Designing Sustainable Tourism in the Tlacolula Valley: The Mezcal Route
Ministry of Culture of the State of Oaxaca, Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City, Oax-i-fornia
Margaret Crawford, Marco Cenzatti. Student Team: Daniel Collazos (Landscape Architecture), Bird Feliciano (Architecture), Jenika Florence (Landscape Architecture), Alexandra Goldman (Urban Studies), Sam Holtzman (Architecture), Tyler Meeks (Architecture), Kate Marple-Cantrell (Urban Studies), Siddharth Nadkarny (Urban Studies), Priti Pai (Architecture)
The research studio was based on the idea that to be equitable and sustainable, tourism planning needs to build on the existing environment, society and economies of the local area. Sponsored by the Ministry of Culture of the State of Oaxaca and in collaboration with professors and students from the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City, students from all three CED departments—Architecture, Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning, and City and Regional Planning—traveled to Oaxaca Valley to investigate its rich history and culture and to understand its current challenges.
Raul Cabra (M.A. Design, 2011)—Director of Oax-i-fornia, a cultural exchange program between Oaxacan craftspeople and California designers, who is also a local resident—led the team through ten intensive days of fieldwork that covered nearly every meter of the valley. The team surveyed local agriculture and gastronomy, craft traditions, markets that date from pre-Columbian times, unique Zapotec governance systems and the techniques of artisanal mescal production—the most important local industry. The team also met a range of Valley residents including government officials, returned migrants, organic farmers and American expats.
Returning to Berkeley, the team created a strategic tourism plan for the Valley by incorporating different concepts from the anthropology of tourism, everyday urban design, local economic development theory, infrastructure planning and land-use law. Organized around flexible itineraries, the plan makes the valley accessible to tourists while protecting its physical and cultural resources. Since villages value their independence and autonomy, each element can be adapted to local conditions. Last summer, local officials, businesses, and artisans enthusiastically responded to the Mezcal Route strategy, so the team is optimistic that the rest of the plan will have an equally positive impact in Oaxaca.