Responsible Tourism, Cultural Tourism and Fair Trade

Today, I want to write about the easier aspects of getting back to Oaxaca in a month and what that means.  I can imagine the menu that Reyna Mendoza Ruiz and I have settled on for the cooking class we will offer participants in the Oaxaca Women’s Writing and Yoga Retreat:  Lifting Your Creative Voice.

Our cooking class menu:

  • Salsa de chile pasilla oaxaqueño
  • Ensalada de nopalitos
  • Mole enchiladas con pollo or mole enchiladas con champiniones
  • Helado de zarzamora con cajeta

I can almost feel the Oaxaca sun warming my back as I sit at this moment in the unseasonably cold North Carolina chill.  If I close my eyes, I can imagine the scrub oak covered hills and grazing sheep, the organ pipe cactus, the curl of a cooking fire, the smell of fresh ground corn tortillas.  I look forward to Magda’s tamales coated in spicy chocolate mole and a cold bottle of Indio beer at the Las Granadas courtyard table.  I want to hover over the freshest, ripest avocados, gently squeezing them as we trail Reyna through the village market.

The women who join me for this educational creative writing retreat will be inspired by the beauty and simplicity of the environment.  By being there, we will contribute to the economic well being of our host family and others who depend on tourist dollars to feed their children, buy alfalfa for draft animals, and wool for looms.  There is reciprocity and interdependence in this economic relationship.

They provide a place for us to retreat and experience a world apart from our own.  We offer, I think, a fair trade — appreciation and respect for artistry and culinary skills that is compensated.   While we experience being in a different culture, we engage in a place of learning and coming to a mutual understanding for who we are as human beings, through intimate connection without judgment for right/wrong, better/worse. Is this authentic?  I hope so.

I would be interested in hearing from you about what you understand the term “cultural tourism” to mean.  What does an authentic travel experience mean to you?  Can you actually have an authentic relationship with people in a foreign country as a tourist who comes in with dollars, looks for the best espresso café and sits watching the passing parade, negotiates the best price for the handwoven cloth at the local market, then hops on the flight home after a week or so, leaving behind the folks who earn $8 a day if they are lucky enough to have employment.

Do any of us really want to go that deep?

2 responses to “Responsible Tourism, Cultural Tourism and Fair Trade