Mexican university collaborate
Isaac, fifth from left, and students near a palapa in Quintana
Roo. Photo courtesy of Claudia Issac.
and faculty from UNM and the Universidad de Quintana Roo (UQROO)
recently conducted a summer field studio on eco-tourism and
rural development with area residents. UQROO is located in Chetumal,
possibilities seem as clear as the water in Laguna Guerrero
in Mexicos southern coastal region.
of Architecture and Planning (SAAP) then-Interim Dean Ric Richardson
and the rector at UQROO signed a cooperative agreement. The
collaboration evolved from a joint research and student exchange
agreement, or convenio, between the SAAP and the University
of Quintana Roo.
from UNMs Community and Regional Planning Program, Marjo
Curgus, Monica Delgado, James Easterling, Darcie Johnson, James
Scholz and Adriana Villar, took part in the program.
Engineering students from UQROO also took part in the six-week
seminar is a capstone course for advanced planning students.
Its an applied workshop for a client. The students pay
for their travel and expenses through grants, loans and their
own funds, says David Henkel, associate professor and
SAAP Community and Regional Planning director.
the summer trip, the students took the course Cultural Aspects
of Community Development. During the course they traveled to
Anapra, a colonia on the outskirts of Ciudad Juarez.
is a culturally and historically sensitive approach to community-based
planning. The students have to get on board with it and be ready
to conduct client-based work, says Henkel.
Division of Sciences and Engineering, faculty members guiding
the field course were Francisco Rosado-May, professor and director
of the Integrated Coastal Resources Management Program and Susanne
Kissmann, an instructor in the same program. Kissmann is a graduate
of the masters CRP program at UNM; Rosado-May spent a
sabbatical semester at the SAAP to develop a plan to create
a masters degree in planning at UQROO.
Guerrero is entirely within the southern Yucatan state of Quintana
Roo and empties onto the Bahía de Chetumal, shared by
Quintana Roo and Belize. Like neighboring Cancun and Cozumel,
Laguna Guerrero has tremendous eco-tourism possibilities. Unlike
those resort areas, however, Laguna Guerrero would like to satisfy
the appetites of the tourists, but with lower impacts,
held a sondeo, a rapid appraisal method where the students gathered
base information on the critical environmental, social and physical
factors that exist in the community, says Claudia Isaac,
associate professor of CRP and director of UNM Latin American
the area is dotted with palapas, open huts with thatched roofs
where campers can sling a hammock. Theyre by the
lagoon. Its great as long as you have mosquito netting,
says Isaac. The area also features four restaurants that serve
really good seafood, she says. Tourists can also take bird watching
also had to review formal government and local documentation
and plans, and interview residents. The students had to
walk through the fields to get a sense of the shape and infrastructure
of the community. They had to understand how the land is used,
planning process involved understanding the physical resources
and limitations, including means of income. It meant listening
to and understanding what the people wanted and developing a
had to draw a picture not presenting a narrow view. Are
we getting it? Is this right? We would take the feedback and
edit, modify and sharpen the perspective, says Isaac.
That process took three weeks.
members shared their ideas with the student team who produced
technical assistance materials for recreational program development,
equipment manufacture and infrastructure design.
The students and their teachers, together with interested community
leaders, put together five groups. One looked at the viability
of a kayak business. They wanted assistance in getting
the product out and developing a business plan, says Isaac.
group worked to find ways to make the restaurants known in Chetumal.
The restaurants could appeal to both the insiders and
outsiders, she says.
group looked at infrastructure. The area has inadequate
drainage and sewage systems. We looked at ways to catch rain
water to support ecological development methods, says
group looked at land use. Those who had plans to construct tourist
lodging hadnt had collective conversations before about
crowding and location issues. The students helped them with
basic land use planning to make decisions on how best to site
cabañas around the lake. She says they also looked at
other forms of lodging with a bath or shower for the non-palapa
the fifth group looked at ways to include women in the communitys
economic development. The womens group was interested
in a sewing enterprise where they could sew lifejackets for
the kayak business and curtains, tablecloths and more for the
the students served as facilitators at a meeting with the community
members. It proved very successful. Everybody came and
theres an ongoing commitment to continue the collaboration.
The community has come far enough to put together a tourism
package, says Henkel.