Tourism on the Dust of the Dead


Representation of Native Peoples of the Amazon.

I wonder if, within 30 or 50 years, the National Geographic Channel will produce some video to promote historical tourism in Cuba, Afghanistan or Iraq… the list of countries and cultures could be extensive.

A little blond in shorts, a T-shirt and hiking spoke to me from the television screen the other day.  She was on the National Geographic channel, which is supposed to be a little more serious than the rest of those that I occasionally have time to see on cable here in Caracas.  I’ve read reports in the National Geographic Magazine that have seemed interesting.  However this little blond was inviting us to go on a tour in Oklahoma.

So what’s in Oklahoma?

It seems the attractiveness of this trip was that one could get closer to the culture —what’s left of it, I’d say— of the native inhabitants of the United States.

What caught my attention was that they chose Oklahoma, a territory in which were confined the survivors of the diminished tribes that were left alive by the “brave white-skin warriors” back in the 19th century.

While erecting a “modern teepee,” this young woman in hiking boots learned the meaning of that word.  She was shown walking through the hot prairie speaking incessantly and with the same cadence of those who report from hair salons or designer boutiques.

She even demonstrated to us how to prepare a sauna, for purification, the same way that the first residents of Oklahoma did.  What’s more, to show her respect, she had changed her shorts for a skirt.

At that moment I began imagining the ancestors of this…broadcast journalist (?), putting on skirts before beginning the…conflict, slaughter (?) of the Kiowa people, for example.

I wonder what tourism has to do the with the understanding and respect for a civilization that was overpowered one century ago by the society that today is the United States of America.

Does the little blond or the producer of the documentary (?) know that the Kiowa recognized themselves as Kgoy-goo (“going beyond”) because they left the earth, after sliding inside a tree through the hole where an owl lived?

If they didn’t make references to any of these particulars, it’s probably because these didn’t interest them, much less the fact that these warriors were able to block the construction of the railroad for 40 years.

Such facts probably wouldn’t help promote tourism, at least not the type that interests them.

It’s better to encourage people to go in search of exotic rituals that have lost her essence (or that don’t have any for neophytes).  Likewise, they might have pleasant Indians serving as guides who feign cultural backwardness or pretend to be guardians of diabolical mysteries.

It is better to invite people into this game, into the fiction of walking on the same earth where buffalos once grazed and where savage Indians ran from those who feared them so much that they slaughtered them or left them believing they had no rights to anything and were inferior as a culture.

They treated the inhabitants of Africa this same way, just like in so many other countries of the Third Word (I use the term “Third World,” though it could be called the fifth hell.  I’ll never resort to the hypocritical reference of “developing” nations).

The first task was to destroy, to annihilate, to wipe out – and then to engage in tourism on the dust of the dead.

One thought on “Tourism on the Dust of the Dead

  • If I remember correctly, Oklahoma was where the dispossessed Native American tribes from Georgia, South. Carolina, Alabama and Mississippi were origninally “relocated” (during an infamous “March of Tears” in which many of them perrished) in the early 19th Century. Towards the end of that same century, however, their “new” home was likewise looted from them. The same process now seems to be taking place in Gaza and the West Bank, where the lands of the Palestinians are systematically shrinking into unsustainable “Bantu-stands,” just like those “reservations” of the Native Americans a century before. As Bakhunin once said: “Property is theft!”

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