Critique of Anthropology - Universidad Pablo de Olavide

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Tourism that Empowers?: Commodification and Appropriation in Ecuador’s Turismo Comunitario Esteban Ruiz-Ballesteros and Macarena Hernández-Ramírez Critique of Anthropology 2010; 30; 201 DOI: 10.1177/0308275X09345426 The online version of this article can be found at: http://coa.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/30/2/201

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Article

Tourism that Empowers? Commodification and Appropriation in Ecuador’s Turismo Comunitario Esteban Ruiz-Ballesteros Universidad Pablo de Olavide, Seville, Spain

Macarena Hernández-Ramírez Universidad Pablo de Olavide, Seville, Spain Abstract ■ Turismo comunitario is a type of community-based tourism that focuses on achieving certain key objectives, such as ensuring that communities have control over tourist activity. This article analyses whether or not this mode of tourism really does strengthen and empower communities. Market, commodification, objectification and appropriation are the key concepts in the analysis. The communities of Tunibamba and Agua Blanca in Ecuador provide the ethnographic context for our reflections. This article looks at the way in which communities create their tourism products, how they are linked to these products and how they market them, how these processes fit in with everyday community life and the extent to which they transform it. Observations about the agency of communities in the tourism business and the dual process of appropriation-commodification of their products – through the objectification of culture and environment – reveal that turismo comunitario could potentially empower and strengthen communities, while at the same time helping to deepen our understanding of tourism in indigenous contexts. Keywords ■ agency ■ appropriation ■ commodification ■ community ■ empowerment ■ objectification ■ turismo comunitario

In light of the fact that conventional tourism does not meet expectations regarding sustainable social development and environmental conservation, community-based tourism has become the new panacea for ‘bottom-up’ tourism development. However, it is not merely an adaptive response of the system, which seeks to improve the functioning of the latter; rather, this type of tourism has effectively filled a specific market niche. Communitybased tourism cannot be understood solely as a response to dissatisfaction with traditional forms of tourism, as a kind of conscious and committed stance. It should also be viewed (1) as a product that targets a certain consumer segment with a specific profile, as well as (2) a marketing strategy insofar as communities – as a setting – offer more credibility to the (cultural and environmental) product sold. Ultimately, we should not lose sight of the fact that community-based tourism is both an alternative strategy to the Vol 30(2) 201–229 [DOI:10.1177/0308275X09345426] © The Author(s), 2010. Reprints and permissions: http://www.sagepub.co.uk/journalsPermissions.nav Downloaded from http://coa.sagepub.com at Ebsco Electronic Journals Service (EJS) on June 6, 2010

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tourist market (in the form of local development) and a sophisticated product of the market itself. This ambivalence must always be taken into account as a critical element of analysis, which explains why the development of this kind of tourism might not only contribute to market expansion, in accordance with the common dynamics of exploitation and homogenization, but also to the more solid positioning of communities within the market, to their reaffirmation and resistance. From this perspective, the objectives of community-based tourism are understandably extremely ambitious: ‘communities’ empowerment and ownership, conservation of natural and cultural resources, social and economic development, and quality visitor experience’ (Hiwasaki, 2006: 677) and support from various international institutions, development cooperation agencies, NGOs, governments and indigenous organizations. However, community-based tourism is a heterogeneous phenomenon, since it includes both very discreet forms of community participation in tourism as well as experiences in which communities run tourist activities with complete autonomy. This latter description applies to turismo comunitario in Ecuador, an ‘official’ form of community-based tourism in which indigenous and mestizo communities control the organization, management and running of tourism operations. The participation of communities in the tourism business has sparked both enthusiasm and scepticism, if not open criticism. Manyara et al. (2006) warn that community-based tourism could be a clearly neocolonial strategy, which focuses more on the environmental concerns of the West than the communities’ needs for social and economic improvement, and that the majority of such experiences are highly dependent on NGOs and other external agents. Blackstock (2005) questions community participation in tourism from a community development perspective. However, there have been so many and such varied case studies in which marginalization of the hosts has been branded as the main cause for criticism in tourism that: ‘some form of indigenous tourism controlled by the community acquires a particular interest from an academic as well as political point of view’ (Kirtsoglou and Theodossopoulos, 2004: 136). According to Stronza (2001), anthropological research into conventional tourism has traditionally focused on two fundamental premises: (1) the negative effect for the hosts (economic and social impact, loss of cultural identity . . .); and (2) the non-recognition of community agency in tourism and its activities. When studying ‘alternative’ tourism (communitybased tourism, ecotourism, indigenous tourism . . .), these analytical approaches must be questioned (Stronza, 2001). Hence: [Indigenous] [t]ourism is increasingly viewed not simply as a force for the creation of a stereotypical image of a marginalised people, but a means by which those peoples aspire to economic and political power for self advancement, and as a place of dialogue between and within differing world views. (Ryan, 2005: 4)

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From this perspective, and as the result of a concern that is both academic and political, it is worth questioning whether turismo comunitario – as an accentuated form of community-based tourism – really does strengthen and empower communities, thereby fulfilling at least part of its sustainable development goals. Within the context of this article, empowerment is understood as an increase in collective action and decision-making capacities, and is closely linked with community agency. In order to work in this area, the roots of the tourist event must be studied: in other words, the way in which communities construct their tourist products and market them, how these processes fit in with community life and the extent to which they transform it. Market, commodification, objectification and appropriation are the key analytic concepts used in this article; the communities of Tunibamba and Agua Blanca – emblematic examples of turismo comunitario in Ecuador – provide the ethnographic context for reflection. Agua Blanca and Tunibamba are two important communities for the considerations in this article, relevant because of their trajectory in turismo comunitario in Ecuador, which began in the 1980s, and because of their role as models for new projects and initiatives. Furthermore – and this is perhaps the most important point – they offer two of the most widespread forms of turismo comunitario in Ecuador (experiential in one and culturalenvironmental in the other). Therefore, by examining these two ethnographic cases, the aim is not to achieve representativeness in order to generalize conclusions, but rather to provide a suitable empirical framework to sustain the theoretical reflections dealt with here.

Tourism and communities in Ecuador Ecuador is a small South American country whose macroeconomy is based on oil extraction, banana production and the currency money orders sent by migrants.1 These circumstances reveal a state that is highly dependent on the foreign market, which is in debt and which alleviates its internal weaknesses through emigration. In this context, tourism – around 700,000 visitors a year – begins to emerge as a government strategy and the first Strategic Tourism Plan (PLANDETUR 2007), which is currently being drafted, openly supports turismo comunitario.2 Even though Ecuador has a marked indigenous presence,3 the ethnic dimension has traditionally fallen through the cracks of national politics. However, in the 1990s and the start of the 21st century, the indigenous movement achieved a significant degree of organization and coordination. Indigenous communities are traditionally linked to the subsistence economy, always living alongside market penetration and reinterpretation (see Korovkin, 1997). Currently, a strong dependence has developed on salaried employment in urban contexts and international emigration. In

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the midst of this scenario, in the late 1980s, certain indigenous communities in the Amazon region and on the coast – with external guidance – began to consider tourism as an alternative (Drumm, 1998; Gould, 1999; Jeffreys, 1998; Silva and McEwan, 2000; Wunder, 1996), through a mode of tourism that has come to be known as turismo comunitario. Today, close to a hundred indigenous and rural communities are engaged in these kinds of initiatives (FEPTCE, 2007). In the year 2001, turismo comunitario was officially recognized in Ecuador’s Ecotourism and Sustainability Regulations; in 2002, it acquired full legal status under the Ley de Turismo (Tourism Act), which also recognized the Plurinational Federation of Turismo Comunitario in Ecuador (FEPTCE) as the country’s interlocutor for turismo comunitario. The Ministry of Tourism acknowledges a leading role for the FEPTCE in the regulation and definition of turismo comunitario. Hence, a tense situation emerges between private enterprise and communities, since the former views the fact that only communities can offer turismo comunitario as an attack on the free market and, furthermore, these activities enjoy certain tax breaks since they are in line with widely acknowledged prerogatives for indigenous and rural communities in Ecuador. Currently, turismo comunitario in Ecuador has an independent and autonomous reservations centre run by the FEPTCE: the Centre for Information and Commercialization of Turismo Comunitario in Ecuador (CITURCE), a clear indicator of the importance acquired by this type of tourism at both an organizational and market level. As in other countries in the Andes (Peru, Bolivia), in Ecuador, the term ‘comunidad’ has a marked historical, legal and socio-organizational dimension, encompassing the management of resources and indigenous/peasant political demands. The current formation of Ecuadorian communities is historically associated4 with the concepts of the encomienda and the huasipungo as ways of arranging territory and indigenous labour in the colonial era. Later, the hacienda system was put into practice, which more or less reproduced the same interests and was to a certain extent dismantled by the 1964 Agrarian Reforms. Ecuadorian communities were mainly formed from the late 1930s onwards as a way of ‘restoring’ the original ties between indigenous peoples and their usurped territories – they only really occupied lands that were less attractive to capitalist farmers – once the hacienda system had lost much of its economic sense. Communities have been regulated in terms of their internal workings since the Ley de Comunas (Municipalities Act) was passed in 1937, which has been revised several times, up till the most recent Ley de Organización y Régimen de Comunas (Municipalities Structure and Organization Act) of 2004. Hence, the community is now fully integrated into the politicaladministrative organization of the state and as a constituent part of cantones and parroquias (cantons and parishes). Hence, consistency is given to the country’s heterogeneity – formally recognized in the 1998 Constitution –

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establishing indigenous nationalities and peoples as members of a plurinational state.5 Comunas own community property (land) and have a decision-making system that is rooted in the assembly of comuneros and comuneras which every year elects a cabildo, an administrative and collegial governing body. The consolidation of communities in Ecuador, through their political-administrative status as comunas, is largely a superimposition of legal regulations over ancestral political structures, where participatory democracy overlaps with traditional forms of decision-making (cf. Korovkin 2000, 2001) that include each people’s or nationality’s own notions and understandings of gender, age, kinship and status. Turismo comunitario is framed against this background as a tourist activity that is implemented from within communities, understood as a collective agent. Turismo comunitario, as viewed by the FEPTCE and practised by the communities themselves, is not an end in itself, but rather part of a broader strategy that encompasses both local development and political practice, a vehicle for their demands and a way of achieving self-management over their territories and resources.6 For us, offering tourism means protecting our vital territories and our culture’s right to visibility, being recognized as human beings who have a different way of life. (FEPTCE, 2007: 85)

Turismo comunitario complements rather than subsumes the economic systems of the community; economic diversity is a safeguard for communities. The two cases analysed in this article are a good example of this, although in diverging directions. Whereas in Agua Blanca, turismo comunitario is embodied in community structures, in Tunibamba it is fundamentally embodied through family initiatives. In the first case, the community achieves a broad involvement of the comuneros in tourist activity, although without neglecting its other traditional activities. Turismo comunitario contributes just a quarter of the community’s total monetary income, almost the same amount as the harvesting of wild fruits. Furthermore, subsistence farming has similarly not been abandoned. When the seasonal constraints of tourism lead to a decline in income, the comuneros focus more intensely on these other activities, showing how the diversity of economic activities safeguards the functioning of the community (see Ruiz-Ballesteros, 2009: 219ff.). In the case of Tunibamba, the families that offer tourist services have an additional source of family income to supplement their earnings from agricultural and livestock activities, and paid work carried out by some members outside the community (see Hernández-Ramírez, 2007: 187). These examples illustrate the contribution of turismo comunitario to the economic diversity of the community, as well as its complementary nature. Turismo comunitario does not function as an external employer and, to a greater or lesser extent depending on the case, it should directly or indirectly generate tangible benefits for the community as a whole: contributions to community funds. Hence,

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for the community of Agua Blanca, for example, contributions from tourism provide the largest source of income to finance community management. The minga system and other forms of collective work are used as the basis and point of reference for the organization and the creation and maintenance of tourism infrastructures (which are not only used for the purposes of tourism); furthermore, rotations and access (individual or family) to business opportunities in the tourism industry are established as preferential lines of organization. However, we should not think that in turismo comunitario, ‘the whole community’ participates directly in tourist activities – in the same way that not everyone takes part in all the activities run within the communities (crops, fishing, livestock . . .) – but rather that participation in tourist activities is regulated and organized from a communitarian point of view. Tunibamba is a clear example of this, even though tourist activities have a family slant, the assembly provides the context in which decisions are made that regulate these activities in general terms (Hernández-Ramírez, 2007: 190). The decision as to whether a community gets involved in turismo comunitario or not is made in an assembly and from there it is organized around the people who want to get involved in it, contributing economically to the community as a whole and abiding by the regulations established. From that moment on, turismo comunitario becomes just another of the activities carried out in the community, both in terms of market logic and the logic of community relations of reciprocity, in a kind of dual economy (Michaux et al., 2000; Temple, 2003). Turismo comunitario must be understood as a multidimensional and hybrid phenomenon (see Ruiz-Ballesteros, 2009; Ruiz-Ballesteros and Solís, 2007; Ruiz-Ballesteros et al., 2008).

Tunibamba The community of Tunibamba emerged as a legal and administrative entity in November 1937, as a result of the Ley de Comunas. It is located in Ecuador’s northern mountain range, at an altitude of 2500 m and 2 km from Cotacachi, in the Ecuadorian province of Imbabura. It is inhabited by around 600 Otavalo Indians grouped in 120 families. This community has several key aims, one of which is particularly important and reflected in the community’s own internal regulations: ‘Fight to recover the Land for the functions of the community’, alluding to the properties belonging to the former hacienda after which the community is named and on which these indigenous peoples historically worked. The fight for land – from 1982 to 1994 – has been a unifying factor for the community, and recovering the land has been a priority point of reference in the definition of the community (Hernández-Ramírez, 2007). The battle to regain property, and the subsequent experience of owning it, has turned this community into a model of recovery for certain indigenous

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structures, and to a certain extent a model of certain forms of political organization and development. Ownership of the land, the fact of being landowners and the model of management applied to these lands, are some of this community’s defining features (see Guerrero and Ospina, 2003; Puccioni and Torrigiani, 2001). Agriculture (mostly on the community land won) is the most widespread and visible activity in the community. However, families apply a variety of economic strategies, most of which revolve around self-sufficiency in terms of crops and livestock, which are complemented with other market activities. Brick manufacturing is an expanding sector with strong sales, which creates employment and currently engages around 20 families. Furthermore, although emigration is not common in this community, the weekly or daily stream of people who leave the community to go and work in nearby cities (Quito, Ibarra, Otavalo, Cotacachi) – in the service industry and above all in construction – is very evident. At the moment, three families in the community are involved in tourism, which provides them with an additional source of income. In Tunibamba, there are around 500 overnight stays every year at the three homes/guest houses open to the public as part of the community’s turismo comunitario package. On average, visitors stay for three days. Like the vast majority of indigenous communities in Ecuador, Tunibamba has a series of governing bodies and structures that stimulate and regulate community life, while at the same time defining its relationship with the outside world. The highest authority is the Asamblea General or General Assembly (made up of all the members of the comuna), which annually elects five members to sit on the cabildo (council). The cabildo is the official interlocutor with the turismo comunitario tour operator, Runa Tupari, founded in 2001 by the Union of Rural and Indigenous Organizations of Cotacachi (UNORCAC) and indigenous communities engaged in this activity (including Tunibamba). Runa Tupari, meaning ‘encounter with indigenous peoples’ in the Kichua language, currently works with families from five rural canton communities. It emerged as a major component of a series of projects that give form to the philosophy of UNORCAC, based on the idea of development with identity. Although initially it followed very similar parameters to any other external intervention in the area (Korovkin, 2002), this tour operator illustrates the complexity inherent in the participation of indigenous sectors in the global market, as well as the relationship between identity and market through tourism (van Rekom and Go, 2006). Once a year, at the General Assembly meeting, Runa Tupari presents the amount owed to the comuna for tourists’ overnight stays in the community (50 cents per tourist per night). This contribution has a triple effect: (a) as a net income for community activities; (b) as a feature of the tourist package (an activity that shows solidarity with the community); and (c) as a way of giving form to the notion of ‘development with identity’ beyond purely monetary benefits for the family.

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With this structure and the everyday lives of the families involved as the fundamental basis, the model of tourism in Tunibamba focuses around the notion of sharing community life, known as turismo convivencial. The tourists arrive (alone or in groups, with or without a prior schedule or programme) in Otavalo. They are met there by representatives of Runa Tupari and allocated to a specific guest house in accordance with the characteristics of the accommodation, organizational needs or the visitors’ preferences (and always in line with the criteria defined by Runa Tupari operators). They are then taken by truck to the community, to the guest house, and there they are introduced to their host family. Depending on the number of days and nights the tourist plans on staying, and on the activities programmed in the area, there are different sequences that take place, but always framed against the background of the families’ everyday routines, their relations, contradictions and daily doings. These men and women, their children, homes, the way they suffer, celebrate and in short live and view the world, are in fact the major product – unique and competitive – of turismo comunitario in Tunibamba. Operating on a small scale means that the offer can be completely personalized, a bonus with which to position itself in the market, in the sense of optimizing the resources available (families and the living/life experiences they offer). One of the attractions of Runa Tupari is precisely the fact that there is no standard programme, ‘there is no programmed activity’, since what is really important and appealing is the experience of living with and within the community, with all its ups and downs. The community of Tunibamba has seen how its internal cohesion has been affected by the natural and social growth of the group, and above all by the process of individualization brought about by increased involvement in the market and changes in consumption patterns; as a consequence, its organization suffers and becomes weaker. The community’s incipient tourism business and expectations of turning the hacienda ranch house into a guest house run by means of communitarian management could present an opportunity to curb community dissension. The residents of Otavalo, beyond Tunibamba, have shown that it is possible to defend their indigenous culture, play an intense role in the market (commerce, emigration . . .) and increase consumption (Naranjo, 2002). So what does turismo comunitario have to offer that is new?

Agua Blanca Agua Blanca is located on Ecuador’s central stretch of coastline, 12 km from the sea, in the canton of Puerto López, which is in the province of Manabí, within the boundaries of the Machalilla National Park. Since 2005, as the culmination of a long process of protest and demand, Agua Blanca has been officially recognized as one of the four communities belonging to

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the Manta culture, thereby gaining full recognition as one of Ecuador’s indigenous populations. There are 259 people living in this community, grouped into 60 families. Agua Blanca receives around 9500 visitors every year, with an extremely varied profile: groups of students and Ecuadorian families, foreigners and passengers on cruise ships that stop in the neighbouring port of Manta. This significant flow of tourists into the community is partly explained by the fact that it is located within a national park that attracts a great many tourists, especially in summer when groups of whales come to the warm coastal waters to mate. The area of Agua Blanca has been inhabited by humans continuously for around 5000 years (Silva and McEwan, 2000) and is the site of important archaeological remains that have surfaced, mainly corresponding to the Manta culture (AD 800 to 1532). The community’s territory occupies the central land area of the Machalilla National Park – created in 1979 – with usufruct of 10,500 hectares (INEFAN, 1997: 38–40), which originally belonged to a hacienda on which the inhabitants of Agua Blanca were completely dependent. After a series of ups and downs, the hacienda disappeared years before the park was created, leaving the community in a critical situation in terms of subsistence. Furthermore, the first park managers held a reductionist view of environmental protectionism and initially tried to evict the inhabitants of Agua Blanca, with a view to eliminating all human presence within the protected area. Following a period of acute conflict (1980–85), the community agreed to gradually diminish the environmental pressure of certain activities (charcoal production, tree felling, hunting) and develop tourism as a complementary alternative. By transforming its way of life, the community was able to remain within the boundaries of the national park. Tourism in Agua Blanca can be classed as ‘eco-cultural tourism’ (Wallace and Russell, 2004). The main product is a trail known as ‘discovering the Manta trail’. The package introduces tourists to the history of the area (a small local museum and the archaeological remains of the Manta culture), its ecosystems (dry tropical forests and cloud forests, as well as the Buena Vista River valley) and offers them recreational activities in a sulphurous lagoon, which boasts skin-toning properties. The inhabitants of Agua Blanca organize themselves to offer tour guide services, involving around 30 families. The guides are members of the archaeological committee, which in addition to tour guide services is also in charge of the maintenance and adaptation of all kinds of tourism infrastructures (trails, parking facilities, maintenance of archaeological sites and the museum, cleaning and hygiene in the community . . .). This committee operates by delegation from the community’s assembly, its highest governing body. The income earned through tourism comes from the tickets sold to gain entrance to the community, as well as any tips given by tourists. The influx of visitors has spurred the creation of discrete complementary family/private-run tourist packages (other tour guide activities, horse

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riding, accommodation with families, food, small retailers), as well as a growing artisan industry, which involves around 25 families at various levels. It is the community’s organizational structure that has enabled this range of tourist activities and offers to develop and gain strength gradually over the last 20 or so years. Turismo comunitario is one of the community’s main activities, both in terms of the income it provides and the level of individual and collective dedication and involvement, as well as the effect that this activity has on everyday life. However, it is not the sole activity of any of the families living in Agua Blanca. Working vegetable gardens (for their own consumption), harvesting tagua, livestock farming (goats, pigs and cows) and working as tour guides in the National Park are all activities that play an important role in the community and which are complemented by turismo comunitario. The main source of income in the comuna is turismo comunitario (24.5 percent of the community’s total monetary income), followed by the seasonal harvests of tagua (20 percent) and tour guide services in the park (15.5 percent). The felling of trees for the timber industry has disappeared, very few families are engaged in the production of charcoal, and hunting has been practically eradicated. Seventy percent of families in Agua Blanca, on the other hand, are involved to some degree in the community-based tourist activities organized, which is also one of the privileged means of commodifying the local economy. Transforming a community of tree fellers and charcoal producers into a community of cultural and nature guides is by no means an easy process. The strategic commitment to local development professed by various external agents had to take on substance, by means of a process through which turismo comunitario and – mainly – subsistence horticulture laid the foundations for transforming the community’s way of life in the park, overcoming the problems of environmental protection and the threat of eviction. The community’s capacity for self-organization, with the right amounts of flexibility and rigidity, made it possible to take rigorous and effective action in the tourism business. The development of turismo comunitario has boosted consumption and quality of life, enhanced communitarian organization, reduced emigration and improved environmental conservation.7 That is the perception from both inside and outside the community: I think that if it [tourism] keeps going, my children won’t have to leave [emigrate], things have changed, there are other possibilities of finding alternative work, if the groups remain strong, the pieces are moved well; the comuna is like a chess board, if the pieces are moved well, future generations won’t have to emigrate, the situation is better than when I went [emigrated], it’s better for everyone; in the 1990s, up to ‘98, life was really tough, because we didn’t get paid for tourism, we started to get money from ‘98/’99 onwards. . . . Most people will say that things changed from 2002, the flow of tourists has changed substantially. Every year the number of tourists increases . . . (member of the community)

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211 Ruiz-Ballesteros and Hernández-Ramírez: Tourism that Empowers? Agua Blanca is much better organized, in my opinion, than other comunas; the activity itself [tourism] means they have to be organized, tourism; they have the women’s group, arts and crafts, the museum, if they get disorganized the whole thing comes tumbling down; if they are totally disorganized they can’t carry out this activity [tourism], it’s this very activity that makes them organized, it’s the best-organized community . . . (Director of the Machalilla National Park)

Market, commodification, objectification, appropriation The communities studied here are by no means outside the market. In addition, they have historically been able to combine their communitarian structures with the capitalist system, translating and reinterpreting it (Korovkin, 2002). However, turismo comunitario fosters a particular way of participating in the market. In other activities that focus on capitalist exchange (agriculture, fishing, livestock farming, picking wild food . . .), the communities occupy a completely subaltern and dependent position. In turismo comunitario – paradoxically – communities can exercise a greater degree of control over the activity (production and commercialization).8 This circumstance invites us to demystify the image of the market as something intrinsically and solely negative for indigenous communities and to think of it – albeit cautiously – as an opportunity. The market must also be understood as a context in which to construct oneself, as a space for relating, for producing meaning (García Canclini 1995; Ortiz, 2004). Hence, in order to understand turismo comunitario properly, our concept of market must include the uncertainty of any social process from a perspective of market/community co-evolution (Norgaard, 1984, 1994). In general, it is important to bear in mind that: ‘communities respond to external stimuli depending on their internal dynamics, where previous experiences and motivations play an important role in the perception of opportunities’ (Miyashita, 2006: 143). Commodification is the most in-depth and accurate notion in anthropological studies of tourism (Boissevain, 1996; Greenwood, 1977; Macleod, 1999; Tilley, 1997) and has been used to frame the effect of this activity on indigenous peoples. Commodification of culture has been used to describe a process by which things come to be evaluated primarily in terms of their exchange value, in a context of trade, thereby becoming goods (Cohen 1988). . . . The concern among many tourism scholars has been whether a cultural item or ritual loses meaning for locals once it has been commodified. Does the item become material property of the highest bidder rather than spiritually, ceremonially, or in some other way significant artefact of the host culture? . . . Often entangled in discussions of commodification is the idea that people in host destinations will lose their cultural identity as a result of tourism. (Stronza, 2001: 270)

In the process of commodification, we sense a synthesis of ‘the tourist gaze’ (Urry, 1990), ‘staged authenticity’ (McCannell, 1976) and ‘reconstructing

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ethnicity’ (McCannell, 1984); in general, the indigenous communities aim to appear the way tourists perceive them so they can sell themselves better; the tourist gaze ends up shaping the construction of self. The features, objects, elements and practices of their everyday life become a product in the tourist market, which implies that they become ‘commodified’. But does this mean that they get lost somehow? Does this new dimension signify a break from their previous functions and meanings? Commodification not only destroys, but can also change or create cultural elements (Cohen, 1988), offer new arguments for cultural functioning (Adams, 1995; Guneratne, 2001) and even cause the hosts to use new ways of accessing their own cultural identities: through archaeological, historical and tourist information, for example (Kroshus, 2003). Nevertheless, commodification, as an analytical approach, is both evident and debatable if used in a reductionist way. Commodification activates more complex processes. Doorne et al. (2003) highlight the complexity that objects acquire in the context of tourist exchange, since they act as vehicles for the appropriation, construction and trading of cultural identities if they are considered beyond ‘their reductionist context and simplified perspective’ (2003: 9). The problem of the ‘commodified perspective’ is that, ultimately, it is a one-way reading which neglects to take into account other linked processes. We believe that this happens because the process of objectification, which provides a foundation for commodification, is not taken into account in its full scope and depth (Berger and Luckman, 2002 [1966]; Lukács, 1999 [1923, 1967]).9 ‘Selling’ can be an excessively flat and rigid point of reference; selling activates other processes that appear contradictory and inscrutable. Objectification is fundamental for the tourist business to occur; that which was not previously considered ‘saleable’ must be objectivized: everyday life, archaeological ruins or the environment. However, objectification is not only the basis for commodification, but also for appropriation. Appropriation exists in this very crack; an imperceptible dimension if the act of buying/selling is observed from a single logic. Adams (1995) uses the term ‘appropriation’ to talk about the way in which the Toraja community inserts tourist activity, anthropological research and the creation of museums into their cultural practices in order to generate and legitimate social authority and prestige. For Kirtsoglou and Theodossopoulos (2004), ‘appropriation’ is what tourists do in relation to the culture of the Garifuna people – ‘their culture is being appropriated’ (2004: 144–5) – viewing it as an attitude held by tourists towards their hosts. Carrier and McLeod talk about how ‘people’s natural surroundings were appropriated by a tourist complex . . .’ (2005: 321) and Brown (1999) indicates that appropriation is what Central American governments do to Maya territories in order to commodify them as ‘the Maya world’. In all cases, ‘appropriation’ seems to refer to an illegitimate way of relating to objects: natives are not expected to ‘use’ tourism or anthropology, nor tourists to

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‘access’ in certain ways the culture of their hosts, much less usurp spaces and territories. But appropriation can have a more neutral meaning, in terms of a more conscious and intentional relationship. It is impossible to understand the meaning of appropriation without dealing with the process of objectification that accompanies it. Objectification turns experience and the cultural and environmental elements naturalized by daily practice into objects for reflection and, potentially, into resources for the tourist market. By ‘objectifying’, the inhabitants of the communities studied are able to see and consider the elements of their everyday life ‘from without’, even though they are immersed in them on a daily basis. Only by objectifying these elements can the community consider the possibility and opportunity of turning them into commodities for tourist consumption. But, paradoxically, this process also generates new relationships and connections between members of the community and such elements of their everyday life, once they have been objectified. In this respect, the construction of tourism is always a process of objectification. But this objectification can have many ‘faces’ and be controlled by different agents within the tourist terrain. This is where appropriation enters the field as a significant concept. In the case of turismo comunitario, the protagonism of the community gives the process of objectification its peculiar features and differentiates it from the more widespread processes of touristic objectification, controlled by tour operators, for example. Objectification led by external agents is appropriation (from the market) as understood by anthropological literature. However, objectification carried out by the community itself also illuminates a process of appropriation, since in the cases analysed here it involves assimilating perspectives and elements that were previously ‘foreign’ to its habitual practices. Thinking about ‘tourist products’, planning with ‘tourist logic’, taking on board concepts such as ‘nature’ or ‘conservation’, adopting domestic practices, accessing archaeological knowledge . . . these are all forms of appropriation associated with commodification and the result of different process of objectification. Appropriation is, for us, a double-faceted phenomenon, which operates both inwards and outwards in relation to the communities. This clarifies the significance of turismo comunitario as a hybrid and dialogical phenomenon. In this case, appropriation is not imposed unilaterally by the market and tourists, but rather it is practised beforehand by the community itself. It is in this respect that the communities of Agua Blanca and Tunibamba appropriate, through objectification, their culture, their surroundings and even certain aspects and spheres of their domestic life. Objectification is key to understanding the process of appropriation and the way in which it is linked to specific forms of commodification. We view appropriation in terms of the relationship between natives and their own culture and environment when dealing with the tourist business; we do not consider it to be an illegitimate relationship but rather

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a necessary one, taking our approach to a certain extent from Ingold (1987). In turismo comunitario, appropriation is the flip side of commodification and necessarily appears when the latter does; it is fundamental in order to understand the dual nature of community-based tourism: at the level of the communities and at the level of the market. The object, element, practice or ritual that – having previously been objectified – is turned into a tourist product can be appropriated by communities and commodified for the market. Appropriation is a concept that is linked with both the symbolic and material dimension (if, that is, they can ever be separated); with both the feeling of belonging to an environment and a culture, and the attitude that territory and customs are owned; with both projecting oneself and identifying oneself in features, landscapes and particularities. When cultural features or natural spaces are shown (Agua Blanca), and domestic spaces shared (Tunibamba), the process of appropriation (as communitycontrolled objectification) becomes a central analytical element in understanding how that tourist activity comes about and the degree to which it is anchored in the community’s everyday living (Ruiz-Ballesteros and Solís, 2007). From this perspective, appropriation implies a process of objectification, of reflection on daily practices and surroundings; it involves consciously making a certain time and a space one’s own but also sharing in that time and space, and it is from this position that the tourist activity occurs. Appropriation, in the context of turismo comunitario studied here, leads communities to become consciously confused with/defined by their cultural/environmental surroundings on the basis of a selective process of collective projection-identification. Territorial demands, indigenous rights, peasant struggles, work cultures, processes of collective identification, symbolic frameworks . . . all of these spheres flow together around the concept of appropriation as defined above. Hence appropriation is identified in discourses and in practices; it is as everyday as it is exceptional, and constitutes both a feeling and an interest, guiding action and position in the market. The relevance of appropriation for tourism resides in the potential acquired by appropriated objects when they are shown to/shared with tourists, as well as in the way that their exploitation for the purposes of tourism must be organized (Ruiz-Ballesteros and Solís, 2007): in the tourist business, appropriation occurs inextricably alongside the process of commodification that it implicitly involves. But who exercises control over appropriation? Turismo comunitario seems to make it easier for communities to control the forms and channels of appropriation, insofar as communities must think about themselves in order to participate in tourism, constructing – through objectification – tourist products that are anchored in their everyday lives. When seen in this light, the market not only fosters commodification but also appropriation, developing a dual logic, a dialogical approach

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(Morin, 1982; Ricoeur 1969, 1986). This is not to be confused with debates about authenticity in tourism, since we are not focusing on the qualities of the objects, but rather on the nature of the processes in which said objects are immersed. ‘Is there a divergence between cultural production for cash and uncommoditized cultural production in Succotz?’, asks Kroshus (2003: 364), implicitly alluding to the need for a dialogical consideration of the tourist product and its effect. This circumstance can also be traced in the paradoxical relationship established between guests and hosts: ‘there are key differences between traditional hospitality and commercial hospitality. In practice, many kinds of small-scale tourism exist in between these extremes’ (Heuman, 2005: 411). This dialogical dimension should unveil the nature of turismo comunitario in Agua Blanca and Tunibamba. Yet does it help us to reflect on the strengthening and empowerment of these communities? The Garifuna people of Roatan (Kirtsoglou and Theodossopoulos, 2004) have an acute awareness of their culture and environment, but do not have control over its commodification because they have not participated in its objectification for tourist consumption. They do not complain that their culture is being sold but rather that they are not the ones doing the selling, thereby controlling the market process. They are not merely guided by economic interest but also a cultural concern that they should be the ones to show themselves, otherwise the aspects of their culture that are sold: . . . lose the ‘magic’ and authentic character. . . . [The Garifuna people] want to develop indigenous tourism, not only because this would be a financially profitable investment, but also because they regard themselves as the owner of their collective image and presentation. (Kirtsoglou and Theodossopoulos, 2004: 152)

The community wishes: ‘to redirect the tourist gaze upon itself and thereby control it, enjoying not only the material benefits but also, and perhaps primarily, the sense of empowerment that characterizes agency and ownership itself’ (Kirtsoglou and Theodossopoulos, 2004: 153). This is an example of the meaning acquired by appropriation in community-based tourism. The Garifuna tend to recast the economic and cultural meaning of elements of their culture, and therefore of the rights that they have over them; this is the essence of appropriation. Hence, the aspects of commodification and appropriation that will empower the community merge, avoiding the traditional alienation that occurs in indigenous tourism, when neither the commercialization nor the production of the objects, services, rituals and activities sold in the tourist context are controlled by the communities. What happens with the sharing of living spaces/experiences in Tunibamba? What dimension do the Manta ruins take on in Agua Blanca?

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From homes to guest houses Tourism in Tunibamba is what is known as vivencial, in other words based on the experience of living with the indigenous inhabitants and sharing their lives. This kind of tourism places the home, the house, at the very heart of the business. Most residents live in their own brick houses, some live in concrete block houses and a small number – in the most underprivileged and highest area of the community – live in huts made out of straw and mud. When a family home takes in tourists it becomes known as an albergue or guest house. What does this mean? Has it lost its sense of being a home? Will it no longer be used except as a business object? In our attempt to unveil the dialogical framework surrounding turismo comunitario, we decided to focus on the context that most clearly illustrates the tourist event, where the transaction is clearly shown: the houses of indigenous families that are involved in tourism in Tunibamba. An albergue is understood as a place (Augé, 1993) for encounters and the market, for use and representation: . . . before, I couldn’t do embroidery, couldn’t even work a sewing machine or anything. . . . When tourists see me embroidering shirts now, they tell me that it’s a craft, that it’s really difficult and really pretty. . . . Now I like it more and my daughters also make shirts, because that’s what indigenous clothing is really like. . . . And also, in the last training session run by UNORCAC they also taught us how to embroider things for the home, table cloths . . . like this one, and now I always have it on this table and it makes the room look prettier . . . and it’s not just for meal times [for the tourists] but because I’ve learned more things, like how to decorate the living room . . . (albergue owner)

In a tourism format like the one developed in this community, based on the experience of tourists with the everyday lives of the indigenous families, the house becomes the main and most genuine setting for exchange. Doing up their indigenous houses for tourists to stay there – within the bounds of their traditional modesty and austerity – is almost the first step for these families in tourist activity. In this case, once the families had met the initial requirements defined by the tourist operator and the community itself, they had to restructure (and in some cases completely remodel) part of their home, build one or extra two rooms with their own bathroom, install hot water plumbing, define a living space especially for meals, plant a kitchen garden with native varieties of fruit and vegetables that they could then pick and cook together with tourists, etc. . . . In short, they had to become aware that not only members of the family would be living in their home, but also ‘strangers’ from other places (and that this would be their business). They also had to understand that their home would continue to be their home, because obviously they would still live there, but also because if it is no longer an indigenous home it would lose its market appeal (the highly sought after notion of ‘development with identity’ pursued by UNORCAC). A priori, a tricky balance.

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Spurred on by the indigenous tourist operator’s commitment to quality and hygiene, and by their own fear, or rather concern to present a good image to visitors – who are so different from them – of their life, their community, their home . . . they have transformed their houses and the way they live in them. In the interests of providing a good service, of selling their product as well as possible and showing the best of themselves, they have developed ways to translate ‘foreign’ criteria of hygiene and comfort. This is very tricky to achieve considering their meagre economies and scarce knowledge of the modern concept of ‘customer service’. At the start, they received help – financial, material and training – from UNORCAC and some of them made contact for the first time with one of the leading agents and symbols of the market: banks and loans. Interestingly, the alterations made to their houses have become a necessity, whereas they had not previously been so (when used just by the family). So, three of the community’s modest houses have been turned into albergues. This is much more than the simple overlapping of a tourist activity space with an area of rural housing. Now these houses combine both functions and from all the dualities (private/public; work/leisure; indigenous/tourist) expressed inside, a space for exchange emerges, a shared place (be it home or albergue) where tourism takes place, shared living, but above all dwelling. The decoration – its meanings and channels – is a good guide to analysis, helping us to understand that whereas living side by side can homogenize, it can also enhance difference, turning our gaze towards tradition, towards the authentic, which is promoted and enhanced ‘from the outside’: . . . some American tourists told me that it was really nice, so I got my husband to put these up [indigenous prints and decorative motifs] in the living room, and when I can do up the kitchen and the other rooms, I’ll look for more . . . (albergue owner)

These improvements, which have entailed so much investment (material and symbolic) and transformed these houses ready for the arrival of tourists, affect both the home and its inhabitants. They have spurred these women on to achieve new goals and are also a source of satisfaction to them when they compare their home to most of the other houses in the community. The ability to share this space, this way of living in it with tourists, and not just offering it as a window onto the community for visitors, is giving the inhabitants confidence and pride. . . . what tourists like most is having breakfast out here in the living room, close to the garden . . . what they like most is being able to light the fire. (albergue owner)

This external recognition makes them feel more confident in business and in their attitudes to neighbours. They know that they are not only running an albergue but also living in a much neater, larger, better

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equipped, comfortable and tidy house than before the arrival of tourism, and than the rest of the community. And yet at the same time the house is recognizably indigenous . . . Are we talking about changes provoked by tourist activity? Are these three houses and the use made of them by their inhabitants really that different? How can we analyse these transformations more accurately? In terms of the exclusive commodification of the home and life or the appropriation of living and dwelling spaces (de Certeau, 1990)? Clearly, the house has been objectified, thought out, reflected on, not just lived in; hence it acquires a dual nature as a dwelling space and a space for business. But who objectifies it? Both the visitors and the inhabitants, although the inhabitants are the ones who control the essence of this process, and therefore lead its appropriation. The experience of this community prevents us from focusing solely on either commodification or appropriation; in other words, the experience of living and the dwelling experiences that take place in these homes/albergues is a fairly complex social event. In the albergues in Tunibamba, part of the domestic space is set up especially for ‘strangers’ to stay in the home, with all that this entails in terms of family privacy. At the same time, these homes provide a significant income for the families (they receive $8 out of the $20 paid by tourists to stay the night). Should the analytical approach conclude with a cost-benefit ratio? Can the situation be analysed exclusively from the perspective of the commodification of the house and its consequences? On the one hand, the women who become the focus of activity in these albergues have found in their homes a new place to show themselves, to present their lives to others (not only tourists but also the community as a whole). And this is acknowledged even in the use of domestic spaces. The living room of one of the albergues has become the focus of the ‘lifesharing’ that goes on between the family and tourists and also the smartest area of the house. Furthermore, it has also become the space used to hold meetings of the community’s women’s group, to run various activities programmed by UNORCAC for women in the community and for meetings with representatives of Runa Tupari when they come to Tunibamba. It is a room that is dedicated to business and kept looking neat and tidy accordingly, as well as being valued by members of the household and acknowledged as a pleasant space, ‘to be shared’ with an expanding social circle. Through their dedication to tourism, these houses and families display a defining feature that sets them apart from the rest of the community; an acknowledged difference, which may well be linked with the collective interest and desire to turn the hacienda ranch house, where the community land is located, into a guest house for tourists. The positive assessment of the changes that have taken place both in the houses and the lives of the three families that run the albergues has become a catalyst in terms of promoting the idea of expanding the community’s activity (economic) and

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action (social). Guest houses for tourists have become a project aimed at increasing income (with the arrival of greater numbers of tourists) as well as a space for showing not only the host families (and their elegantly decorated rooms) but the community as a whole. This project would therefore make the leap from its current family perspective to the more communitarian configuration of tourist activity. On the other hand, these houses are the setting for many (albeit subtle) transformations in the appreciation and uses of the domestic space. Now, this family no longer waits for there to be tourists staying in the house to use the living room for their meals, or to clean the hallway, living room and entrance; the use and upkeep of these areas has become part of their everyday domestic routine; they now take showers in the same kind of bathroom as they have set up for tourists (albeit with cold water) and have introduced new dishes into their diets: . . . now that I have a fridge and this blending machine, I can make butter like a Dutch tourist showed me . . . my grandchildren prefer my butter [over the kind bought in the market] . . . (albergue owner)

What started out as a means of refining and improving the product on offer to tourists (through training and new skills that have arisen through tourism) has led to the development of skills that are starting to shape new values in these families (decorating their houses, changing their diet, introducing new hygiene criteria, etc.). For the women who run these albergues, through this process they know and learn new things, which leads to major improvements in their business with tourists and in their families; but above all it makes them willing not to offer but to share certain criteria with both tourists and their neighbours. A process that starts out as a business (for the market) eventually establishes ways of doing, using and feeling (in this case their home), creating bonds of belonging and synchronicity with certain values and ways of being and behaving. These values have emerged from the market which – paradoxically – encourages the families to recover their own culture and way of life as they discover new things (changes in terms of decoration and gastronomy are good examples of this). In turismo comunitario in Tunibamba, the economic benefits and profits run alongside improvements in self-esteem and the empowerment of these women and their families. They now feel and observe that with their practices they can also participate – through tourism – in areas that were previously unknown to them, and which undoubtedly act as a platform for the incipient participation of women in community life. Running an albergue as part of a turismo comunitario project could potentially constitute a new source of prestige for women in the community. Furthermore, these albergues and their effects have been a major catalyst for communitybased tourist activity, giving the community further incentive to turn the hacienda ranch house into a hotel, not run by a single family this time, but by the community as a whole.

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Ruins that makes us indigenous When visitors arrive at the trail leading to Agua Blanca – 5 km from the community – two guides are there to meet them, explain the tourist product offered and charge them for entry. The main attractions presented to visitors are the archaeological ruins and the collection of exhibits on display at the museum; they get the chance to see everything on a tour of the community, which includes a trek around the Buena Vista River valley and the possibility of going for a swim in a sulphurous lagoon. Hence, the tour offers them a mixture of culture, nature and recreation. Thirty or so years ago, the residents of Agua Blanca paid little attention to the archaeological remains that abounded in their territory. The children played with the little figures found, the remains of constructions were little more than landmarks to indicate where their goats were roaming, they would sell any pots they found in good condition or they would earn a few dollars accompanying huaqueros or tomb robbers ‘who were looking for treasure and seats of power’. The community largely ignored this archaeological heritage even though it was very present in their everyday lives. However, an archaeological dig changed all of this. The community was in a critical situation; in addition to their general uncertainty about the ownership of the abandoned hacienda, the new National Park was also placing restrictions on the permitted use of the natural environment; it was getting very tough just to subsist and emigration became the most common way of dealing with this. For close to five years, the dig involved the inhabitants directly in archaeological tasks, in a process defined by the archaeologists themselves as participatory archaeology (McEwan, 1995; Silva and McEwan, 1989, 2000; cf. Marshall, 2002), which made the residents view the ruins in a somewhat different light. Not only did they increase their physical contact with the archaeological remains, but they also turned them into an object for reflection and hence a possible saleable object: objectification unleashed potential commodification from a process of community-led appropriation. The archaeological dig first became a source of work (up to 34 families benefited directly from it), a means of acquiring knowledge, and finally a possibility for tourism. The ruins, the figures and the fragments of pottery began to be viewed very differently. The community had to fight the park and several institutions for ownership of the remains and for the right to manage them, which today they do autonomously. A profound change was brought about in terms of the community’s awareness of the value of these objects and ruins, which resulted in avoiding as far as possible any plundering and selling of the remains, as well as preventing any further deterioration. The construction of the museum was the result of a fierce battle with the park, which wanted the items to be displayed elsewhere and viewed the development of tourism in the community as something very negative, since the community was

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located in the very heart of protected parkland. However, eventually, the museum was built – with external funding for the materials and labour provided by the community – and filled with items unearthed in the archaeological dig, but above all with objects donated by the inhabitants of Agua Blanca, which they had tucked away in their homes waiting for a possible sale. Even the museum’s star exhibit – a seat of power found when work was being carried out to install a plumbing system – is on display after it was ‘rescued’ from buyers who had acquired the piece for a large sum of money from a member of the community. Agua Blanca regained its archaeological heritage and was able to turn it into a tourist resource. At the time of the dig, the General Assembly agreed to set up an archaeological committee to organize the work in conjunction with the team of archaeologists. Today, 30 years later, this same institution is still in existence, but it now organizes everything related to tourism: training for tour guides, cleaning of the community and trails, the economic management of the businesses, commercial promotion, upkeep of the museum, maintaining the sites where archaeological digs are taking place in accordance with principles of communitarian rotation and rendering accounts in conjunction with the community’s assembly. Many residents claim that the real community spirit can be seen in the archaeological committee and its actions rather than the Assembly itself, and that it is this committee that gives the community its true meaning. Undoubtedly, beyond ‘meanings’, this committee handles the community’s major source of revenue and contributes most to communitarian management (the amounts that it transfers to the assembly far outweigh the income received by the comuna through membership fees, for example). Whereas in other activities the people of Agua Blanca participate individually or in families, in tourism, the reference point is the community as a whole: not only does the community shape its tourism, but tourism also shapes the community. During the tour, visitors are shown the ways of life and landmarks of the Manta people, placing particular emphasis on the community’s role in the recovery of the objects on display: ‘We found this piece in mound number x, I was digging with z . . .’, or making it clear which family donated the exhibits. Similarly, great insistence is placed on the link between the current residents of this community and the ancestral culture, by pointing out the phenotypical similarities between the guides and the figures; the museum even displays photos of the residents of Agua Blanca alongside archaeological finds to highlight the physical similarities (shape of the nose and mouth, body and skull . . .) which directly link the current inhabitants with the Manta culture. The arts and crafts made by the community – out of local materials: spondylus shell and tagua – aim to recreate the decorative motifs of the archaeological pieces found, creating a clear link with their ‘ancestors’. Furthermore, when they explain the functions of emblematic Manta buildings – meeting houses – they project onto them the uses and customs of the community’s modern-day assembly. The tour

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guides mostly ignore the participation of external institutions, just saying a few words in praise of the archaeologist who led the process, Colin McEwan; for the most part, they present themselves as the ones responsible for ‘the museum, the digs and the trails; everything you see here has been achieved through the endeavours of the community’. All of this strengthens the product in the market, enhancing authenticity and continuity between past and present – which is what tourists are looking for – and at the same time creating bonds between the community and these elements, which can be passed down through future generations as a form of collective representation. This appropriation of the archaeological remains is not only staged outwards, for the benefit of the tourists, but has also acquired a major role in the insertion of tourist activity into the community’s everyday life. The ruins are a central component of discourse about the history and territorialization of the community, and therefore the construction of communitarian meaning, grounded in their claims for control of resources (beyond strictly legal property) and the symbolic possession of the environment. This kind of appropriation explains the fact that the tourist product is at one and the same time a form of presentation/representation of the community through time (archaeological ruins, the struggle for land) and a justification for the possession of territory (effective environmental protection and vigilance). All of this is understood as a treasure that must be transmitted, a sense of history that is merely the manifestation of the continuity of the community; hence the concern for transmission: appropriation is ‘learned’ in the struggle and the (re)telling. When all is said and done, appropriation is an attitude that the community and its members adopt towards the world they inhabit. It is no wonder that archaeology – the existence of remains that are used to argue historical depth and continuity – has been brandished recently as a fundamental argument to achieve government recognition of the community’s status as an indigenous group. The Manta culture has no language, clothing or any other classic trait that unequivocally denotes ethnicity; the archaeological remains and their link to them are their main ‘ethnic’ argument. The residents of Agua Blanca stage their status as Manta people for tourists – foreigners above all are looking to come into contact with indigenous people – but also for their immediate surroundings – the ruins can be used to defend their contested possession of the territory and their status as an indigenous community – and even for themselves – the organization of tourism around the archaeological committee has helped create the strongest communitarian institution with the greatest economic capacity, the main source of finance for the community structure itself and a source of the community’s growing commodification. The ruins have been commodified – they are sold at $3 a visit and presented through a discourse that appeals to tourists – while at the same time appropriated as a political and identity-related argument by the community.

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Conclusions The archaeological ruins in Agua Blanca and the albergues in Tunibamba are simply two examples – very different in terms of their context, meaning and content – that illustrate the way in which communities construct and market their tourist products, how these processes fit into community life and the extent to which they transform it. For these communities, the market is not a new sphere; on the contrary, it has been a traditional point of reference (even though they have not been diluted in it). But turismo comunitario – as it is practised in Agua Blanca and Tunibamba – involves a qualified way of participating in the market, which is not the same as selling agricultural products or arts and crafts, selling off surplus production or working for a salary. Paradoxically, the act of selling in the context of turismo comunitario developed in these communities eventually becomes an act of appropriation for the sellers, who had up until then questioned their very possession of their assets (community territory, archaeological heritage, everyday domestic life . . .). Within the framework of these experiences of community-based tourism, marketed products are not possessed in the same way as those that are normally sold; selling does not involve parting with the sold product; objects for sale are appropriated rather than treated with an exclusively commercial mentality (commodification) . . . However, this does not decrease the possibility of making profits. The market undermines the communitarian link if it promotes individualism as the exclusive rule of participation. But if the common aspect, the community, is shaped as the main agent in the business – and in the case of the communities studied here – the market can promote the collective. The appropriation of the tourist product by the communities could be diluted in the market precisely because competitive pressure tends to pervert this type of collective process. Hence, normally, commodified objects are targeted exclusively for business, without any attachments that get in the way of their sale. But, as we have seen, turismo comunitario paradoxically accentuates the process of bonding, either with the archaeological ruins in Agua Blanca or the house in Tunibamba. The tourist event becomes a window for the community, families and people, not only to ‘sell themselves’, but also to show themselves and from there on be recognized and make their demands heard. There is a political dimension to turismo comunitario that can be glimpsed in these communities, a commitment to resisting the dissolution of the community, a movement of resistance and re-creation, which may well be considered a strategy of the indigenous peoples to improve and strengthen their position against the outside world (state and market). But rather than regression, this involves creativity and innovation. The cases analysed illustrate the strengthening of communitarian institutions that had lapsed into a certain indolence through lack of content and meaning

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(this in fact was the case in Agua Blanca and was more than a possibility in Tunibamba); the collective spirit is renewed and the community is put back in the spotlight (in the case of Agua Blanca) (Ruiz-Ballesteros and Hernández-Ramírez, 2007); and an unsuspected protagonism develops for women and the domestic sphere (Tunibamba). From the above considerations, we can ascertain that turismo comunitario in these two communities is a multidimensional and hybrid phenomenon, and a dialogical approach should be taken in order to understand it properly. It is not fair to establish explanatory priorities or dualities (does commodification weaken the community and appropriation strengthen it?); instead, we should strive to understand the tourist event as a whole. The dialogical nature of turismo comunitario is fundamentally linked to a crossroads of logical systems, reciprocity and exchange (Temple, 2003), ‘traditional hospitality and commercial hospitality’ (Heuman, 2005), that which can be commercialized and that which remains outside of tourist commercialization (Notzke, 1999), strategy and tactics (de Certeau, 1990), the make-up of the political subject (Laclau, 2005) and the activation of the economic agent; ultimately, the inextricable process of commodification and appropriation that unravels around turismo comunitario experiences helps the community to stand firm on renewed foundations. We use the term ‘renewed foundations’ because it would be a mistake to think that this type of tourism acts as a ‘preserver’ of the community and culture; and that this is the yardstick to evaluate its impact. Nor does it transform to the point of creating ‘new indigenous peoples’. The direction that this form of market participation will take in the future of these communities is uncertain and will only become clear over time. Although turismo comunitario is no guarantee that the Manta and Otavalo communities will continue to exist in their current configuration (in a narrow sense of protection of cultural diversity), it seems that this kind of tourism gives them protagonism and that it is rooted in an explicit desire to be and remain indigenous. This indigenism is both a political and a market argument: the tourist product sold is indigenous; at the same time, the fact that it is indigenous is the guarantee that enables them to market it autonomously. Hence, the market becomes an opportunity for the community while the community is an opportunity for the market. The communities of Agua Blanca and Tunibamba show that the kind of community-based tourism they practise strengthens and empowers them, bearing in mind the particular configuration acquired by the processes of commodification, objectification and appropriation that take place around the tourist business. Clearly, their culture and surroundings are commodified, but this commodification is rooted in a certain way of objectifying them which enables the communities to appropriate them and secure a more active and decisive role than is usually found in the tourist market. Hence, the make-up and management of their tourist products accentuates their collective capacity for action and decision-making, in so

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225 Ruiz-Ballesteros and Hernández-Ramírez: Tourism that Empowers?

far as they: (1) reinforce the indigenous as a political subject, shown and defended in the tourist event; (2) activate the community as a political agent; (3) foster the development of new actors in terms of participation within the community (women in the case of Tunibamba); and (4) promote contexts for communication, action and collective decisionmaking in crises (assemblies, communitarian tasks . . .). This article delves deeper into the understanding of community-based tourism and shows that turismo comunitario in these communities gives us hope that: Tourism does not always have to represent globalization or the subjugation of local to tourists and the demands of the tourist industry. It should however express the control of local people over their futures. . . . [T]he focus can be on the opportunities for empowerment . . . (Wallace and Russell, 2004: 237)

Could this therefore be an example of tourism that empowers?

Notes The authors would like to thank Miguel Gual, Doris Solís, Javier Escalera and Mariola Delgado for their comments on this article. We would also like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their comments and advice, which have helped to improve this article significantly. 1

2 3

4 5 6

The authors of this article are part of a Hispano-Ecuadorian team that, during 2006, 2007 and 2008 – thanks to the funding of the Spanish International Cooperation Agency (AECID) – conducted research into turismo comunitario in nine Ecuadorian communities. Some of the ethnographic results and general conclusions can be found in Hernández-Ramírez (2007, 2008), Ruiz-Ballesteros (2009), Ruiz-Ballesteros and Solís (2007) and Ruiz-Ballesteros et al. (2008). Rafael Correa’s government has substantially boosted this form of tourism through specific policies promoted by the Ministry of Tourism. The exact size of Ecuador’s indigenous population is a matter of some controversy. Whereas the 2001 census states that 7 percent of the Ecuadorian population defines itself as indigenous, the Farming Census puts this figure at 25 percent, and the indigenous organization CONAIE maintains that it is as high as 35 percent (see CEPAL-BID, 2005). The efficiency and accuracy of official census figures is popularly mistrusted, and it is thought that a third of the population is indigenous. We can even find proposals that anchor communities to pre-Columbus forms of organization (ayllus). This circumstance has been reaffirmed in the new Constitution of 2008. The political and economic strengthening of the communities can be understood as a consequence – possibly the most significant consequence – of the development of the indigenous movement as a political actor in the country since the 1990s. Hence, the improvements observed in the quality of life enjoyed by the communities are wholly integrated into the dynamic of political assertion as peoples and nationalities. The development of turismo comunitario is fostered by this dynamic. Most of the close to 100 communities that offer

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7

8

9

experiences of turismo comunitario display a consistent interaction between their strategies for local development and political-indigenous militancy. Various cases studied ethnographically provide a clear indication of this among the Cañari, Otavalo, Amazonian Kichua, Manteño and Saraguro peoples . . . (Ruiz-Ballesteros and Solís, 2007). In the three years of research conducted in this community, we have witnessed an ostensible improvement in transportation and communication possibilities, the arrival of refrigerators and other domestic appliances, an increase in numbers of children continuing on to secondary education, growing control of birth rates, the consolidation of community organization through the rise of tourist activity, a drastic reduction in emigration, improvements in the construction of houses, as well as an increase in environmental awareness and the cleanliness of collective spaces (Ruiz-Ballesteros, 2009). In the cases studied here, this control is particularly evident. In Agua Blanca, the community is the custodian of the archaeological sites and the museum, and also has possession of the territory. Hence, its management of these resources, applied to tourism, means that the community effectively controls their tourist use, especially when there are no intermediaries in tourist activity. As for the houses adapted for turismo convivencial in Tunibamba, the families follow the standards recommended by the indigenous organization which acts as an intermediary between tourists and the families. Of course, the families retain absolute control over the use of their homes and the layout for the tourist business. In both cases, there are no external agents outside the community that control tourist resources directly or indirectly, or the channels of direct commercialization. Other similar examples have been dealt with in our previous studies about turismo comunitario in Ecuador (Ruiz-Ballesteros and Solís, 2007). Objectification is an inherent action in human processes. Humans objectify the world, as a kind of social construction of it, a fact that subsequently affects them in their everyday practices. It is a concept that, although it is firmly rooted in the Hegelian-Marxist tradition, acquires a certain centrality in constructivist perspectives, particularly opportune in our endeavour to discover the process of creation (and sale) of the tourist product from within communities.

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■ Esteban Ruiz-Ballesteros is professor at Pablo de Olavide University, Seville (Spain). His current research fields are tourism, heritage and environment–human relationships, carrying out fieldwork in Andalusia and Ecuador. He has published several articles on these topics in Tourism Management, Revista de Dialectología y Tradiciones Populares, Journal of Material Culture and Pasos, Revista de Turismo y Patrimonio Cultural. His recent books include Agua Blanca: comunidad y turismo en el Pacífico ecuatorial (2009), Turismo comunitario en Ecuador (co-edited 2007) and Cultura, comunidad y turismo (co-edited, 2009). [[email protected]] ■

Macarena Hernández-Ramírez is professor at Pablo de Olavide University, in Seville (Spain). Her research interests include: social communication processes, socio-cultural transformations, social use of urban contexts and cultural heritage issues. Recently she has oriented her research toward tourism and heritage. She is author of several articles in national and international journals such as Tourist Management, Pasos, Revista de Turismo y Patrimonio Cultural, Revista de Dialectología y Tradiciones Populares, among others. She is the author of Cultura y comunicación: las tecnologías desde el horizonte local (2002) and co-author of La ciudad silenciada: vida social en los barrios del casco antiguo de Sevilla (1999). [email: [email protected]]

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