Turning Points in Tela: Garifuna Reformulations of Participatory Tourism Development in Northern Honduras




Galeano, Gabriela M

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Honduras is becoming a leading tourism destination in the Central America. In fact, in March 2015, Honduras was inducted into the “Golden Book” of tourism by the World Tourism Organization, declaring the country to be committed to “sustainable” and “responsible” tourism development. Indeed, “sustainable” tourism development - as opposed to the top-down, exclusive, bureaucratic development models predominant since before the 1980s - are now the development paradigms states are adopting in the midst of democratic reforms. Alternative development models are becoming popular because they champion the active participation of the local (often marginalized) indigenous populations in development processes. Meanwhile, more and more indigenous groups are successfully organizing politically at the national and international levels to fight for their claims to cultural and civic recognition as well as their right to land and its resources, which are often times endangered by the expansion of development projects. The Garifuna afro-descendant communities of Honduras represent one such population hoping to engage in the rapid growth of tourism development as well as potentially redefining their role and participation in the Honduran national narrative through development processes. Initial fieldwork in 2012 explored the process through which Tornabé, a local Garifuna community, organized and obtained an agreement with the Honduran government and national/international investors regarding the development, construction, and management of a nearby, large-scale tourism complex: Indura Beach and Golf Resort. Preliminary results at the time pointed to a successful collaborative relationship between all actors, though interviews and participant-observation methods conducted two years later (2014) exposed more complex dynamics between all major actors and during a different - more tense - sociopolitical and economic context. By tracing the history of the Garifuna in Honduras and discussing the intensification of tourism development in the Tela Bay area, this thesis analyzes the ways in which Tornabé is attempting – and perhaps struggling – to negotiate their involvement in the local tourism economy while exploring the concepts of indigeneity, citizenship, and transnational identities within the Garifuna context.



Tourism, Development, Honduras, Garifuna, Community participation, Indigeneity