COPPER CANYON TOUR AGENCY CONNECTS VISITORS WITH INDIAN COMMUNITIES AND THEIR CHALLENGES
Project Status: On going
GOALS AND OBJECTIVES
Eco-AlterNATIVE Tours (EANT) operates in the Copper Canyon in the Mexican state of Chihuahua at an elevation of 2,345m with the goal to bring about change in how tourism operates in this region by minimizing its impact on the Indigenous communities. With more than 60 hotels and private tour operators in the area alone providing tours to approximately 100,000 tourists per year, massive tourism development projects are underway, and the number of visitors expected to this region is projected to increase exponentially.
EANT’s first objective is to offer alternative tour experiences, thanks to the supervision of its Tarahumara Indian owner and tour guide, who is also an anthropologist. Through small group tours, the agency tries to avoid impacting traditional lifeway’s in the communities and introducing visitors to the community where they can meet Tarahumara families and learn about their history, culture, language, and worldview, which are intricately connected to the stewardship of these mountains. The second objective is to train indigenous tour guides. In order to minimize the seasonal migration and offering other job opportunities.
HOW DO WE CONTRIBUTE TO MOUNTAIN PROTECTION
First, visitors learn more about local nature and its importance, through traditional indigenous life and knowledge of Tarahumara Indians, as well as three other ethnic groups, using sustainable tourism as our platform. Second, the platform contributes to promote Indigenous people, the caretakers of these mountains, by being visible and active social agents rather than silent actors that blend in with the landscape. Indigenous people are on the front lines protecting their land from illegal logging, land conflicts, natural gas pipelines and other large-scale development projects that threaten the bio-cultural diversity of the Sierra Tarahumara. Read the TripAdvisor review.
Third, EANT tours create awareness among its clients and hosting communities for the need for sustainable tourism practices.
COLLABORATION WITH LOCAL COMMUNITIES
EANT works directly with Tarahumara families to host visitors dignifying indigenous life and culture and contributes financially to the social organization of the community. One positive example is the fact that the Tarahumara host families didn’t have to migrate to the city and could stay to contribute to the villages’ social organization. The Tarahumara have strong community values, therefore, retaining a family in the village is an impact felt by many. By reaching more travellers, we can collaborate with more families and communities anticipating to grow their social and economic benefits while being sensitive to our footprint in their community.
GOING FURTHER THAN BUSINESS AS USUAL
The way Eco AlterNATIVE Tours is envisioned is to reveal the reality of the current impact tourism has on the mountains and native people. We have strived to educate about that reality and the deep cultural and spiritual connection the Tarahumara have here, yet face serious challenges in the face of development and ideas of what poverty and progress are to the outside world. The clients leave, understanding and seeing how climate change affects a group tied to the land, the animals, about issues affecting the area such as deforestation and over-exploitation of natural resources. EANT uses traditional paths as teaching tools to show hikers how the Tarahumara use the trails– pointing out the spring water holes and the medicinal and edible wild plants, for example.
We encourage all visitors that we meet to choose local, small businesses and ecotourism options when they are traveling. By taking one of our multi-day tours, you are supporting Tarahumara families. We have already approached university professors to bring students, and we will offer a volunteer tourism option engaging them to work the land side by side with a Tarahumara family while participating with the culture.