Research Continues in Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Lots has happened since my last and only blog post, and I am leaving Peru to continue my research in Mexico. We went on many trips with the program including: Machu Picchu, Taquile Island on Lake Titicaca, Puno, Arequipa, Puerto Maldonado in the Peruvian Amazon, as well as many other smaller journeys. This program has had a focus on indigenous peoples and globalization, and has fit well with my research. This program was organized such that during the month of November I had the opportunity to create a research project on a topic of my choice. For the Presidential International scholarship, I had originally proposed focusing on tourism and its potential negative impacts on the individuals that uphold the tourism industry. I was able to investigate exactly that. More specifically, I studied the effects of tourism on the Porters of the Inca Trail.

These porters, similar to their counterparts in well-known tourist spots globally, exist within the lower part of an economic structure that encompasses tourists, trekking agencies, as well as local and national governments. To do this, I conducted fieldwork and in-depth interviews on the Inca Trail itself as well as in a city called Ollantaytambo where the trail begins. I tried to learn as much as possible about their working conditions: insurance, wages, weight carried, nutrition, equipment, employment opportunities, sense of fair treatment, and sociocultural impact among other factors. I soon found out that the system they exist in is fairly exploitative. In my research however, I contend that all of the stakeholders in the industry have a responsibility to improve their situation, including tourists.

If you would like to read the paper, you can find it here.
(I wrote it in Spanish originally, so the translation isn’t as polished as it could be)

Otherwise, in between all of these travels, I was living with a host family. They were incredibly kind to me and I felt very at home. I had a host mom, grandma, cousin, two uncles, three dogs, a cat, and two older host brothers who really treated me like a brother. I am sad to leave Peru and the wonderful SIT study abroad program in Cusco, but I am excited to continue my research in Mexico. My current plan is to focus on a similarly silenced or marginalized group within the extremely touristic sector of Quintana Roo. I will be living in Playa del Carmen (An hour south of Cancún) for the next two months, and hopefully will be better about blogging with more free time.