By June Carolyn Erlick
As tourists to Mexico, we were watching the fuzzy black-and-white television image of Neil Armstrong when he became the first man to set foot on the moon July 20, 1969. My then-boyfriend Jim and I were sitting in a somewhat seedy workers’ bar in Mexico City, lamenting the fact that the U.S. government could better be spending the money on schools. Jim was even considering moving to Mexico; the specter of the U.S. war in Vietnam and the draft hung over both of us. But suddenly, practically the entire bar was hugging us, congratulating us, buying us beers. We were Americans, and the Mexicans were proud of us…even if we weren’t.
Six years later, I was off on a long and unstructured trip through Latin America. In Cartagena, Colombia, I met a young student and asked him his advice on my next destination – should I go to the jungles of the Choco in eastern Colombia or to Caracas. “Caracas” he replied, not missing a beat. “That’s much more interesting.” It was not until many years later that I realized how we carry our own perspectives into our touristic contexts. For Mario, who had never been to Bogota, Caracas was the far-off paradise, the big city, while I was lured by the exotic otherness of the jungle region.
Tourism provides a mirror for others and ourselves. After September 11, many in the Americas became aware of the huge economic and development impact of the tourism industry. But, beyond development, tourism is also important because it creates links between cultures. For better or for worse, it shapes culture, identity and history.
Here in the pages of this second issue of ReVista, you will experience how tourism is the epitome of an interdisciplinary study, shaped by the perspective of our different fields.