Early Tourism in New Mexico: A Primitivist Pastime or a Tool of Integration?

Abstract : In the late 19th century and the first decades of the 20th century the culture of leisure came to New Mexico and Indian Detours were organized for the “Anglo” tourists eager to witness the exotic (and so-called primitive) cultures within the United States. The authentic setting, the historic villages (i.e. Pueblos1), and the pre-industrial lifestyle of their inhabitants contributed to the tourists’ experience of Otherness. The primitive way of life was not perceived by the tourists as being negative but as an escape from the pervasiveness of industry and urbanization. However the wishes of the tourists clashed with the federal assimilation policies. Indian Commissioner Charles Burke issued numerous circulars to the Superintendents with strict rules concerning the exhibition of Indianness. He lamented the fact that Indians catering to the tourist industry postponed their assimilation as productive members of the American society. This paper also questions the intrusiveness and long-term impact of the “tourist gaze” upon Indians viewed at the train stations or in “Indian villages” set up in hotels or tourist destinations. New Mexican architecture and more particularly the Santa Fe Style have largely copied Pueblo vernacular. Under such extreme circumstances of colonial appropriation, coupled with the advent of the market economy, it is astounding that the Indians survived the onslaught of cultural tourism. Despite the marketing of tours targeting their villages and history as well as their arts and crafts production, the Pueblo have never given in to selling their ceremonies. They have set up barriers of secrecy limiting the primitivist experience of the tourists to what they wanted them to see. They have accepted the advice of traders in matters of styles of objects produced. But they have gradually taken over the management of the “tourist gaze” and have profited from the fetishization of all things Indian. With a lively market for tourist goods, it seems tourism has become a tool of integration while elements of what was formerly called “primitive” survive (non-Christian ceremonials for instance). Moreover tourism has not destroyed those who were formerly the seemingly passive object of the “tourist gaze.” (363)
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Susanne Berthier-Foglar. Early Tourism in New Mexico: A Primitivist Pastime or a Tool of Integration?. Angles: French Perspectives on the Anglophone World, SAES – Société des Anglicistes de l’Enseignement Supérieur, 2017, ⟨http://angles.saesfrance.org/index.php?id=1137#descriptionauteurs⟩. ⟨hal-01673640⟩



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