Posted by: Bob Fisher | May 18, 2009

Kanché and Puerta Verde: A Role Model for Alternative, Grassroots, and Indigenous Travel


… with Jesús Mesa del Castillo Bermejo

Redevelopment and respect

Throughout the world there is a renewed recognition of the wisdom and pragmatism of aboriginal peoples. There is also a renewed emphasis on the art and the artistry inherent in their way of life.

As many nations begin to refocus and re-orient their societies, especially in terms of the challenges inherent in their physical environments, and the growing urbanization of human communities everywhere, governments and non-governmental organizations are rediscovering and reaffirming the interdependent relationships to land and sea that “First Peoples” have always had.


1. originating in and characteristic of a particular region or country; native;
2. innate; inherent; natural; (i.e. feelings indigenous to human beings)
3. autochthonous, aboriginal;
4. intrinsic.

“For Indigenous people, the goal for our land is definitely about protection, but it’s also about use. We see ourselves as so integrated with our territory that our protection is tied to our use and our use is tied to our protection. We use the resources on our territory to live.”

— Rebecca Adamson, American Indian Rights Activist, Founder, First Nations Development Institute & First Peoples Worldwide

Tourism, international development, and social justice

As Jesús Mesa points out in our chat, he came to Mexico initially because of his belief in advancing the cause of social justice. Social justice is of course an enormous task, theme, and international issue. But it is also intrinsic to the development of human civilization.

Probably without being aware of it, millions of people around the world contribute to the advancement of social justice simply by travelling, learning, and communicating to others what they have experienced. This exponential consciousness-raising always starts on a personal level but rarely does it remain hidden away in the hearts and minds of individuals. The very nature of in-depth travel encourages conceptual growth and intercultural understanding.

According to the Mission Statement of Kanché, this asociación civil “offers rural communities access to the knowledge needed to create their own productive actions” and it is therefore an agency that “facilitates the development of rural communities with participatory models based on the sustainable management of natural and cultural resources.”

Created in 2006 by young people from Mexico and other parts of the world, the organization and its members have have committed themselves to the development of rural communities living with poverty and lack of opportunities. Above all, they have committed themselves to improving the quality of life of these rural communities; and in so doing I suspect they have enhanced their own.

Kanché is a principled, pragmatic, and non-political organization that has also focused on alternative development through tourism, integrating into their programs economies of scale in terms of the number of people that their “getaway packages” will sustain. The average number of people on a getaway package offered by their partner Puerta Verde is 10 individuals. What this also assures therefore is that the kind of travel experience the “client” engages in is qualitatively different from what is often available through other mass tourism outlets.


Into a Mayan cenote…

Descending into a Mayan Cenote Where Time Stands Still

Take a virtual tour of Coba with us.

From Coba With Love

Watch two videos on You Tube produced by Kanché and Puerta Verde … and practise your Spanish.

Puerta Verde (parte 1), turismo sustentable en Cancún,México

Puerta Verde (parte 2), turismo sustentable en Cancún, México

Images and imagery

To watch a slideshow of images from Kanché and Puerta Verde, click here.

How to get a grassroots and authentic appreciation of Mayan culture

The grassroots and in-depth travel experience made possible through the collaboration of Kanché and Puerte Verde is the primary raison d’être of the two organizations. It is also the kind of travel experience where you are not on the outside looking in; this is participatory travel.

This Mayan “experience” will give you a much deeper appreciation of these people, their lifestyle, their heritage, and their interdependence with their environment — a lesson for the 21st-century world of travel and tourism.

Using Cancun as a point of departure, you can immerse yourself in an alternative, indigenous travel experience. And if you are an amateur (or professional) historian, cultural anthropologist, geologist, geographer, ethnologist, or environmentalist, the indigenous Mayan experience is for you.

As an innovative and “interconnected” entrepreneurial venture, the Kanché-Puerta Verde enterprise is also a role model for other such potential travel ventures.

Working with 14 cooperatives from rural communities in the north of the Yucatan Peninsula, Kanché has created an alternative tourism route in the state of Quintana Roo in which fishing and agriculture have been the traditional industries but both of which are in decline. In addition, deforestation and intensive hunting have occurred and damage has been done to the marine and land ecosystems.

By refocusing the region on tourism (what Kanché refers to as “traveling with a cause”), Kanché and Puerte Verde are also encouraging the recognition and validation of the area’s natural resources as both a natural and cultural heritage. This in turn generates work, income, and the preservation of the natural and cultural resources which are the fundamental “products and services” of this business venture. As a non-profit governmental organization, Kanché in turn re-invests the profits generated through this alternative tourism into further developing existing community-oriented projects and beginning new ones.

What the two organizations are in essence achieving is a renaissance of cultural heritage, and a renewed vision of how people can interact productively with the landscape.

What are the travel opportunities that Kanché and Puerta Verde offer?

The opportunities are open-ended and multidimensional. Programs are designed for such unique travel activities as:

bird-watching; entomology workshops; other biological-scientific trips (swimming with whale sharks, the largest and harmless fish of the sea); lifelong learning tours for seniors; corporate (or other) team-building activities; voluntourism; photo safaris; on-site sociological and cultural anthropological study sessions; gender equity awareness programs; Mayan music studies; agritourism, fishing, and apiculture; botanical tours; indigenous arts and crafts (embroidery, basketwork, hammock-making); archeological tours to Mayan sites; and our favourite, soft adventure especially rappelling into cenotes.

For more information, see


Puerta Verde.

For specific information on tours click here.

Other resources and related stories from The Philosophical Traveller

Worldview: First Peoples, First Principles

The Hands of Juan Quezada

The Quiet Hands and Mind of Dora Tse-Pe: Matrilineal Potter

The Siksika Nation of Alberta: Self-determination, Cultural Affirmation, Land, and Time

Exploring the World of Indigenous Peoples, with Graham Simmons

The Haida Heritage Centre: A First Nations Historical and Heritage Destination


  1. […] Kanché and Puerta Verde: A Role Model for Alternative, Grassroots, and Indigenous Travel […]

  2. […] Kanché and Puerta Verde: A Role Model for Alternative, Grassroots, and Indigenous Travel […]

  3. As you point out in your video on cenotes, there is a sense of reverence when you visit. i hope to make another trip back to Tulumn some time soon and do some further cenote exploration.

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