Afro-Antillean Cuisine and Global Tourism

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Around the world, foods are both eaten and avoided in the name of racial or ethnic identity. Food is also intimately linked to political and economic power. In the case of Caribbean Panama, an Afro-Antillean cuisine has been highly praised by Afro-Antilleans as a marker of a unique identity in a country that emphasizes its Spanish origin in response to United States “protectorate” claims. With the onset of tourism as a fundamental component of the Panamanian economy and identity of the country, cuisines that have not been considered part of the “typical” Panamanian cuisine tradition, are beginning to be recognized. This paper concentrates on the development of Afro-Antillean cuisine in the Archipelago of Bocas del Toro. I argue that Afro-Antillean cuisine is a highly gendered and racialized experience that exemplifies how the globalizing phenomenon of tourism interacts with and encourages a local experience. I also discuss how a localized tradition becomes internationalized with tourism. Finally, I discuss the role of the state in the development of an Afro-Antillean culinary tradition.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: September 1, 2004

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