Souvenirs, animals, and enchantment: encountering Texas cowboy boots



Publication Details

Gibson, C. (2018). Souvenirs, animals, and enchantment: encountering Texas cowboy boots. In S. Gmelch & A. Kaul (Eds.), Tourists and Tourism: A Reader (pp. 211-224). Long Grove, United States: Waveland Press.


I disembarked the plane and followed the signs to the baggage carousel, passing glass display cabinets filled with cowboy boots. There were all sorts-brown, black, multicolored, snakeskin, lizard skin-with Cuban heels and ornate, ostentatious designs: inlaid sewn butterflies, chilies, and scorpions. At any other airport, waiting for a suitcase, one might linger in front of a TV screen showing a loop of local news and weather updates. Here in Texas, there is a cabinet filled with locally crafted cowboy boots, Welcome to El Paso-the cowboy boot capital of the world. The cowboy boot is the quintessential souvenir of Texas and a product of an artisanal trade with deep regional historical roots. It is also an enchanted object-a fashion-souvenir whose constituent materials and the animals from which they come evoke unsettling combinations of feelings and sensory responses among tourists. Through this seemingly parochial item we can reflect on how humans make and enchant material things via geographical and popular cultural mythologies and entangle ourselves in increasingly complex flows of people, animals, and place (Ramsay 2009)-connecting tourists with circuits of craft, commodification, and collecting across cultural difference. Seemingly trivial, cowboy boots are an entry point into questions of morality and materiality, mobility, and the value of local cultural production within processes of tourism commodification.

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