Monday, January 27, 2014

An open letter to tourists

Dear tourists from around the world:

I see you up there in your horse and buggy carriage. You have that large camera around your neck ready to snap a photo of my life.

You see trash and children and assume a lot of things about who we are.

You see clothing drying on trees and snap a photo of "all that poverty".

I saw you point at my house in awe before you snapped an unsolicited photo of my babies in the yard.

My sons were playing marbles in the dirt and you wanted a picture for your scrap book.

You point at my zinc roof and wooden walls in wonder, not realizing how proud I am to have a roof over my head to shelter my babies from the rain.

When you pass by my children in school I see you buy candies from the tour guide. I see you entice them out of class to throw the sugary treats. I know it makes you feel good. You think you've done something special in their lives. You don't realize someone else did the same thing an hour ago and all you are doing is pulling my already tourist districted kids out of school and teaching them to beg in the streets. I know you think they have nothing. I know you feel like you have so much and they have so little and spending $5.00 on candy must make their day. They look so happy. What you don't know is that they will fight over who got more candy, stare at the road awaiting the next group of white people with cameras, and continue to make teaching this rambunctious group a challenge for their teacher.

You think to yourself, "Everybody deserves a break." When you think that let me remind you that you are in my home on your vacation pulling my kids out of class everyday. They get Christmas and holidays just like you do. Today is not that day. My children are trying to study and all you are teaching them is that if they wait long enough white people will throw candy at the closest kid they can find.

It seems to me that what you desire is a picture. A picture of poverty to show your friends. Later, you will huddle around a computer looking through the photos. You'll describe the scene as you think it unfolded. "Look at this little boy- he has nothing." And "This little girl, she isn't even wearing a diaper. They must not have parents to care for them. I think the disease is this area is very high." You assume things about my family and myself. Your good deed for the day was looking at that picture and feeling sad. You feel righteous because you have guilt over your own possessions.

I realize that my community looks different than yours, but it is my home nonetheless. I would appreciate if you would first treat us like people and then, if you still so desire, your charity case. It's funny how much time you spend looking at me from behind a camera. You probably don't even realize how friendly my neighbors are. Maybe you should stop by for a conversation. Maybe you should put down your camera and only bring it up again after you know my name. Maybe only take a picture you'd hang on your wall because it's a picture of you with a friend and not a picture for your "look-at-all-the-poor-people-I've-seen scrapbook."

I don't want to discourage you from visiting. I think we could learn a lot from each other. All it's going to take is meeting each other in the middle, as people and letting something better shine through.

Thank you,
From the campo


  1. Wow. I have minimal traveling experience outside of this country but that is pretty ridiculous!

    That being said, how many babies do you have?!?

  2. im sure this is a pretty common feeling