This paper addresses the relationship between tourism and natural heritage at San Pedro de Atacama, one of the most well-known localities in Chile that is attractive both for the variety of its landscapes and its culture. Travel agencies, managed almost exclusively by ‘afuerinos’, offer the same destinations, excluding the participation of the native population in the management of the area. In order to understand the identity strategy behind access to resources, the process of ethnogenesis is analysed, which occurred in parallel with the development of the tourist industry, along with the role played by natural heritage in both the symbolic and the political meaning of the term. The paper uses a quantitative ethnographic method to process information acquired on the ground in 2007, 2009 and 2012 through open interviews, participant observation, texts and documents. The work underlines the successful emergence of mystical tourism as a new cultural product.
Keywords: Ethnogenesis; tourism; heritage