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Adaptations of a Yucatec Maya Multiple-Use Ecological Management Strategy to Ecotourism

Eduardo García-Frapolli, Centro de Investigaciones en Ecosistemas, UNAM
Víctor M Toledo, Centro de Investigaciones en Ecosistemas, UNAM
Joan Martinez-Alier, Institut de Ciencia i Tecnologia Ambientals, Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona


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Over the last 40 years, the Yucatan Peninsula has experienced the implementation and promotion of development programs that have economically and ecologically shaped this region of Mexico. Nowadays, tourist development has become the principal catalyst of social, economic, and ecological changes in the region. All these programs, which are based on a specialization rationale, have historically clashed with traditional Yucatec Maya management of natural resources. Using participant observation, informal and semi-structured interviews, and life-history interviews, we carried out an assessment of a Yucatec Maya natural resources management system implemented by three indigenous communities located within a natural protected area. The assessment, intended as an examination of the land-use practices and productive strategies currently implemented by households, was framed within an ecological–economic approach to ecosystems appropriation. To examine the influence of tourism on the multiple-use strategy, we contrasted productive activities among households engaged primarily in ecotourism with those more oriented toward traditional agriculture. Results show that households from these communities allocated an annual average of 586 work days to implement a total of 15 activities in five different land-use units, and that those figures vary significantly in accordance with households’ productive strategy (agriculture oriented or service oriented). As the region is quickly becoming an important tourist destination and ecotourism is replacing many traditional activities, we discuss the need for a balance between traditional and alternative economic activities that will allow Yucatec Maya communities to diversify their economic options without compromising existing local management practices.

Key words

ecotourism; human appropriation; México; multiple use; rural metabolism; Yucatec Maya

Copyright © 2008 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article  is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.  You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087