Ecotourism and Women's Empowerment: A Case Study in Quintana Roo, Mexico

Institution: Michigan Technological University
Funders (21)
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Why This Project Is Important 

Ecotourism is often seen as one route to the sustainable development of rural areas; gender equity is one dimension of sustainable development. My research will raise awareness of the importance of gender equity and women’s empowerment in the ecotourism industry. I will uncover the processes through which women are empowered or not in the ecotourism industry in a very popular tourism destination: Quintana Roo, Mexico. Without explicitly considering gender disparities, ecotourism might be a “gender blind” industry that only reinforces traditional gender models, putting women in disadvantaged positions instead of promoting gender equity and social justice.

Project Description 

Ecotourism could be a valuable tool to promote women’s empowerment, with its attention to social justice and encouragement of participation and empowerment of local people, including women. However, little attention is currently devoted to women’s participation in ecotourism. This is particularly true in places such as Quintana Roo, Mexico, where the tourism industry is the main economic activity in the area. The purpose of my research is to understand the processes through which ecotourism empowers or disempowers women. My research is a comparative case study of two ecotourism projects in Quintana Roo, Mexico. The first was formed exclusively by women (“Orquideas de Sian Ka’an”), and the other was formed with both male and female participation (“Muyil”, also known as “Community Tours Sian Ka’an”).

In order to complete my research, I need to conduct four months of ethnographic fieldwork. I plan to stay two months in Punta Allen Town, where the Orquideas de Sian Ka’an project is located, and two months in Tulum where the Muyil project is based. I will conduct semi-structured interviews and participant observations of the ecotourism projects and communities. The results of my project will inform governments, business companies, international and local organizations about how local women are participating in the industry, and will improve sustainable development policies supporting ecotourism projects by identifying practices that improve women’s empowerment.

Meet the Researcher

Mayra Sanchez Gonzalez

Mayra Ofelia Sanchez Gonzalez completed her BS and MS degrees in Social Anthropology in Yucatan, Mexico. In her studies, she investigated how children develop their gender identity in rural areas. Additionally, she worked for the Mexican Government Minister of Social Development and in a local NGO that partnered with UNICEF developing projects to promote indigenous children's rights. Currently, she is a PHD candidate in Environmental and Energy Policy at Michigan Technological University. She is developing her dissertation on ecotourism, community development and women empowerment in Quintana Roo, Mexico. Inspired by growing up in an area dominated by tourism, Sanchez Gonzalez wants to create more environmentally and socially friendly tourism projects and policies that benefit local communities. With community goals in mind, she is involved in academic and social student organizations where she promotes equity, diversity awareness and sustainability on campus.

Questions for the Researcher

jesus.ruizf's picture
Jesús Ruiz-Flores  April 18, 2016 - 11:26pm
Hi Mayra. I have already sent the invitation through the Latin American Studies Section in Facebook. Dr. Jesús Ruiz Flores Universidad de Guadalajara, México.
mosanche's picture
Mayra Sanchez Gonzalez (Researcher)  April 19, 2016 - 12:56am
Hi Dr. Jesus Ruiz-Flores thank you very much for sharing my project with the WSSA Latin American Studies section! I really appreciate your help and support. Sincerely, Mayra

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of $9,300 fund goal
The average donation for this project is $30
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What Your Donation Can Help Us Do: 

  • Individual donations, and organization sponsorship are needed to support the fieldwork in Quintana Roo, Mexico to collect the necessary data for developing my research:
  • Staying two months in Punta Allen town where the “Orquideas de Sian Ka’an” ecotourism project is located.
  • Staying two months in Tulum town where the “Muyil” ecotourism project mainly operates.

$1+ (21/200)

email updates form the project

$20 (17/200)

Personal thank you note from the researcher, plus the above

$150 (0/50)

A small handcraft from local cooperaties, plus all the above

$500 (0/20)

A large handcraft from local cooperatives, and a picture signed from one of the cooperative members, plus the above

All donations of any size will receive regular email updates from the project.

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