Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 2006


This profile was prepared when Cecilio Solis was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2006.
The New Idea
Cecilio is creating a national level “indigenous business” by uniting community operated eco- and cultural-tourism projects. In the process, he is demonstrating that Mexico’s disparate indigenous communities are capable of pursuing development goals which generate income, preserve their culture, and protect environmental biodiversity. Cecilio sees ecotourism as an economic opportunity that Mexico’s indigenous communities must explore. As a geographer, Cecilio was quick to notice that maps of Mexico show strong overlap between areas of high biodiversity, indigenous populations, increased tourist flow, and existing ecotourism projects. Rather than shunning business, Cecilio is setting out to take advantage of increased tourist interest and the economic opportunity it presents. In the process he encourages conservation in Mexico’s most biodiverse regions while creating a context in which indigenous communities interact with outsiders as equals. Perhaps most importantly, his new effort for an indigenous movement defies the status quo, which places economic development at odds with the radical political change demanded by indigenous communities. Cecilio’s network, RITA, unites and does capacity-building for ecotourism enterprises throughout Mexico. The RITA brand confers a guaranteed level of quality to visitors. As a national network, RITA offers the tourist organized access to a diverse and authentic set of ecosystems and cultures, and its size allows for a sophisticated marketing outreach in international markets which individual communities could not achieve on their own.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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