Pressure to Celebrate

Last week was the perfect week to visit Oaxaca: Everything was green after the rainy season, and I got to end of the week by watching Día de Muertos celebrations.

One realization I had, however, was that Oaxaca gets a lot of visitors for Día de Muertos—foreigners and other Mexicans. When I was out and about on the night of October 31, (a day before la Día really begins), there were multiple parades, musical performances, and a ton of tourists—again, both foreigners and other Mexicans. I realized that in order to keep those valuable visitors coming, Oaxaca has to keep doing Día de Muertos in a big way. It's an annual pressure to celebrate.

Ketchikan has lots of tourists come to the Blueberry Festival in early August, for sure, but I don't think there are many tourists—if any—who come to Ketchikan just for the Blueberry Festival. In Oaxaca, people come precisely for the celebration, and the location will have to deliver to keep the visitors satisfied. This pushes me to ask a question:

Does outside touristic pressure to celebrate lessen the meaning a community draws from their celebration?

Now, this query connects to many general concerns about cultural tourism: Does tourism change the culture of a place? Can communities' responses to visit make their culture less "authentic"? I'm sure that each question's answer varies according to the place and people involved—and, perhaps, according to the perspective of the answer. Nevertheless, I believe these questions are important ones to address, both for communities that have tourists, and for tourists themselves. Let me know what your thoughts are.


Note: All photos are my own, taken while in Oaxaca, Mexico.

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