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introducing the area


 quotes about tourism
 key testimonies featuring tourism

sign for Monte Alban, MexicoOaxaca city is an historical and cultural centre in Mexico which draws many national and international visitors. The city itself, with its colonial buildings and squares, is an attraction, as are the Zapotec sites in the surrounding valley - ancient settlements such as Monte Alban, Mitla and Yagul - and contemporary market towns such as Tlacolula.

ancient site in MexicoThe Sierra Norte is located close to Oaxaca; its southern slopes are visible from the city. Communities in the Sierra are exploring the possibilities of attracting tourists and visitors, both from other parts of Mexico and other countries. They are promoting what is called "ecotourism", for while these mountain Zapotecs cannot boast large archaeological sites, they aim to attract visitors with the scenery, ecology and culture of their communities and community lands.

A narrator from Yavesía (Mexico 12) describes how the idea came of an ecotourism project: "We made various trips into the forest and we took various biologists so that they would see the damage that was being done in the area of exploitation and the wealth of resources that the village had.We were accompanied by five, six, eight villagers and these [trips]. were undertaken as tequios (obligatory, unpaid community work). The biologist, Fernando, gave us a lot of advice during these trips and others that also helped us said, 'Why don't you dedicate a space, an area for ecotourism? If you're worried about conservation and using the forest reasonably, well, ecotourism could help you'". A subsequent decision in the asamblea general (community parliament) formally launched the project: ".In the general assembly in September '97 the ciudadanos (citizens) discussed the question of resources and territory and the decision was taken by the asamblea, by the community to initiate an ecotourism project."

As yet, the project in Yavesía is in its infancy: ".we are moving very slowly but we have advanced in that the people have become aware of the importance of the resources, the way to use them reasonably and the decision to protect and conserve them" (Mexico 12). A young narrator from Ixtepeji tells of the origins of the more developed ecotourism project in that community (Mexico 26): ".[the project] started when it was discovered that here in the Ixtepeji area there is a type of pine that is not very common; they say, I think, that it is no longer found in all of Mexico, except, I believe that there is also a little in the state of Veracruz. It is called the seudotzuga pine. So, they made [a plan] to protect this area and there was a proposal that, with this, they could carry out an ecotourism project in order to continue conserving the area and to stop exploiting it, which is the activity in which the community of Ixtepeji is most involved - exploiting the mountains and forests. So it was. taken to a asamblea.".

He describes the beginnings of his own involvement as a tourist guide: ".we started in October of last year following an invitation by the ecotourism participate in a mountain bike workshop. So.Carlos and I got to know about [ecotourism] there and. [agreed] that I was to participate in the ecotourism group.And then we started to receive some training in mammalogy, entomology, ornithology, interpretacion ambiental (environmental awareness) and some other short courses." (Mexico 26).

A particular feature of Ixtepeji is its accessibility from the city of Oaxaca which means they can, for example, attract participants in a mountain-bike race: ".we had - I think in June or July - a mountain bike race in La Cumbre. There were around 50 racers from the city of Oaxaca." (Mexico 26). He refers to other features which they offer as attractions ".the scenic viewpoints and all the attractive places we have." as well as "camping places, places for fires .the community of Yuvila where there is the chocolate factory, and a mushroom farm - there's a carpentry workshop too." They have built accommodation for groups and are preparing a dining hall: "by the end of the year it will be ready and we will buy more equipment" (Mexico 26).

The aim is for the project to contribute to the protection of the natural features of Ixtepeji. They are receiving some help from outside, from both government and non-governmental organisations: "the only support [the Tourism Department] gave us was the brochure.The strongest support [we have been given] is from WWF and Fondo Mexicano (para la Conservación de la Naturaleza; Mexican Fund for the Conservation of Nature) for the construction of this office where we are, and for other projects such as the signs or other facilities here in the campsite." (Mexico 26). Another narrator from Ixtepeji (Mexico 20) emphasises that the project is still in development, but that it has the support of the community: ".it is a new project for us and we don't yet know the form it will take. But we are taking steps to get to know it in stages; we are starting with the support of the asamblea general (community parliament) to take the project further."

quotes about tourism

"Yes, I think [Ixtepeji] is important due to our location and the diversity of plants, and the great quantity of mammal species that there are. In many places, sometimes even if it is very remote, if the people who live there are hunters, then they finish everything.But [the animals will survive] if there is [forest] management."
Armando, M/23, tourist guide, El Punto, Ixtepeji, Oaxaca, Mexico 26

"It is easy to chop down a tree, but to plant one and let it grow and reach a normal size - well this takes a lot of work and many years. For this reason I believe that the intention behind carrying out new projects for the community, not just this ecotourism project but also others, is to generate jobs without the need to continue destroying our forest, which we know is our life, and not just ours but also that of many more people, because water comes from here and there are also many animals."
Armando, M/23, tourist guide, El Punto, Ixtepeji, Oaxaca, Mexico 26

"The [ecotourism project] that is already in process is three years old, and the establishment of the committee [took] about two and a half years. The young were invited to participate as guides. At the beginning.the committee sought us out, but as time went by, it was more out of our own will to be near the project, because of which we now have a camping site.[and] a hostel where a lot of people come to stay at weekends."
Armando, M/23, tourist guide, El Punto, Ixtepeji, Oaxaca, Mexico 26

key testimonies featuring tourism

  No.   Name   Sex/Age   Occupation   Location  
Summary Transcript   12    Mario Fernando   male/36   community manager   Yavesía, Oaxaca  
Summary Transcript   20    Otilio   male/M   president of the comisariado de bienes comunales   La Cumbre, Ixtepeji, Oaxaca  
Summary Transcript   26    Armando   male/23   tourist guide   El Punto, Ixtepeji, Oaxaca