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Carla Guerron Montero Title : Quilombola Tourism: The Quest for Recognition, Justice, and Development in the African Diaspora

12:00 PM, Lundi 21 Juin 2021 (30 minutes)
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Quilombola Tourism: The Quest for Recognition, Justice, and Development in the African Diaspora


Carla Guerron Montero

In December 2013, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 2015-2024 the International Decade for People of African Descent, with the theme “Recognition, Justice, and Development.” While such proclamations by multilateral organizations are often merely symbolic, this one promotes awareness of the enduring history of resistance to oppression by peoples of African descent worldwide, and their quest for recognition and sovereignty. My research participates in this initiative, and it aims to advance our understanding of Afro-Latin American histories of resistance. In the Americas, peoples of African descent banded together in collective societies outside the colonial plantation system during slavery, forming emblematic sites of both resistance and cultural creation. These societies are known as maroon towns in the English-speaking world, palenques in Spanish-speaking Latin America, and quilombos in Brazil. These societies played essential roles as pre-and post-emancipation political models for determining land ownership and constitutional rights, ecological issues, cultural heritage questions, and the formation of ethnic identities. In Brazil, quilombos are defined as communities composed of peoples of African, indigenous, and European descent (known as quilombolas), who constructed independent societies outside the plantation system. These communities have gone through a process of transformation, from representations of sites for “fugitives” and “criminals” to locations of Afro-Brazilian resistance and ethnic identity par excellence. In today’s political climate, quilombos’ sovereignty is being threatened by current President Jair Bolsonaro’s extractivist regime (squarely focused on big agribusinesses) that challenges their legitimacy. Starting in the mid-2000s, some quilombos have developed tourism ventures and opened up their communities to visitors. While still in a nascent state, engaging with the tourism industry has become one economic option for Brazilian quilombolas. In this paper, I discuss how quilombolas at Campinho da Independência, located in the Municipality of Paraty (Rio de Janeiro) engage with tourism to access economic resources and produce fluid tour narratives that both create and preserve selective aspects of their cultural history as means of remembrance, resistance, and renaissance. I also address how tourism can become a vehicle to claim social and racial justice at a time when their very existence is at stake. This paper is based on archival and ethnographic research carried out in 2015 and continuous collaboration with Brazilian quilombolas.

University of Delaware
Professor of Anthropology
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