It is not unusual in Mexican hotels to find indigenous women scrubbing bathrooms and cooking meals. The Hotel Taselotzin, located in the scenic Eastern Sierras, is no exception, but you"ll also find local women doing the bookkeeping, managing, marketing and organic gardening for their own internationally acclaimed eco-tourism project.
More than 200 Nahua Indian women from six different communities in the Mexican state of Puebla are involved with the cooperative, which is called Maseualisuame Mosenyolchik-auani—Nahautl words that mean "indigenous women working together." In addition to running the hotel, the group manages a health food store, a greenhouse for medicinal plants, a traditional crafts store and workshops in which they produce recycled paper and biodegradable cleaning products.
"The organization has served women well in giving us a place in the family, in the organization and in the community," says Rufina Villa Hernandez, one of eight women who form the co-op’s core group of directors. During the region’s disastrous flooding in 1999, which washed out access roads for months, the importance of the women’s work in achieving sustainable, local food security was even more apparent. Now, with the collapse of coffee prices in a region dependent on the crop, income from the hotel and the sale of the group’s products has allowed many families to avoid migrating to the cities or to the United States in search of work. "The men in the community have realized that the organization is something serious and that we are helping the family," says Hernandez.
Hotel Taselotzin exhibits ecological design and function that is both a product of the women’s indigenous heritage and of knowledge they gained through cooperation with similar women’s groups throughout the country. The hotel’s reforestation project, eco-tours, rainwater collection system and composting began through workshops given by an organization called Comaletzin.
Founded in 1987, Comaletzin seeks to strengthen the rural women’s movement from an ecological and gender perspective. Numerous grassroots organizations across Mexico have taken part in Comaletzin’s workshops on sustainable agriculture, alternative medicine, reproductive health and domestic violence. They also receive training in organizing, leadership, accounting, marketing and administration.
"We choose to work with rural women because in their condition and position, they are the most marginalized. They carry more than their share of work, have little access to services and resources and are undervalued," says Andrea Garcia de la Rosa, national coordinator of Comaletzin. "We have learned from rural women and men to value and connect with natural resources in an active and respectful way."