Contesting Visions of Caribbean Landscapes

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Abstract:

This article examines the social contests that arose out of a series of state-sponsored tourism development projects on the Caribbean island of Culebra. The article will be focusing on how Culebra's tourism debates shed light on the complex social definitions of the island's space and its delimitations. The island's discursive location—as part of the paracolonial state of Puerto Rico, with a significant population from the US and Europe, and a social memory that is linked to the Anglophone Caribbean—creates a complex social context with multiple imaginaries and understandings of what it means to live in Culebra. However, for all its complexity and mobility, the social actors who got involved in the development debates used their position to insularize and essentialize the island. In this sense, the development debate continued to reproduce, through its rhetoric, local versus foreigner binaries regardless of the fragmented nature of the island and the fragmented nature of the opposed parties. The central argument of this article revolves around two propositions. On the one hand, I argue that the multiplicities and fragmentations of the island of Culebra are visualized and that these visualizations were made manifest in the arguments and justifications people made in outlining their position on tourism development. Second, I will argue that the mobilities—represented by social networks that traverse through the island—and the insularities—created by the islander's political positions in relation to the development—do not represent mutually exclusive positions. Rather the article explores the nature of this paradox by bringing in ethnographic examples collected through a year of fieldwork, in order to see this contradiction as a positive tension from where people construct and politicize a sense of place.

Keywords: DEVELOPMENT; INSULARITY; NATIONALISM; NEOLIBERALISM; PUERTO RICO

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2008

More about this publication?
  • Tourism, Culture & Communication is international in its scope and will place no restrictions upon the range of cultural identities covered, other than the need to relate to tourism and hospitality. The Journal seeks to provide interdisciplinary perspectives in areas of interest that may branch away from traditionally recognized national and indigenous cultures, for example, cultural attitudes toward the management of tourists with disabilities, gender aspects of tourism, sport tourism, or age-specific tourism.
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