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Protecting Caribbean culture while cultivating tourism — topic at La Plancha summit

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Havana, Cuba, is a key player in the Latin American Caribbean. Photo: Getty

Mérida, Yucatán — How does society protect local culture while welcoming more tourists?

Around 130 researchers and academics from Mexico and the Caribbean are comparing notes on that quandary at the XXI International Congress of the Mexican Association of Caribbean Studies (AMEC).

The three-day marathon of meetings began Wednesday at the Peninsular Center for Humanities and Social Sciences, or Cephcis for short, in the La Plancha neighborhood. Mexico City’s National Autonomous University (UNAM) has its headquarters there.

An UNAM doctor in Iberoamerican Studies, Margarita Aurora Vargas Canales, said that currently the Caribbean, from Colombia to the Gulf of Mexico, has a diverse, vibrant and dynamic culture that should be considered World Heritage Site.

The benefits generated by the tourism industry must reach local populations and there is a huge potential of art, literature, music and culture that can be an attraction for international tourism, but taken advantage of in a sustainable manner.

Dr. Vargas Canales and historian Jorge Castañeda Zavala spoke on the topic, “The Caribbean: fragments of syncopated stories,” which continues today (Thursday) at Cephcis de La Plancha.

Three marathon days pack in keynote lectures and panel discussions on topics such as the cultural links between Cuba, Mexico and the rest of the Caribbean, trade, international relations and Haitian migration in Mexico.

The symposium concludes Friday in UADY’s Centro campus courtyard at Calle 60 and 57 with live reggae music.

Vargas said that the Caribbean’s tourism potential has not been exhausted because it is a living culture, but it is necessary to preserve its original traditions.

“What has been exhausted a bit are the natural resources because there is an environmental deterioration precisely because of the development of the tourist infrastructure,” Vargas said. “The Caribbean will continue to give the world many cultural elements, such as Caribbean music that is globally recognized. The Caribbean is a musical and literature power; perhaps we have not come very close to the linguistic barriers, but literature is very important. In Yucatán, for example, literature that is produced today in the Mayan language is a cultural heritage for the world in general. What we have to do is to get closer to those cultures and find a way to establish a dialogue even if we do not speak the same language and do not share the same cultural spaces.”

He said that the priority of the meeting is to find a way for the benefits to reach the local populations, not only economically, but culturally and environmentally.

Castañeda asserted that for the purposes of this discussion, the Latin American Caribbean is a region that extends beyond well-traveled islands such as Cuba and Puerto Rico and into Yucatán Peninsula, Veracruz and other parts of the Gulf of Mexico.

“The Caribbean is the jewel of tourism, it is one of the main axes of this industry, but we must ensure that development is sustainable,” said Vargas. “The challenge is how to make tourism that benefits the local populations without losing the cultural heritage that is shown to the world. It is a wealth that already shows the deterioration that has produced the construction of hotels and other types of infrastructure. It is a theme that will be addressed in its entirety in this congress by different experts. ”

Source: Diario de Yucatán

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