Residents of the indigenous village of Nazareth in the Colombian Amazon have banned tourists from entering their community, newspaper The Guardian reported Friday.
The village, which is a 20 minute boat ride from the capital of the Amazon department, Leticia, banned tourists two years ago but the visitors kept coming.
Now, Juvencio Pereira and others stand guard at the entrance of the village of 800 residents with traditional sticks as weapons to keep the undesirables out. The small number who are invited to spend time with the community must obtain the permission of the village assembly, register with the guards and show their ID.
The main grievance of the residents, who are predominantly from the endangered Ticuna tribe, is that they see very little of the money spent by the 35,000 tourists who visited this popular region in 2010.
Pereira said, “What we earn here is very little. Tourists come here. They buy a few things, a few artisan goods, and then they go. It is the travel agencies that make the good money.”
They also complain that the tourists are not respecting them or their environment. “People came, left their rubbish, garbage bags, plastic bottles” said Grimaldo Ramos, a Nazareth resident. “Tourists come and shove a camera in our faces” he went on. “Imagine if you were sitting in your home and strangers came in and started taking photos of you. You wouldn’t like it.”
Nazareth residents are also concerned about the erosion of their culture by the visitors. Pereira said “We don’t like it when they ask members of the community about our traditional knowledge and the medicines we possess. If we don’t preserve our culture in the next 30 years it will be finished.”
Despite this attitude, not all indigenous groups are so hostile to tourists. The mayor of Puerto Nariño, a town a few hours down the Amazon River, welcomes tourists, who must go through one of the town’s travel agencies, as long as they abide by rules such as no drug taking and no sexual tourism.
But in Nazareth, the foreigners are not missed. Ramos said “We feel good here without the tourists. There are no little annoyances.”