On the 15th of February we visited Alcatraz as part of our course on tourism and authenticity. We found that most tourists expected to explore Alcatraz’s storied history as a maximum security prison. Indeed we learned much about the prison but also so much more about the island. When we first arrived on the island Ranger John recommended we watch the informative movie (starring himself of course) on the history of Alcatraz. We learned that it was once a military instillation and site of a major 19 month long Indian sit-in.
The exhibits on the outside of the theater complimented the knowledge we gained from the film. We learned that Alcatraz was home to families and children who did not see the terror that the prison holds for most of us. It is also home to many species of non-indigenous plants and is a heralded as a nature reserve.
However once we got our workout in for the day by climbing 13 stories to the summit of the island where the prison was located we were able to dig deeper into the history of the prison. Unfortunately, there ended our education on the other aspects of the island. At that point we worked our way through the maze that was Alcatraz prison with the aid of a guided audio tour. Previous prisoners and officers led us through the daily life and some of the more notable events that occurred. In addition to their voices, our experience was enhanced by audio effects such as catcalling by the prisoners down “broadway” and the sounds of struggle during the battle of Alcatraz.
One of our favorite experiences, despite the winds and treacherous conditions, was the vista of San Francisco and the iconic skyline. However, this is ironic because to the prisoners of Alcatraz, the view of San Francisco represented an unobtainable freedom.
By: Cameron Fleming, Alex Popof, Mary Luck