Why is New Orleans such a hotspot for tourism? The above image may lend itself to the answer. No other city has a tourist pull in the same way that NOLA does. This is because no other American city has the same distinctive cultural quality–one that engenders the feeling of the “exotic,” but on non-exotic American soil. Unlike the rest of America, Louisiana and New Orleans by virtue of history are citizens of the Caribbean. The region’s colonization by the French and Spanish as well as their racial mixing with Native Americans and black slaves is defined within the Caribbean experience. In short: New Orleans is Caribbean and part of the Caribbean world, it’s just annexed away on the North American continent. So what, then, about the Caribbean makes it exotic? The warm weather in which multitude of vegetation and species flourish is nice, but why is it exotic? Exotic has many definitions: something foreign, something tropical or something sexual. Each definition, I think, defines another–and the Caribbean’s exotic has all of the above. The common demoninator is the sexual or lustful. As NOLA resident and anthropologist G.O. Binder puts it, “To this day, Louisiana and New Orleans are ghettoized, pathologized, and exoticized in the American imgagination.” And as can be seen in the album cover, the sexuality of the exotic is what is being advertised.
This week I’m commenting on the power of appearances. Above is a print screen shot of Anisa’s blog page which I just visited. I was particularly impressed with the catchiness and overall attractiveness of the page. The background photo to the left gives a really visually appealing depth to her blog. I like that the photo takes up almost half the screen, because it makes the blog more of a visual presentation. At the same time, however, I can’t seem to take my eyes off of it enough to focus on the text. The text is hard to get into with my eyes constantly wandering to the left side of the page.
The headings she uses work well, though and grab your attention. The word choice for each section headings helps with the flow of information.
In many ways today’s webpage needs to contain quality art form elements in order to come across as novel or interesting. The colors, shapes, depth, fonts and themes all can determine how effective the webpage is in reaching the attention of its intended audience. In Anisa’s blog, I loved her choice of font because its big and simple enough for easy reading yet it has a unique personality in order to be visually interesting.
Keeping in theme with Jamaica Kincaid and the act of tourism, it’s important to look into her perspective as a writer in order to better understand the arguments in her article “The Ugly Tourist.” Antigua is a Caribbean island about 300 miles southeast of Puerto Rico and about 600 miles north off the coast of South America. Like many of the Caribbean islands, its economy is based on tourism–that’s to say its often a stop for cruise ships, especially those advertising the popular trip to “Saint John’s”. According to the CIA World Factbook, tourism to Antigua depends largely on tourists from the United States, Canada and Europe. Since the island like much of the Caribbean is vulnerable to natural disasters, that affects its economy as well since tourism necessitates mother nature’s cooperation. With this in mind, the reader can understand the audience that Kincaid is writing to, and why her article isn’t directed towards everyone in the world, or even every tourist in the world. As illustrated in her article: “as you walk down a busy street in the large and modern and prosperous city in which you work and live” is indirectly outlining the American, Canadian or European tourist from some booming American, Canadian or European economy. Understanding this, the reader can now make the connection between this specific audience and the juxtaposition that she is implicitly drawing–the prosperous economy versus the on-edge economy of Antigua. The CIA World Factbook points out that :
“In 2009, Antigua’s economy was severely hit by the global economic crisis and suffered from the collapse of its largest private sector employer, a steep decline in tourism, a rise in debt, and a sharp economic contraction between 2009-11. Antigua has not yet returned to its pre-crisis growth levels.”
This fact helps reveal the very real gravity tourism has in the equation of Antigua’s economy. Unlike prosperous cities, Antigua lacks enough development of economic sectors outside of tourism to make it a stable economy–one that doesn’t drastically change completely if only one factor is out of wack. It’s this reality that adds another dimension to “The Ugly Tourist”– the perspective of the native who either works in agriculture or hospitality, and whose prayers go to hoping that people will keep coming to see the spectacle that is at their whims.
A big portion of Kincaid’s “The Ugly Tourist” is building this perspective of ‘the other,’ aka a comparison of self versus an unknown. Why is this article so compelling? What is it about her writing style that keeps us in suspense until the very last word, all because of a subject as seemingly innocent as tourism? The answer, in my opinion, is the way in which she constructs this notion of ‘the other.’ First, she spends about half the article making us reflect on who we are. She takes us on a journey of self-awareness and insecurity to finally discover what images we associate with our identity as it relates to other people:
“From day to day, as you walk down a busy street in the large and modern and prosperous city in which you work and live, dismayed, puzzled (a cliche, but only a cliche can explain you) at how alone you feel in this crowd, how awful it is to go unnoticed…”
In this passage, which rants on for many more lines, (all the same sentence) she shows us a sense of ourselves as individuals detached from our peers. Specifically, I believe she’s dealing with Americans here, (or at least first world citizens) since she points out this loneliness that derives from being immersed in a population too busy to really care about all these strangers that live around us. In this case, the other, or stranger, is our next door neighbor who doesn’t notice us.
Later in the article, though, she introduces our tourist identity next to a native of somewhere else–where each is definitely noticed by the other. In this case, the stranger is someone who DOES notice us, but doesn’t even like us because “they envy [our] ability to turn their own banality and boredom into a source of pleasure for [ourselves].”
In short, the compelling factor of Kincaid’s article is her subliminal way of answering our longing desire to relate to and find our rightful and purposeful place amongst other humans.