Tourism and Tenientes: Latin American Military Regimes, International Tourism Development, and UNESCO, 1930s–1970s

AHA Session 47
Conference on Latin American History 11
Thursday, January 2, 2014: 3:30 PM-5:30 PM
Columbia Hall 4 (Washington Hilton)
Jerry Dávila, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Anadelia A. Romo, Texas State University at San Marcos

Session Abstract

In this panel, we seek to study the history of international tourism in Latin America over the long twentieth century. Often, industrialization is the key lens through which scholars have identified how many Latin American countries secured international recognition as emerging first world nation-states with “maturing” economic development potential.  Recently, scholars have turned their attention to tourism as another perspective from which to understand militaristic regimes pursuing international recognition and legitimacy.  Placed together, Brazil and Peru highlight important parallels and differences from which to consider the role international tourism development played for the regimes’ respective nation-state formations.

In this panel, we offer three case studies from which to examine different formations of regional tourism development under militaristic regimes.  Each presentation begins with the question of how international tourism, and the principal role the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) played, became key projects informing state economic development plans.  Both militaristic regimes in Brazil (Recife and Salvador da Bahia) as well as Peru (Cusco) produced regional tourism plans with the goal of identifying and petitioning their respective sites to be considered UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

The first two papers focus on two Brazilian cities Recife and Salvador da Bahia,  as key colonial cities that were also  promoted as celebrating an Afro-Brazilian past. The first presentation, “The Intellectual Foundations of Brazilian Cultural Tourism, 1934-1967,” focuses on how these colonial cities influenced literary giants Jorge Amado and Gilberto Freyre to craft celebratory narratives of an Afro-Brazilian past and Brazil as a racial democracy.  These intellectual foundations went on to play important roles in the narratives of the Vargas and post-1964 military government in crafting a tourist-oriented image of Brazil.  The second presentation, “Pelourinho, UNESCO and the creation of an Afro-Brazilian past,  1965-1975” focuses on how Bahia state and city elite were intent to produce a narrative of Pelourinho (Salvador da Bahia), the largest colonial district in the Americas, as the “heart and soul of Bahia.”  Pelourinho, translated as “the whipping post,” was also a slave auction site and, as such, poses a range of contradictions from which to explore regional tourism development strategists exploiting the celebratory narrative of an Afro-Brazilian past.  Finally, the third presentation, “Ruins, Hotels, and Hippies: Tourism and Conflict in 1970s Cusco” examines Machu Picchu as a comparative case to Pelourinho where UNESCO cooperated with the military government to re-develop Cusco as a global cultural tourism destination.  The paper attends to the deeper structural flaws that undercut Cusco’s first tourism “boom,” a boom that ultimately collapsed by the early 1980s.

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