Wednesday, August 12, 2015

"Benevolent Tourists Save Town!"

Beware, this blog is a little ranty. Read on at the risk of also feeling the contagious need to rant...

You may wonder at the headline of this blog. It is subject that is touchy for me in various ways. All my life I have lived in beautiful places, which because of that beauty are tourist destinations.
First here in Yelapa, then we moved to Sonoma county California (wine country that used to be apple country and before that some other crop country). Then 10 years in San Francisco California (international tourist destination, as well as many many many other things). And now the last 5 years back in Yelapa.

Basically, each of these places have special draws to visitors, which is great. I truly love sharing my beloved spots, best hikes, favorite restaurants, etc. with all who wish to share. Hopefully visitors love and respect these places as much as I do.
Obviously since I run a business that relies on tourism, I want tourism to continue and grow in Yelapa. However, it needs to be done in a responsible way, responsible to the ecosystem, to the laws of the country, and to the sustainability of the community we are part of.

There have recently been some public discussions on social media about some certain large tourism companies that visit Yelapa (and the surrounding areas). My only personal issue with these companies ever, was that they are a monopoly, and I believe (any kind of) monopolies are very bad. They are bad for communities, economy, agriculture, and just culture in general.
But I am not trying to attack or even disparage any individual company. Rather, I would like to address something I saw written in one of the comments about this issue;

"Quieres que Yelapa desaparezca? Porque al no tener turismo no podrĂ­a existir Yelapa, depende del turismo"
Translation: "Do you want Yelapa to disappear? Because without tourism Yelapa could not exist, it depends on tourism"

Ok, absolutely Yelapa depends on tourism in it's current state of economy. On that point I totally agree. But to say that it "could not exist" without tourism...it's just crazy, not to mention offensive! Of course it could exist! It has and will for very many years. There are more edible plants, seafood, fresh water, and sustainable economy (not tourism) than you can imagine in Yelapa! There are many things that have gone by the wayside due to having a tourist economy. Many skills that have been lost or forgotten. But they are still there, and I have every hope that we will continue to be a self sustainable community.

It is exactly these sentiments that lower a communities self reliance, self esteem, and ability to survive without the need of outside assistance. This is colonialism at it's worst. Insidious colonialism that disguises itself as helpful, caring and benevolent.
It is not for anyone to come into any community and decide what is best for it. Nor should anyone ever assume that because a town is a "tourist town", that that is all it is.
Please, be aware of the places you visit, see that there is a whole world of things going on that you may not realize. Respect that even though it may look different than your life, it is not wrong or in need of help, and also that is is not perfect nor should it be expected to be.
Be aware that every culture has it's own merits, and that when visiting you are absolutely welcome to share in that culture, as well as to share your own. But please, do not force it, do not assume, and learn from the people of the place you are visiting.
Tourism is a huge and amazing part of our global culture, please use it responsibly.

(Side note, I have never heard one person say that Sonoma county or San Francisco bay area could not exist without tourism...just saying)