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15 / 07 / 2004
Eusebio Leal Spengler, director of the historian's office of the city of Havana: “Tourism should never ignore culture”

The Forum “141 Questions” (67): “Tourists: responsible at home and pillagers abroad?” Eusebio Leal, one of the most outstanding specialists in heritage of Latin America avoided an explanation of the negative aspects of certain tourism practices and emphasized that the encounter of cultures contributes to “secure peace in the world.” Leal pointed that tourism contributes to enhance human relations and progress, as well as to social and community-based development and intercultural relations. He is opposed to “trivialization and reductionism” in the ways tourist destinations are presented, since “we are much more than a product image.”

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Eusebio Leal Spengler, director of the Historian’s Office of the City of Havana highlighted today at the Haima stage, “the most important aspect of a city for tourists should be the knowledge of its own culture.” He called tourism “a useful and important movement of general importance” because it can help foster initiatives to improve human relations and promote social and community-based progress: “Tourism secures peace in the world,” he concluded.

He is convinced that “tourism must never ignore culture” and was opposed to the “trivialization and reduction” that tourism makes of popular destinations “because we a re more than a product image.” In this respect, he believes that travel agents can contribute to “a comprehensive, realistic, plural and objective representation” of those destinations by means of their “indigenous cultural values.”

During his speech he also referred to the importance of giving an adequate cultural training to the youngest ones, and explained the museum workshops that were set up during the restoration works of the Plaza Vieja of Havana. “We had to seat 400 children in the various rooms of the museum due to a momentary lack of classrooms. And we discovered that the children who were in close contact with culture were highly sensitized.”

Leal Spengler mentioned cases such as those of the Caves of Altamira, Venice, or Toledo, to explain the problems that can massive tourism can cause: “Venice subjugated by tourists has become a place as unaffordable for its inhabitants who had to build two cities nearby to house the people.” He cited that another worrisome aspect is that which appears in certain third world countries, “When they discover the benefit that their cultural heritage can give them, sometimes they act like this ended up cornering the native population.”

He wasn’t very predisposed to repair the most negative questions that generate certain types of tourism; he underlined that “sexual tourism should be combated with the development of the economy and general progress.” He described the campaigns that stir up this route of tourism as “embarrassing and intolerable” and regretted that “many people, due to a situation of crisis, have given into this bitter reality.”

In respect to the relations with the United States, Eusebio Leal Spengler regretted the “aggressive policy” that the Bush Administration practices in respect to Cuba, “We are only 90 miles from them and we share a lot of pastimes with them and cultural displays with them. We will only find solutions through dialogue and through exchange.”

Eusebio Leal Spengler (City of Havana, 1942) is a doctor in Historical Sciences of the University of Havana and has his masters in Latin American, Caribbean, and Cuban Studies. He is President of the Commission of Monuments in the City of Havana and a specialist in Archeological Sciences, who studied for his postgraduate in Italy on the restoration of historical centers.