By Vanessa Garcia Polanco. August 1st, 2017
“If someone wants to know what my homeland is,
Do not ask for it.
Do not want to know if there are woods, trills,
Many peninsulas and others,
Or if there are four mountain ranges,
Or if there are several bays destinations
And all belong to foreigners. -Pedro Mir, If Someone Wants To Know What My Country Is
This poem was present in my mind when I was vacationing with my family in the Dominican Republic last week. I am no longer just Dominican, I am a Dominican American resident abroad. And as such, I now feel a different responsibility for how I use the natural resources of my country and how I decided to invest my foreign currencies in the economy of the country. Yes, for many years our government has promoted tourism as a mechanism for the economic and social development of our country and the communities where it takes place. But I have many questions: Is this sustainable? Is this development economically inclusive and working to eliminate poverty or dismantle economic inequality? Or just to allow foreign companies to exploit the country? Do government officials look the other way because “it is good for the economy”? There were many questions I wanted to ask in every hotel, tourist site, beach, river and archaeological site I visited to know if my tourism was responsible and sustainable, but I was not always able to have all the answers I needed to have a clean conscience.
The United Nations General Assembly, at its seventieth session, declared 2017 the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. This year I had the opportunity to be an international tourist twice, once in Mexico, and another in my country of origin, Dominican Republic. In Mexico, I was sure that my actions as a tourist were contributing in a responsible way to the economic development and protection of the natural resources of Oaxaca. I was able to do so, because someone took the deliberate attention to craft a cultural experience that match my environmental values and social justice beliefs. In my own homeland, I don't need a cultural immersion, I need to responsible use my cultural and natural heritage, but how? When everything I could explore was branded to others as a paradise or enchanted land? Environmental practitioners, how can we be better domestic and international tourists?
Learn more at :http://www.tourism4development2017.org/about/