Editorials


Fuller_ReginaDuring the summer months, it is not hard to find commercials encouraging Americans to leave their ordinary routine for the beauty and lure of Latin America. While these commercials gave me the impression of smiling faces, lush beaches, and exotic peoples, the reality that I found is that they often hide the bias against people of color. The Dominican Republic (DR) and Brazil are two countries where this false ideal paradise is present. Even though both nations boast of mixed populations of European, Indigenous, and African descent, people of obvious African ancestry, the majority of both populations, are discriminated against based on their darker skin color. My research investigates the formation of perceptions of African identity in the DR and Brazil and reasons behind the rejection of this part of their ancestry.

In order to understand Dominican and Brazilian concept of  "race,‟ the US concept of race must be set aside. In the US, race is centered on the "one drop rule,‟ a rule during slavery and post-slavery society that designated a person with any African ancestry as black. Hence, a person who has one black great grandparent and all other white relatives would be considered black under the law. In contrast, the DR and Brazil are societies built on colorism, in which a person is classified based on the shade of their skin color and not their ancestry. Thus a person with an African and European background and a light complexion could be classified as white.

aranaProfessor of English and Comparative Literature Howard University (Text of paper delivered at the American Comparative Literature Association and Convention at University Park, Pennsylvania, March, 2005. Revised for AfricanDiasporaTourism.com)

Indeed, so far back do the accounts of travels by Africans reach that scholars today must wrestle with complex textual entanglements having to do with provenance, chains of transmission, translations and re-translations, and editorial emendation and, even then, we cannot be certain just who wrote what and who else had a hand in the packaging of this or that travel narrative composed by an African sometime back in history. Diodorus Siculus, for example, the first-century-B.C. Sicilian historian, who wrote a multi-volume world history (in Greek) that ends with Caesars Gallic Wars, gives us glimpses of traveling Africans going back as far as the 4th century B.C., historical figures mentioned by those much earlier chroniclers from whom Diodorus Siculus borrowed freely.

African-Americans and blacks around the world continuously make impacts on the travel industry.

virginia_beach_peepsMore than ever before black people in the United States and all over the world are enjoying the benefits of travel. As evidenced by the growth in black tourism and travel-related businesses, African Americans are cashing in on the rewards of travel in many ways. According to the Travel Industry of America (TIA), the African American segment of the U.S. population represents one of the fastest growing markets in the travel industry. A few generations ago black people travelled mostly to visit relatives and to attend family reunions, funerals, graduations and other mostly family-related trips that they deemed necessary. The face of black travel today has continued to change as travel has steadily increased for vacations, leisure, meetings, cultural-related activities and educational reasons that are not necessarily related to family visits.

As more and more blacks attended college, made financial gains and enjoyed more affluent lifestyles, travel became an integral part of their leisure and business lifestyles. In 2006, black had a spending power of $700 billion according to Black Market News. Black people at an alarming rate are beginning to invest many of their leisure dollars into travelling. The African-American affluent market, as well as the working-class market will definitely have quite an impact on the tourist industry.

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What is it?

We hear so much about sustainable tourism in the travel industry these days. But exactly what do we mean by it? Sustainability, in scientific terms, refers to a recharge rate which is speedier than the withdrawal rate. For example, if we wanted to talk about water being a sustainable resource, we would talk of measures that assure that the water source is being replenished faster than it is being used. In other words, it’s about having a positive balance when it comes to our natural resources budget. Sustainability in tourism is a philosophy held by companies in the tourism sector who commit to making a low impact on the environment while promoting economic empowerment of the communities who inhabit tourist areas. This economic gain, in turn, helps to preserve the local culture and community. In addition, sustainable tourism fosters understanding and respect for the people and places we visit. Sustainable tourism seeks to leave communities that are visited with a positive balance.