Staged Tourism or a Celebration of Culture? Folkloric dancing, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Copyright © 2022 Terence Carter / Grantourismo. All Rights Reserved.

Staged Tourism or a Celebration of Culture?

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Almost every evening during our stay in San Miguel de Allende, there have been wonderful performances of traditional Mexican dances by San Miguel’s different folkloric troupes on a stage in the main square.

The ‘staging’ of tourism, the recreation of cultural traditions through performance and the production of tourism as a series of staged events and spaces, is an area of travel theory that is much discussed by academics and always fun to think about.

Staged Tourism or a Celebration of Culture? Folkloric dancing, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Copyright © 2022 Terence Carter / Grantourismo. All Rights Reserved.

All over the world, tourism products are created based around artificial performances where actors, dancers and musicians are placed in unnatural spaces to re-enact customs and traditions for tourists. It’s clear under those circumstances that what we’re seeing is inauthentic and it always raises lots of interesting questions to do with commodification of culture and cultural identity and tourism marketing.

Staged Tourism or a Celebration of Culture? Folkloric dancing, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Copyright © 2022 Terence Carter / Grantourismo. All Rights Reserved.

What we’ve found fascinating here in San Miguel de Allende about watching San Miguel’s folkloric performances each night is that the main audience – the people who arrive early for the seats directly in front of the stage, and sit waiting patiently for the performance to begin – are local Mexicans from San Miguel, not tourists.

Expats and foreign tourists also gather around the outside of the main seating area, standing up mostly, or sit back further on seats in the main square, El Jardin. There is some distance between them and the performances, and it’s not just physical.

Staged Tourism or a Celebration of Culture? Folkloric dancing, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Copyright © 2022 Terence Carter / Grantourismo. All Rights Reserved.

While the performances are being enjoyed by the tourists, taken out of the main square of San Miguel they might merely be seen as a tourist act. But here, to the locals who beam with delight every night, are occasionally teary-eyed, who clap and sometimes sing to the songs, these shows are a celebration of Mexican culture, tradition, heritage and identity.

How authentic a cultural expression the performances are is also an interesting topic for debate. What do you think? We’d love to know your thoughts.

Whatever we all think, one thing for sure is that they’ve been fun to watch!

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A travel and food writer who has experienced over 70 countries and written for The Guardian, Australian Gourmet Traveller, Feast, Delicious, National Geographic Traveller, Conde Nast Traveller, Travel+Leisure Southeast Asia, DestinAsian, TIME, CNN, The Independent, The Telegraph, Sunday Times Travel Magazine, AFAR, Wanderlust, International Traveller, Get Lost, Four Seasons Magazine, Fah Thai, Sawasdee, and more, as well as authored more than 40 guidebooks for Lonely Planet, DK, Footprint, Rough Guides, Fodors, Thomas Cook, and AA Guides.

2 thoughts on “Staged Tourism or a Celebration of Culture?”

  1. Thanks, Laura! Totally agree with you!

    (Apologies for taking so long to acknowledge this – we must have been flat out at the time.)

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