‘They are Taking Our Culture Away’: Tourism and Culture Commodification in the Garifuna Community of Roatan

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Theodossopoulos, Dimitrios ; Kirtsoglou, Elisabeth (2004)

This article is concerned with the efforts of a Garifuna community in Honduras to claim a space in the growing local tourist economy. Its inhabitants maintain that they suffer a form of culture loss because they do not control the commodification of their culture through tourism. By examining the local perspective, we argue that cultural performances could be treated as cultural property and consumed by tourists in a context of mutual exchange as opposed to a hegemonic one. We suggest that every cultural performance entails a state- ment about collective identity and thus the local battle for cultural ownership relates to the politics of self-representation and the position of the community in the wider world. The members of the community we studied articulate their desire to become an attraction, which can fully satisfy the tourist quest for authen- ticity and difference. Only this has to take place on their own terms, to serve their interests and to promote the image they have about themselves and their culture.
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