Quebec Studies

"Providing Emotions since 1534": The Politics of Visibility in Québec's Tourism Brand

Quebec Studies (2009), 48, (1), 35–52.

Abstract

35 "Providing Emotions since 1534": The Politics of Visibility in Quebec's Tourism Brand Melissa Aronczyk Carleton University 1 Introduction In the spring of 2006, the Q u é b e c Ministry of Tourism launched a $5.3 mil­ lion international advertising campaign (Varin). In most respects the cam­ paign w a s unexceptional. In its various iterations, from brochures to radio and television commercials to outdoor billboards, its colorful images and hyper-promotional texts paraded the activities and events one sees in m o s t tourism campaigns for the vast majority of places throughout the world. Shopping, fine dining, heritage sites, festivals, resorts, outdoor adventures: these are the categories that extensive m a r k e t research has indicated inter­ national visitors are likely to want to spend their time and tourism dollars on, and which form the b a c k b o n e of m o s t countries' tourism revenue. O n l y one aspect of this particular campaign set it apart. A m i d the images of snow-capped mountains, the Château Frontenac, and couples sipping w i n e in trendy Montreal restaurants w a s the trademarked tagline, "Pro­ viding Emotions since 1 5 3 4 " ("Fournisseur d'émotions depuis 1 5 3 4 " ) . 2 3 Historical dates, and the events they index, are never neutral markers of a linear historical narrative but contests over various kinds of legitimacy, subject to the dynamics of the context in which they are articulated. T h e year 1534 which graced the 2006 advertising campaign is n o exception. T h o u g h official lore locates the founding of Q u é b e c in 1608, with the arrival of the French explorer S a m u e l de Champlain on the shores of the eventual provincial capital, 1534 refers to J a c q u e s Carrier's first voyage to the Gaspé Peninsula, w h e n he claimed the land for King Francis I. T h e territory w o u l d b e c o m e the first colony of N e w France. F o r some, this date marks not only the birth of Q u é b e c but also the de facto founding of Canada. For others, however, particularly those w h o s e historical m e m o r y stretches back to the eighteenth-century conquest of N e w France b y the British, Quebeckers are the only ones in Canada w h o can legitimately cite the date as a point of origin. To claim 1534 is to claim the historical heft of two hundred years before the unfortunate battle on the Plains of A b r a h a m , along with a sense of cultural and territorial entitlement. To express the tension over these two dates, w e can look to two dif­ ferent c o m m e m o r a t i v e events in Q u é b e c City. In 2008, Q u é b e c City duly celebrated its 4 0 0 anniversary with m u c h p o m p and circumstance; b u t in 1984, the city celebrated the year 1534 with a festival of even greater pro­ portions. Called Q u é b e c 84, the sixty-three-day festival w a s launched to observe the 4 5 0 anniversary of J a c q u e s Carrier's arrival. T h e highlight of the festival w a s the v o y a g e of eighty-five massive sailboats ("tall ships") from Q u é b e c City to France, following, in reverse course, the route that Jacques Cartier h a d taken centuries before. According to n e w s p a p e r re­ t h t h Québec Studies, Volume 48, Fall 2009/Winter 2010

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Aronczyk, Melissa