Reviving culture with tourism

Tourism generates income and reinvigorates local culture

Woman at the Barana Autê hand weaves a basket from dry Larouma reeds (Photo by Ruane Remy)

Tourism and its economic benefits have re-invigorated Kalinago culture. Two main sources of income in the territory are agriculture and crafts. Forty-five percent of territory residents depend on crafts for their livelihood, says Development Officer Sylvanie Burton. Tourism provides the majority of the market for crafts.

Agriculture, on the other hand, is mainly for subsistence farming—providing produce for the family—but there has been a shift towards cash crops.  People sell local fruits, like coconuts and mangos for example, at the side of the main road.

Conducting business outside of the territory is one of the necessary activities that must be done to fit into the wider Dominican society, says Chief Garnette Joseph. The community, in the process, becomes less isolated. But increasing economic gains can combat the loss of  a distinct culture that may come with a more open community.

A focus on tourism as an income generator is promoting a shift to revisiting and reviving old traditions. Boat making, weaving of baskets, crafts carved from coconuts or calabash gourds and use of herbal medicines are some examples. Prosper Paris, a member of the Kalinago council, runs the Karifuna cultural group where they engage the community, as well as tourists, by recreating and inventing new cultural dances and costumes.

Tourists also show interest in traditional foods, such as cassava bread. A recent Kalinago cuisine program trained 15 youth to cook traditional foods in hopes that this form of development will encourage them to seek out employment in the Home Stay program, which caters to tourists who want to stay with a Kalinago family. Home stay rates vary from $30 to $50 US per person with snacks and meals ranging from $6 to $15 US each.

Traditional foods, crafts, herbal tours and admission to the home stay program are all sold through the Barana Autê model village. Products weaved from Larouma reeds can also be found at sales huts along the main road near the model village and in Dominica’s capital Roseau, but the authenticity of the latter remains unclear.


Watch the videos below for more on how economy and culture are intertwined

Sylvanie Burton, Carib development officer, says development may help or hinder culture. She also speaks on employment through culinary training and the Kalinago home stay program.

Chief Garnette Joseph says tourism highlights what is left of the Kalinago culture and life, while producing income.

Irvince Auguiste, manager of Kalinago Excursions, says his people are self-sufficient, but a changing culture has increased economic pressures.

Next: Cultural initiatives 

Back: Major economic challenges