Brazil, like some countries in Africa, has become a major
destination for African American tourists seeking the cultural
roots of the black Atlantic diaspora. Drawing on over a decade of
ethnographic research as well as textual, visual, and archival
sources, Patricia de Santana Pinho investigates African American
roots tourism, a complex, poignant kind of travel that provides
profound personal and collective meaning for those searching for
black identity and heritage. It also provides, as Pinho's
interviews with Brazilian tour guides, state officials, and
Afro-Brazilian activists reveal, economic and political rewards
that support a structured industry.
Pinho traces the origins of roots tourism to the late 1970s, when
groups of black intellectuals, artists, and activists found
themselves drawn especially to Bahia, the state that in previous
centuries had absorbed the largest number of enslaved Africans.
African Americans have become frequent travelers across what Pinho
calls the "map of Africanness" that connects diasporic communities
and stimulates transnational solidarities while simultaneously
exposing the unevenness of the black diaspora. Roots tourism, Pinho
finds, is a fertile site to examine the tensions between racial and
national identities as well as the gendered dimensions of travel,
particularly when women are the major roots-seekers.