April 3, 2010

Mediated: Los Cabos

Something that really interests me is how different forms of media are used to create certain ideas, ideals, and understandings of places. This kind of thing is especially relevant in any study of tourism, since the only way that people can decide to visit a particular place is by looking through guidebooks, websites, history books, photographs, etc. That is, unless they just book a random ticket or start driving somewhere. In much the same way that media helps to inscribe and maintain the "imagined communities" of Benedict Anderson, it is also a part of creating imagined destinations that tourists seek out all around the world. And things get really interesting (and complicated) when the imagined destinations and experiences don't align with the realities on the ground.

Since I am doing work in on the Baja California peninsula, here is an example of the ways in which Los Cabos is represented through tourist media:

Baja California Sur is indeed an amazing place, and there is plenty of beauty to be seen. No doubt about that. But the tourism zone--and the way that it is imagined, sold, and represented in tourism media--only tells part of the story. I am not even sure if it's possible to tell "the whole story," but I do know that these media discourses cover up as much as they explain. There is always a lot more. Of course, tourism media is all about selling a product, which in this case consists of idealized landscapes, leisure, relaxation, luxury, and adventure.

The cracks start to show up, however, when you look a little closer (or when you spend a little more time away from the golf courses and high end hotels in the hotel zone). There is a reason why many vacation packages encourage an all-inclusive experience that basically shields guests from the less than ideal realities of development and expansion along the cape.


Conor said...

I think you would have a field day in Siem Reap--- and all of Cambodia for that matter. Tourists check out the temples for 2-3 days and move on to Vietnam or Thailand assuming they have seen "Cambodia". Shoot, not even close.

Ryan Anderson said...

Stand in front of temple A, B, and C. Take appropriate photographs. Move on. Site visit accomplished.

Sometimes I wonder how this form of travel came about--many of us go to places to get the photographs and proof that we went there. Strange. Facebook and Flickr have replaced 1980s slideshows and boxes of photographs, but the end result is about the same.

The same kind of thing happens in places like Yosemite. Busloads of people show up to Half Dome, get out, take photos for a minute, then get back in and drive to the next photo spot. Repeat until vacation time is over.

Tourism and travel are pretty interesting. And anthropology looks pretty similar in many ways.

Conor said...

The short temple tour includes: sunrise at Angkor Wat, a walk around Angkor Thom (with a highlight of temple Bayon), lunch break, and then a finish at Ta Prohm (where Tomb Raider was filmed). Then your tuk tuk takes you back to your hotel where you can nap and take a hot shower before going to Pub Street (yes, thats really its name) for some "authentic" Khmer cuisine.

Charles Lindholm explains, "The main way for people in the United States to distinguish themselves has always been through the purchase, accumulation, and display of possessions". And not just physical, purchased possessions but now a consumption of experiences. Plus, the more famous sights you see, the more "distinct" and "unique" you are....right?