Indigenous tourism and social and environmental entrepreneurship


Map of Mexico

Research in this country was made in coordination with the Indigenous Tourism Network of Mexico (or locally known as RITA, acronym in Spanish for Red Indigena de Turismo). The Network includes 17 groups in 15 states. It is a network of tour¬ism companies and microenterprises that are run by 17 indigenous Mexican groups: the Purepecha, Nahua, Popoluca, Chinanteco, Amuzgo, Mazahua, Tlahuicas, Hñañhus, Zapotec, Mazatec, Totonac, Mam, Chol, Tzotzil, Tzeltal, Maya Masehual and Maya Peninsular groups. These indigenous groups are spread throughout 15 Mexican states.

RITA primarily focuses on ecotourism and microenterprises and promotes a self-sufficiency approach to indigenous community development, empazhising sustainable livelihoods in communities working in the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. RITA offered tourist services run by indigenous micro-entrepreneurs and had three regional offices located in Mexico City, Chiapas and Quintana Roo.

Given the nature and characteristics of the indigenous tourism network in Mexico, field visits included fieldwork and trips to the most notorious indigenous enterprises of this indigenous network in three states of this country, which encompasses activities and operations that highlight the natural, cultural and archeological heritage and values of indigenous peoples. Fieldwork in Mexico was undertaken in the Xochimilco region in the state of Mexico where the headquarters of this organization are located. The enterprise works on sustainable management of water ecosystems and wildlife resources in Xochimilco, region characterized by the existence of a system of canals that were threatened by infrastructure construction and water contamination. The remaining canals and their ecosystem were declared a World Heritage Site in 1987.

The second visit was to the indigenous enterprise of Ek Balam in the state of Yucatan. This enterprise is located in the same region of archeological ruins and Yucatan forests. The indigenous enterprise and lodge are located within the community limits of the pre-Hispanic city of Ek Balam in the municipality of Temozón of the eastern Yucatan, some 118 miles from Mérida, the capital city of this state. Its name means "dark or black jaguar" in the Maya language.

The third visit was made to the indigenous location of Kantemo, located in southeastern Mexico, in the Mayan forest of the state of Quintana Roo. This is becoming one of the most famous locations in terms of wildlife and environmental phenomena in the so-called cave of hanging snakes. In this site, hanging snakes adhered to the rocky walls waiting patiently for the leaving bats to trap and eat them becoming a vivid an extraordinary nature spectacle. This site has received visits of important international network channels, including Discovery Channel, BBC, Animal Planet, among others, to document the relationship between indigenous groups and its environment. The indigenous Mayan community of Kantemo established an indigenous enterprise to manage this site, in order to avoid natural and environmental impacts and the mismanagement by other private tour agencies, which would not leave benefits for its local people.

Project details