Racial Narratives in Leisure Landscapes: Colonial Heritage Tourism in Santo Domingo

Authors: Suzanne Nimoh*, University of Texas at Austin
Topics: Ethnicity and Race, Tourism Geography, Gender
Keywords: race, national identity, Spanish Caribbean, heritage, tourism
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Virtual 50
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The Colonial City of Santo Domingo, known locally as Zona Colonial, was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1990 for being the first permanent European establishment in the Americas. This neighborhood in Santo Domingo, capital of the Dominican Republic, has been the site of international investment for the promotion of heritage tourism. In this paper, I analyze representations of Dominican heritage and national identity through the colonial tourist landscape of Zona Colonial. I examine the neighborhood’s landscape as a project of the Ministry of Tourism to understand how the Dominican State represents the nation’s heritage as Hispanic, masculine, and white. Through an analysis of memorialized sites including Parque Independencia and Calle del Conde, I argue the Dominican state presents a national heritage centered on Hispanicism. Furthermore, I assert these projections of colonial culture contribute to anti-Black visions of Dominican national identity. Complementing fieldwork observations with archival research, I examine the colonial cultural architecture, and contrast it with my observations of the informal economy. I examine representations of heritage presented by souvenir vendors in Zona Colonial, whose emphasis on African culture conflicts with the dominant, European inspired images of Dominicanidad. I frame my analysis through Milagros Ricourt’s (2016) theorization of colonial national imaginaries and subversive national imaginaries, to conclude presentations of African heritage subverts dominant anti-Black national imaginaries.

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