First Advisor

Stephen Frenkel

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in International & Global Studies: Latin America and University Honors


International and Global Studies


Culture and tourism -- Caribbean Area -- Case studies, Culture and tourism -- Central America -- Case studies, Authenticity (Philosophy), Heritage tourism -- Public opinion




The small scale tourist industry began as a rejection of mass tourism and the consumerist ideals associated with it. The search for authentic experience and authentic culture has become synonymous with small scale tourism and backpacker culture. The rejection of mass tourism typically results in a more culture centered approach to tourism which entails more interactions with locals in hopes of an authentic cultural experience. However, in this article I will discuss the issues that arise with the commoditization of culture and the people of that culture when the search for authenticity is informed by western ideals in the case of Central America and the Caribbean. The inequality between tourist and local plays a role in the commoditization. I will also discuss the impact of western culture on tourist destinations which often manifests in inauthentic McDisney towns, stripped of culture and instead cater to the tourist demands. Ultimately, the search for authenticity has too many contradictions embedded in it making it nearly impossible to attain.


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