Heritage tourism in Latin America : cultural routes and the legacy of Simón Bolívar in Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela

McQueen, George Genung
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Heritage tourism is one of the fastest growing sub-categories of the tourism industry, which is arguably the largest industry in the world. When communities and regions compete for a greater share of the heritage tourism market, the authenticity and integrity of a heritage can be compromised by the way it is represented. One way to represent heritage is a “cultural route,” which has recently been added to definition of “cultural heritage” in the UNESCO World Heritage Convention. The interpretation of a “cultural route,” however, continues to evolve, especially in Latin America. In anticipation of the bicentennial celebration of independence from Spain, two cultural routes were separately inaugurated in 2009: the Ruta del Libertador in Ecuador and Venezuela, and the Ruta Libertadora in Colombia. After providing an overview of the historical, political and cultural contexts that surround these routes, this paper draws upon a website content analysis to explores how national identity, cultural heritage and the legacy of Simón Bolívar are represented by the governments of Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela. These observations and analyses show that while both routes represent a shared heritage, the differences in their representations straddle the definitions of “authenticity” and “cultural heritage,” as the Ruta Libertadora in Colombia is a “cultural route” and the Ruta del Libertador in Ecuador and Venezuela is a “cultural tourism route.” However, when considered together, the Ruta del Libertador and Ruta Libertadora are a cultural route that more accurately represents a crucial moment in Latin American history: the liberation of South America from Spain, led by Simón Bolívar, “El Libertador.”