A development which has been taking place in Mani for the past two decades has brought not only financial gains to our region, but also new practices and mindsets. These are the customs and mentalities of both visitors/tourists and of new settlers. As long as these new characteristics are in harmony with our own culture, they are welcome. However, when these new customs are not in harmony with our values, then there is the danger that the local culture and the specific nature of Mani (the particular character of the area), which is the product of many generations of Maniots practising the same customs and cultural norms, will change drastically. In order to avert this risk, coordinated actions of the whole region are needed; unfortunately, this kind of initiative has not as yet been undertaken. The question now is: how many people are aware of these risks, and even more important, how many local people are willing to undertake action in order to preserve the Maniot culture?
It is hopeful for the region that according to the prebookings for the Greek tourist season of 2018, there will be an increase of 10% in tourists. Some of these visitors will visit Mani, which means increased business in our area. The beauty of our natural environment and the welcoming nature of Maniots are well known and do not need to be praised in our column. However, what would really help local entrepreneurs is if first-time visitors became repeated visitors to Mani and if they advertised our region to friends and acquaintances. It is certain that visitors would enjoy their stay in Mani more, if they were to get to know our cultural monuments through quality foreign-language publications on our cultural heritage and through well-documented guided tours. The same can be said about the local cuisine and local food ingredients. Some progress has already been made in these areas, but these are mostly isolated actions that need to be grouped together and systematised. The long-term preservation of the main characteristics of our area (i.e., nature, climate, cultural heritage, history) needs stronger coordinated action across the whole region of Mani.
A small tour of our villages reveals very different demographics than thirty (30) years ago. In some villages the new settlers are more numerous than Maniots. The question now is the following: which culture and lifestyle are going to prevail? The local culture that was developed many centuries ago or the culture of the new settlers? This issue is crucial, particularly for the indigenous inhabitants who believe in Mani and our heroic ancestors and have spoken in public about these issues. These people in particular should look for innovative ideas and suggestions, so that they can support the preservation of the local culture not only with words, but also with actions, which might require some small personal sacrifice.
The new residents of our region can generally be divided into two large groups: a) those who come from countries with a high level of civilisation, particularly from western European counties, and b) those who started coming to Greece after the collapse of the former Eastern Bloc, thirty (30) years ago; these economic migrants continued to arrive in Mani for twenty (20) years after the fall of the communist block. This flow only stopped with the Greek economic crisis. In spite of the economic crisis, many of the economic migrants stayed in our country, and most of them have now become permanent residents. Their children were born and raised here.
The first group of the new inhabitants of Mani (citizens of western European nations) already had a lot of knowledge about our area before they settled here; actually, most of them settled here exactly because of this knowledge. The second group, however, (the economic migrants from the former Eastern block) had very little knowledge about our area; even today, they have learned very little about Mani, because the constant struggle for survival leaves them with little time for anything else. Both of these groups are characterised by a general lack of interest in acquiring more knowledge about the Maniot culture and our heroic traditions. The children of these new residents might attend regular public Greek schools, however, even these children who were born in Greece, do not learn about Maniot culture. There is no formal teaching of the local culture, and in the few schools where this teaching takes place, it is incomplete and uncoordinated.
This last thought brings us to the following crucial question: how much knowledge about Mani, its culture and its history will the inhabitants of Mani of the next one or two generations have? Have the leaders of the municipalities of our area reflected at all on this issue? If they have, should they not be coordinating their actions, so that they can draft and implement long-term integral-type programs, which year after year will promote the cultural identity of our area to present and future generations? Should they not be promoting , the whole range of our local culture, from our dietary habits to the local Maniot mores, customs and traditions based on past entitlement?
We are leaving these questions unanswered, in the hope that some enlightened local leader might be moved by this editorial and undertake some belated action.