parts of this trip. He understands people so well.  When I would get lost in my head thinking about all those ideas up there^, he would always notice and tell me to stop worrying. He taught me so much, really. So much. Namaste & gracias mille, Miguel! 

Other thoughts lingering from the trip~
1. Sometimes you wake up to a viper by your hammock and that’s ok.
2. I keep collecting clues even though I still don’t know the mystery.
3. There is nothing we can learn from hatred.
4. yolo
5. When you tell someone you don’t believe in the self, be prepared to eat your words.
6. My childhood wish came true— to see the flamingos take flight

Advertisements

Mexico in travel websites

     Yucatan Today entices visually, with bright colors, graphics, and photographs.. The site uses banner advertisements of spas, hotels, and the like. It seems to be geared toward prospective ex‐pats, or at least the demographic. The menu options are topics, destinations, eventsaccommodations, restaurants, and real estate. Even the order in which these options are listed creates a sort of narrative… A person who is English speaking and wealthy enough to vacation goes to the Yucatan, verses his or herself in the topics relevant to that region, visits beautiful historical sites while dining out and staying in nice hotels, and eventually decides to look for real estate in the are and move. The site seems to be assimilating parts of Mexican and Yucatecan culture into a product that will appeal to a certain audience. The advertised sites and media feed into a lot of the hype surrounding the Mayan calendar predictions for 2012.  They seem to feed whatever audience they think will come. I wonder who runs this site, honestly.

Cancun Information is the official site for tourism in Cancun. This site looks more like Yucatan Today, and it is even more geared toward luxury seeking masses. Instead of advertising Haciendas like the Yucatan Today site, this lists all-inclusive resorts—which are HORRIBLE for the local economy. There is no attempt to sell Mexican culture here… Nothing reflects, informs, or depicts anything about the culture. There are photos of white skinned, blonde haired models lounging in the bright blue ocean. The list of dining options includes Italian, Oriental, Fine Dining, and steakhouses.. with Mexican food as a mere item on the list. You’ll start to notice that I absolutely detest Cancun…..

The U.S. Department of State’s travel website offers a completely opposite  presentation of Mexico. There are no colorful graphics or advertisements, and all of the information is organized by a very streamlined and straightforward design. Rather than listing destinations and tourist hotpots like the Yucatan Today, these are the topics on the menuː

  • Country Description
  • Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)/Embassy Location
  • Entry/Exit Requirements for U.S. Citizens
  • Threats to Safety and Security
  • Crime
  • Victims of Crime
  • Criminal Penalties
  • Special Circumstances
  • Medical Facilities and Health Information
  • Medical Insurance
  • Traffic Safety and Road Conditions
  • Aviation Safety Oversight
  • Children’s Issues

The narrative is very clear here… Go to Mexico, be prepared for danger. Of course, part of this reflects the way the entire website is structured, but these are the very concerns that circulate among Americans about travelling to Mexico. There is nothing about culture, food, or really anything positive.

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.

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…

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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.

prowl Mérida

the scaffolds are playing
like a virgin. a man
tells me that he knows
where the good hammocks are,
where the sleepswings are handspun
by the yucatanean heat,
where there is no polyesther.
where there never was.
i tell him when
someone sits in the shade
someone will always come
true,that wherever beauty hides
will carry me far away
again. he traces the invisible
square, and i see its constant
flooding of crows.
i think of how much harder it is
to forget a language
than it is to learn
one new.

Valladolid

 

I am ready to melt under the Yucatanean sun.


The Mayas Facing 2012~~ from Yucatan Today 

Today’s Mayas look ahead to December 2012 as a critical point in the history of humanity; and they see time as a variable which has a great influence on life on this planet and our existence.

Not for a single moment have the Mayas feared the arrival of this date; on the contrary: the ancient Mayas have always told us to wait patiently for a change in consciousness and the evolution which that change will bring.

Human beings don’t exist by chance or a work of fate, they are part of a plan to carry out a mission in this part of the universe. Nor is the world totally complete in its creation and perfection; mankind has a job to do on this planet and must be a part of its conservation. It could be said that life on planet Earth depends on humans and what we do during our existence.

The Mayan prophecies announce the change of time. The Popool-Vuh is their book of advice and it tells us: “It is time for a new dawn and to finally complete the task.”

We are at the beginning of the ending of a period of the Sun which lasts 5200 years, culminating with some hours of darkness. After these days of darkness, a new (the sixth) period of the Sun will appear. In each period of the Sun, the planet adjusts, causing changes to the climate, social, and political changes. The world, and life, both transform, and we enter a period of understanding, of living together in harmony, and of social justice and equality for all; there is a new way of living. When there is a new social order there is a new kind of freedom, a time when we will walk like the clouds, without limits and without borders; we will travel like the birds, with no need for passports; we will flow like the rivers, all toward the same place, the same goal.

The Popool Vuh tells us that there have been three eras: the era of the gods, the era of the heroes, and the era of mankind with an increase in decline. But what does all this mean? It means that within the Mayan prohecies, we can see a return to power. The interesting thing is that within this long-awaited change, it is also expected that there will be a reawakening of the Mayan world in all its complexity, with an appearance of the ascending Mayan spirits who will come to bring the people back up. We will fulfill the famous phrase “that no one will be left behind” and also that “we always return to where we came from”. This means that we are facing great changes, great powers which never have been seen on the face of the earth.

We have an opportunity to experience a change of conscience which will help us to evolve as a species, protecting the natural resources which we need for our survival, and bring about the long-awaited, urgent social equity, finally understanding the importance of the human being in the universal order.

We will wake up in the conscience of change.