Lacandones, guardians of biodiversity

viviana vasque duque
Viviana Vasquez

Indigenous communities make up only 6% of the world's population. Despite this, they are the ones who maintain the ancestral knowledge that today is of great use in facing the challenges of climate change and the biodiversity crisis. Their communities are an example for the United Nations in terms of sustainability, self-sufficiency, resource consumption and waste generation.

Tourism for the care of ancestral territories

In this article we will travel to that Deep Mexico. We will travel the border between Mexico and Guatemala in the state of Chiapas. Considered the land of ancestral knowledge, as its community of Lacandon Mayans, are holders of cultures, traditions and fundamental knowledge to preserve biodiversity and take care of our planet. This millenary indigenous community has been living since its existence in perfect balance with its environment. Their way of life and ancestral knowledge, passed down from generation to generation, are a reference to face climate change and the biodiversity crisis, making tourism a development strategy for the care and conservation, but also for its sustainability.

lacandones custodians of biodiversity mexico

Lacandones, protectors of the forests:

Deforestation and poor resource management have for decades endangered the health of the Selva Lacandona, one of the most important lungs of the planet and home to thousands of plant and animal species. Its tropical rainforest is home to a great variety of plant and animal species, some of which are endemic to the region.

The community's history begins with the need to protect their land and culture. As inhabitants of the jungle, they knew better than anyone the importance of preserving biodiversity and keeping their rich history and traditions alive. To achieve this, tourism took a different direction than most conventional tourist destinations. Instead of seeking mass tourism and the construction of large hotels, the Lacandon community opted for a more sustainable and responsible approach to tourism development.

Travelers are welcomed by members of the community and can learn about their culture and lifestyle. This is a common practice in the region.

In their effort to conserve their cultural and natural heritage, they decided to create a tourism enterprise called Tres Lagunas, a company led by the indigenous communities of the Lacandon Jungle that offers tours and tourism activities. It is worth noting that, through strict management, the community has managed to preserve their land and culture, while promoting the economic development of their community.

Tourism governance in the Lacandon Community:

Tourism governance in Three Lagoons is led by its community, who are responsible for making decisions about tourism development in the region and ensuring that policies are implemented effectively. The community establishes rules and regulations, including the protection of biodiversity, the promotion of sustainable travel, and the preservation of the community's culture and traditions.

The community has created a system of fair distribution of the economic benefits brought by the industry. Community members actively participate as guides, cooks, and artisans, which allows them to generate income and improve their quality of life. Through tourism, the community has been able to transmit its culture and history to visitors. Their tours allow visitors to learn about the rich history of the Lacandon community, their traditions, rituals and worldview, while at the same time visitors have the opportunity to immerse themselves in the jungle, learn about its biodiversity and the importance of protecting it.

For the Lacandon community, Tres Lagunas is not just a tourism venture, but a way of life. Through tourism, the community has managed to protect their land and culture, generate income and improve their quality of life, and at the same time, transmit to the world the richness of their cultural and natural heritage.

lacandon man chiapas mexico

Three Lagoons is an example of how this guild can be a tool for cultural and environmental conservation, and how good governance led by indigenous communities can be effective and beneficial for all.

Tourism, an opportunity for resilience:

The Lacandon people, inhabitants of the jungle, know better than anyone the importance of preserving biodiversity and keeping their rich history and traditions alive. Tourism not only offers a unique experience for visitors, but is also beneficial for the community. The income that comes from the sector is shared equitably among its members, which helps to improve their living conditions and maintain their culture and traditions. By involving the community in the industry, a sense of responsibility and ownership over the rainforest has been created, leading to greater awareness of the need for its conservation.

The community has also implemented measures to reduce environmental impact. Instead of building large structures for visitors, the communities offer lodging in cabins and tents, and services are provided in an environmentally friendly manner. In addition, rules have been established for access to the rainforest to reduce the impact of human activity in the region.

The importance of the Lacandon community in the conservation of the Lacandon rainforest is undeniable. Their sustainable and responsible approach to tourism has demonstrated that nature conservation and economic development can coexist. They are the ones who have managed to preserve their culture and traditions, which makes them an example for other indigenous communities around the world to follow.

The success of Tres Lagunas has not been a coincidence, but the result of the effort and dedication of the community that together with the support and funding of organizations such as Fundación Azteca, Sustentur, Elektra México, Aerómexico and of course La Mano del Mono, have managed to strengthen the capacities of local communities in the framework of nature tourism through the Market Ready methodology, a program that works for the well-being of nature destinations and the communities that give them life and culture, raising the business potential and impact of adventure and experiential tourism companies to connect them with certainty to local and global markets.

Listen to testimony from Tres Lagunas: