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May 18, 2009

Haciendas and People Power, a Trip That Gives Back

Haldiram's
This pool was made for lounging.
Photo: Haciendasmexico.com

Think you have to wear a hair shirt and dig a well to give back when you travel? Think again. Below, a trip idea from "Eight Great Trips That Give Back," a piece running in this month's issue of Condé Nast Traveler.

The history of the Hacienda Temozon resort hotel in the Yucatán Peninsula, about a two-hour drive from Chichén Itzá, isn't immediately apparent. An elegant pool, an airy dining room, a spa--all the qualities of high style are there. In fact, in 1996, when Luis Bosoms and his wife, Marilú Hernández, bought the property in the wake of the collapse of the sisal industry, they purchased not only an abandoned 350-year-old hacienda but 109 worker's houses. The first thing they did: hand over the deeds to the houses to local people. "If you wanted to create wealth where there was none," says Bosoms, "this way is one hundred percent sustainable. With homes, these people instantly have access to credit." Altogether, the couple bought five haciendas, all of which they turned into resorts. Today, from Temozón, a guide will take you to the Uxmal ruins, then to visit craftsmen trained with the help of the hotel's foundation. Back at the hotel, get a massage--a local collective owns the spa. You can also head out into the Gulf of Mexico to see migrating birds, turtles, and crocodiles, ending up at the blue stucco Hacienda Santa Rosa, which they also own. From there, Chichén Itzá is a stone's throw away. But if you feel like lazing around the pool, you're still helping the community just by being there.

The Give: Visit local shops, which are highlighted on walking maps provided by the haciendas.

The Get: The knowledge that your money is going into the pockets of the local people.

Going Local: Chic sisal bag made by Mayan villagers (fhmm@haciendasmundomaya.com; $25).

Further reading:
* 7 more trips that give back.
* Paul Theroux on the Peace Corps and the lesson of his life.
* Responsible Traveler: Making a difference.

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