I associate touristification with "something" being removed from the everyday and becoming "exceptional". It can be a bar, a dish, a site, a whole neighbourhood, ways of being or doing. The word alludes to a process, becoming touristic, and thus to a spectrum, more or less touristic. But what makes something touristic, when are we tourists, and what kinds of tourism are there? I've previously encountered terms such as enclave tourism (beach resorts) and inclusive tourism (locals and tourists share the same activities), but that's about it.
I also think of heritage, conservation, public policy, neoliberalism, gentrification, and a "Disneyland effect". Indeed, I speak from the experience of having lived and/or studied the transformation and rehabilitation of urban cores (centros históricos) in Mexico City, Quito, and Havana, but also from witnessing recent changes in cities like Lisboa or Madrid. My overall feeling is that of dispossession—I have the sensation that something is being torn from me, and that I'm being pulled out of somewhere, too. Non-belonging. However, if this discomfort is partly related to the realization that I'm being displaced and replaced, I also know that I've displaced and replaced others before me. I wonder what's the difference between being a foreigner and being a stranger, a tourist, a traveller, if these categories are relevant at all, and what makes one move from one to the other.
Easter holidays, it's raining in Madrid. I go out for a walk, and everyone looks like a tourist. Suddenly, I think of them as brave warriors who defy the weather to go to sites I've never bothered to visit. I go out of my way and enter the Basilica of San Francisco el Grande, in Calle San Buenaventura. I'd been a few times to Bar Pascual in Calle de Bailén, but never inside the temple. I sit and witness part of the Good Friday Service. What do I know about the places where I've lived? Why does being a tourist bother me so much? Why do I want to pretend I'm a local if I'm not? In short, a rainy day is also a viewpoint.
Yesterday I had a conversation with my friends Carlos Puentes and José Luis Toro about eco-tourism in Colombia. One of the things that came up was the ability of tourism to create still images. What does tourism do? It paints a picture that draws on tradition and stereotypes. Landscapes, habits, a culture, are portrayed as attractive; however, with little room for difference. I myself often recommend "visit x, to see y, and enjoy z" as if I had a recipe for an experience.
Let's focus on still images: What are they like and what do they say about the place they're promoting? What happens when you go to a place and it's not what you expected? What happens when you're trapped or you're performing "a tradition" that is far from your reality or aspirations? I'm interested in the virtual realities the circulation of touristic narratives create, how they shape our imaginations, and how they impact everyday life in the places they depict, not only in terms of habits and behaviour but also in terms of building and the (re)production of space. What is it we're inhabiting?