A small town in the depths of the Amazon has declared itself off-limits to tourists. Why? Locals complain of tourists behaving badly and the fact that little of their spending actually benefits the indigenous people. —JCL
The small Amazonian town of Nazareth is a traveller’s dream. Wildlife prowls the surrounding jungles and indigenous inhabitants practise ceremonies that long predate the arrival of the Spanish conquistadores.
But it may be advisable for tourists to give the place a wide berth. Locals have declared their town off-limits to travellers, even though this stretch of the Amazon river is playing host to more visitors than ever. Their main complaint: tourists’ behaviour, and that only a fraction of the money they spend trickles down to the indigenous.
“What we earn here is very little. Tourists come here, they buy a few things, a few artisan goods, and they go. It is the travel agencies that make the good money,” said Juvencio Pereira, an Indigenous Guard, Nazareth’s unofficial volunteer police force.
The town of 800 people, a 20-minute boat ride from the tourist hub of Leticia, takes its ban seriously. At the entrance, Pereira and other guards stand armed with their traditional sticks to deter unwelcome visitors. Nazareth resident Grimaldo Ramos feels that some tourists can’t distinguish between the wildlife and the Amazon’s residents, snapping photos of indigenous families as if they were another animal. “Tourists come and shove a camera in our faces,” he said. “Imagine if you were sitting in your home and strangers came in and started taking photos of you. You wouldn’t like it.”
A boat navigates the Amazon River in Colombia.