Ethnography of Tourism and Ecotourism in Cuba

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Employing a theoretical and historical lens when looking at the issue of tourism and ecotourism in Cuba, it becomes apparent that capital profit exploitation of a geographical area has the power to negotiate meanings, ideas and identities in Cuba. Within the article of Fleeting Dreams and Flowing Goods: Citizenship and Consumption in Havana Club it is described that, “ the movement of material, information, finance and bodies across borders has shifted and transformed definitions of belonging and citizenship,”( Amy L Porter p. 134) because of the collapse of the Soviet Union pushing Cuba into the global capitalist market. As discussed in the article by Amy Porter the emergence of tourism and eco tourism has caused a division in the country, which can be related to the idea of “culture disillusionment.” (Porter) Using these sources, one is able to create a critique on the theory of second hand citizenship in Cuba.

Through the analysis of the article, Citizenship and Consumption in Havana Club by Amy Porter, it can be determined that Cubans have began to question their place in the world as citizens of Cuba and members of the globalized world. To understand Cuba’s contemporary history in all spheres, including the development and research on this country and the emergence of global cities, two dates are of great importance The Cuban Revolution on January 1, 1959 and the Collapse of the Soviet Union on December of 1991.(The Cold War Museum)

One can see that since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba has lost economic support and forced to integrate and participate in the global capital world. The natural and social effects of tourism have created a shift and transformation in definitions of belonging and citizenship. Based on this, global ethnography is a theoretical and historical method of obtaining geographical context and find connections between tourism, consumption, identity and citizenship in Cuba.

The ethnography of tourism in Cuba will be placed in conversation with scholarly literature. Based on factors of right or inability to own, the participation or exclusion of consuming goods, restricted tourist only areas,Cuban benefits versus foreigners benefits and how Cubans identity have been compromised. The exclusivity and inferiority they are experiencing has lead to a major identity crisis. Studies on Cuba will reveal the global forces that shape the production and consumption as well it’s fueling agents. Through an evaluative critique in context I will investigate what it means to be an international citizen in order to understand the development of business plans pertaining to tourist areas. This will help map an avenue of research on how culture or cultures are diluted for profitable investments in areas of foreign foot traffic. This literature review will exclude the history of Cuba’s Socialist political identity and will be focusing on the social problems of local culture that stem from eco-tourism and tourism.

In the article of Tourism in Cuba: A Development strategy for the 1990s the impact of tourism in the economy is analyzed by Maria Dolores Espino. The article in question focuses on, “ International tourism as a major economic component throughout the crisis that has maintained a positive performance.” (Espino) It is important to make note of the incentives and benefits behind Cuba’s participation in the global economy through tourism in efforts get a central focus on the capitalist route they wish to take. This will also offer both short and long term goals pertaining to Cuba’s vision as country. Tourism is currently’s Cuba primary source of hard currency, economic growth and economic development.

Therefore the, “ the Cuban Government created the Instituto Nacional de Turismo, an agency primarily responsible for developing policy for both national and international tourism, collecting data on tourist arrivals and tourist expenditures.” (Dolores) One can start questioning where the information being gathered is going and how it is being used, as well as who exactly is drafting out both national and international policy’s. The Cuban Corporation is another agency created out of foreign capital for joint venture investments.(Dolores) Now there is additional foreign injection of money going into Cuba having a strong monetary influence of Cuban affairs that can be open for further analyzes. According to the United Nations, “ a visitor as any person visiting a country other than that in which he has his usual place of residence, for any reason other than the following an occupation remunerated from with the country visited”

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A tourist is some who stays a, minimum of 24 hours in a country for leisure, recreation, holiday, health study, religion, sport, business, family, mission or meeting. An excursionists is a temporary visitor staying less than 24 hours. One can draw from these two definition of visitors in Cuba in consensus with the United Nations that the Cuban Government collects two different sets of information on international visitors based of the categories above. (Dolores)Therefore revisiting the objective of the Instituto Nacional de Turismo there is an extensive body of data that is being used to draft tourism policy’s that can offer a framework for the profitable ventures taking place in Cuba. Along with domestic and foreign agendas of interest and invesments.

Adding on to the body of data gathering, Direction De Immigration y Extranjeria shares information of foreign visitors arriving at the border with The World Tourism Organization and the Banco Nacional De Cuba as an additional form of tracking the rapid growth of international tourism in Cuba.(Dolores) The article in hand has a strong emphasis on the types and locations of the visitors, presenting statistics such as 40% Western Europe visitors in 1990 and 27% coming from Latin America in 1991(Dolores) in efforts to get an idea of the potential incentives and benefits that come from tourism. Two major factors that contributed to Cuba’s strong performance in 1991 were, “ The Pan American Games and The Gulf War.” (Dolores) The first brought a wave from Latin America and The Gulf War made Cuba a safe place for travel during the issues between the United Nations and Iraq. Despite Cuba being a natural partner with the U.S. for carribean travel The U.S. trade Embargo remains in effect, therefor Cuba resorts to the Canadian and European Market. The U.S. trade Embargo is a 1962 policy to push Cuba into economic isolation and overthrow the Castro government movement. ( Engage Cuba)

An additional source of literature on the introduction of Cuba into the global economy offers an intriguing look at the politically neutral policies that do not require homogenization or uniformity. It is interesting to get a closer look at the policy drafting process and tourism affairs with a country embedded in Marxsist Leninsit philosophy such as Cuba. According to Heather E. Shreve, “Cuba is attempting to carve out its own niche within the realm of globalization on its own terms.”(Shreeve) since the political, cultural and economic change the future of Cuba was open to embracing a system of economic globalization. These changes include foreign investment, wage changes, instituting a singular form of currency, and most recently, self- employment and cooperative ownership of businesses. Cuba will continue to stand strong in market socialism and neoliberal models, however they will start to take steps to establish democracy and free trade in Cuba style. (Shreeve)

According to Shreeve globalization, “ is a transformative process by which forces at all levels, from local to international, exert pressure on the decision- making process of states to harmonize with the policies and the practices of other countries.”(Shreeve) It was interesting to take a close look at how globalization unfolded in a country with counter to popper political beliefs and ideologies. The article in hand introduces an interesting concept of harmonization as opposed to homogenization. Although there is some uniformity that results between human affairs and social relations that result out of globalization. The commitment to capital mobilization and entrepreneurship does not have to compromise the societal values under the concept of harmonization. This concept does not dismiss the fact that, “local transformation is as much of a part of globalization as the lateral extension of social connections across time and space.” (Shreeve)

Instead, globalization provides incentives for states to harmonize their policies with others in the global economy and to “achieve some level of concordance with other legal systems.” In this context, globalization decentralizes the very policies and theoretical underpinnings of governments allowing for concordance between nations that contain vastly different ideologies,31 as with the United States and China. Globalization may change the way in which states make decisions, but it is the state itself that implements its policies; a role remains for states within a globalized world, albeit in a different form.

Having this information will open the door discussions of the identity crisis in relation to tourism in Cuba and negotiation between tourism and the preservation of cultural identities of Cuba.

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