Assistant Editor’s Note: President Felipe Calderon inaugurated the 2011 Adventure Travel World Summit, opening the event for 600+ tourism industry executives in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico on October 17th, 2011. The following is the transcript of his powerful speech; the video is below. Read the press release.
I hope you enjoy Tuxtla Gutiérrez, San Cristóbal de Las Casas, all of Chiapas and all Mexico.
Thank you for coming.
I greet my friend, Juan Sabines Guerrero, Governor of the State. I appreciate your words, Governor.
Also, I want to welcome and thank Mr. Shannon Stowell, President of the Adventure Travel Trade Association for his presence and trust.
I greet Victoria Cecilia Flores, Mayor of San Cristobal.
General Cuauhtémoc Antúnez, Commander of the VII Military Zone.
Judge Juan Gabriel Coutiño, President of the State´s Supreme Court.
And Deputy Zoé Robledo Aburto, President of the Congress.
Very distinguished guests.
Very distinguished Ministers of Tourism of the Country.
Ministers of different Countries.
Esteemed Operators and Adventure Travel enthusiasts all over the world.
Most Welcome to Mexico and Chiapas.
For us, it is an honor to be hosting this VIII Edition of the Adventure Travel World Summit, whose theme this year is “Prosper with Purpose”, which we completely share.
I know this is an event of great relevance, in which there will be plenty of opportunities to share experiences, a lot of opinions, many proposals, and many alternatives to promote the growth of this important industry, in particular adventure travel.
I particularly liked Shannon Stowell´s message, which makes reference exactly to something I am sure we share.
Adventure Travel is not only about how to take tourists to magic and wonderful places that are found around the world, and are unusual and rare.
That would be of course enough and a laudable purpose. It’s not only about that. It´s not only about having a business, a legitimate business, a good one, like the business of those who promote tourism.
I believe my friends, that adventure travel has purposes much more profound that make it worthy of all our support.
One of them, of course, is the capacity to generate employment among the poorest people around the world, or at least particularly in Mexico.
For some reason indigenous communities and people are, again at least in our country, the owners and possessors of forest, jungles and wonderful places.
Yet, paradoxically, for economic, cultural, ethnic and historical reasons, have been for also for decades and centuries the poorest communities, the most marginalized those who have least Access to education or health.
Look for example at Chiapas itself. A few years back, 17 already, there was right here in Chiapas, in particular in here, San Cristobal de las Casas, a rebellion, an indigenous movement, armed at first, which, independently of course of not sharing the ways of violence for any cause whatever it may be, what is true is that it was a reflection of the circumstances of the people which for decades and centuries, I insist, had been living in marginalization and misery.
I believe if we know how to find in adventure travel the option of income and employment for those who own the land, the woods, the rainforests or the deserts, the lakes or lagoons, I believe we will find a truly fair path to correct the terrible inequalities of our countries and the world.
And, in addition, another issue that is vital is that adventure tourism allows us to protect our natural resources, through the only way by which we can, hopefully, aspire to protect natural resources throughout the world, through mechanisms that have economic incentives right aligned to protect natural resources.
To give an example, too, perhaps here in Chiapas. A lot of places surrounding San Cristobal, for a long time were places full of forests, in the lower parts rainforests, massifs of the largest in America after the Amazon.
In others, very close to San Cristobal, in the highest grounds, forested areas. However for many indigenous people that have lived there for thousands of years, the only possibility of survival, of feeding their children, was throughout this time to tear down the trees and plant, burn woods and sow in one hectare, even half hectare, a bit of corn in an attempt to survive.
The sadness is that the forest was lost, and on the turn of a couple of years so was the fertility of the soil and so was the food. And this chain of erosion of nature, destruction of nature and spread of poverty is a string, a vicious cycle which we must break.
We, from the Government, and in that I want to thank Governor Sabines, have worked in coordination between Federal and State Governments. We have worked intensively on basic things for people.
For example, Chiapas, in spite of being until a few years back, the poorest State in Mexico, is today one of the States that has reached full health care, not only through the construction of more than a 100 hospitals or new clinics State wide, and through the mechanism of Popular Insurance, but above all through the financing of the health service, we have been able to ensure that each and every chiapan has a doctor, medicine, medical treatment and a hospital at their disposal regardless of their social condition.
And in the jungles and forests, we are trying to give to the poorest people, an economic income so those jungles and forests may remain standing and they have alternatives of income.
We are starting in some cases on a State level, in others Federal, the Environmental Services Payment. We pay a certain amount to the indigenous community to watch and care for the forests or jungles they own so they will not have the need to destroy them.
Right here we have a few leaders of the Lacandon community; I greet you with great affection. Thanks to their work, they are keeping the Lacandon Jungle and we are providing something so the community could maintain those jungles.
One of my favorite places, by the way, to visit in Mexico, is precisely the Natural Reserve of Montes Azules, where there are thousands of hectares being protected by the lacandon communities and where there is a Government and Private program to maintain, exactly the Environmental Services Payment.
We have not yet fully opened it for tourism, that is true, but I hope we will soon find the way.
But it cannot be only the Government that provides income to the poorest people, in order to preserve these natural places. Of course we’ll do our thing and do it gladly. But it requires finding a decent source of income that comes from that income that can pay, and is precisely the choice of adventure tourism that is being promoted in this World Summit.
We need our natural resources, our enormous cultural riches, may be preserved with dignity, but also and above all, people who live there can live with dignity, from the income that lets you adventure tourism.
From the income that leaves the national and foreign visitors, which allows precisely that such communities can move forward. I know, my friends, moreover, that there is enormous potential that we have not fully exploited.
I want to tell why I think Mexico has, obviously talking about our country, this huge potential.
We have almost two million square kilometers, that is, Mexico is, in its territory, the fourteenth largest country in the world, and they also have more than eleven thousand miles of coastline, the vast majority of beaches and coastal extraordinarily beautiful.
From the shores of the Sea of Cortez, the Sonoran Desert, or in Baja California, or the great place, such as Los Cabos, to the coasts on the side of the Atlantic, Caribbean Sea, they are, without doubt, I believe, the world’s most beautiful beaches and more comfortable .
But perhaps this, the beaches of Mexico, specifically the beaches of Cancun, are the scene most viewed or known by international tourists however, the enormous biodiversity we have, my friends, is vastly superior to those of an already very powerful in the Mexican Caribbean.
As you can see here at the Summits host, where we have areas, the most varied ecosystems, from high mountain forests, rainforests, deserts, all kinds of ecosystems, land natural reserves, natural reserves at sea.
Our incredible resources, and so I say this, ours, I’m not saying our endless, because this idea of natural resources being endless, was one of the biggest mistakes made by mankind, of course, that is just, if you do not care for them.
But our enormous potential allows, I think everything the adventure tourist can search for all tastes, I would say, from very simple things and ever larger, more common, such as bird watching.
Mexico has, for example, the fourth largest biodiversity in the world.
There, in Montes Azules, specifically in the nature reserve we have, is still, well, is already in danger of extinction, unfortunately, but there is the Habitat of the Eagle Harpy, an Eagle spreading its wings can reach, from wing tip to the other side of wing, almost two meters 80 centimeters long, which is able to take and destroy up to a small lamb for example, like dam, a Wildcat, a Lynx.
The biodiversity is, of course, huge, from mountain lions, bobcats, plantigrade very Mexican and very American as well.
The biodiversity of plants, the richest in the world, animals, insects, and so forth
We have also, for example, speleology. You can see here, to my right, which is the basement of the Swallows, in San Luis Potosi, which is a cave, as it did in the video of Peter Greenberg of 370 meters of depth, a vertical cave. Within the basement of the Swallows, for example, the Chrysler Building in New York.
Furthermore, it is a magical place, not only because the cavity in itself, which we walked with Peter Greenberg and go down to the merits, but because each morning, at dawn, tens of thousands of birds, are not exactly las golondrinas, by the way, but they seem a lot, you can leave from this place, where they live, in drawings upstream and are going to achieve their livelihood; and in the evening returning these tens or hundreds of thousands of birds and fall in whirlwind ordered the basement of the swallows.
We have places to practice surfing, scuba diving places, as the Secretary said, the second largest coral reef in the world, which is in front of the Riviera Maya, Cozumel beginning, the path, of course, 25 million hectares of protected natural areas, and can be placed in any of them to play the sports they are desired and practiced.
We have rivers that allow for rafting, we have places that allow rock climbing or mountain climbing, or sailing. For example, in Puerto Vallarta now developed the sailing competition of the Pan American Games and is one of the best places to sail across the region.
This in regard to our natural resources. But the other thing for which Mexico is extraordinarily rich, it is our cultural wealth. I insist. There are few cultures in the world who are native, ie cultures that did not have to learn from another culture.
For example, Roman culture, obviously, is not native, because they learned a lot about Greek culture. Greek culture, in turn, is not a native culture, learned, basically most of what you know about Egyptian culture, that it is, the Egyptians, a native culture, such as China and various cultures in India, in Mesopotamia.
In Mexico, my friends, we have an original culture. The Olmecs, for example, who settled near here, this area of the Southeast and that thousands of years before Christ and were deploying a totally new and unique civilization.
From the Olmecs emerged several Mesoamerican cultures, including the Mayan civilization. This powerful civilization that could develop, for example, astronomy better than anyone, which in its conceptual and mathematical development using zero before many other civilizations.
The Mayan culture that built the pyramids exactly aligned with the sunrise at the equinox on one side and the sunset at the same equinox, the other side.
This marvel of the Mayan pyramids, which can be viewed through the windows, its observatories, the most remote star just discovered, or more, further explored just two centuries ago by humanity.
Mexico, friends, it has a rich culture, a huge cultural wealth. Of the 112 million Mexicans who live in Mexico, because we must remember that we have 12 million more than compatriots fighting for a chance at life outside of Mexico, there is at least 14 million indigenous people and more than 60 languages that we’re trying to conserve.
The powerful strength and vitality of Mexico makes, for example, to be the country in America that has the highest number of sites declared Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO, and that now, many cultural expressions, such as it is precisely the food, Mexican food, particularly that of my land, the one from Michoacán, in particular, Chiapas, Oaxaca, Puebla, have been declared Cultural Patrimony of Humanity. Music. The pirecuas, as well.
We are a country my friends, of enormous natural wealth and enormous cultural wealth. And, no doubt, Mexico is truly a land of adventure, wherever you see fit.
But more than all that, my friends, what has Mexico, we feel, to bring to the world, it is not only its natural wealth, immense and many of them still unexplored, it is not only their cultural riches, is perhaps even more important, that is its people.
You have probably heard the expression that says: This is your home. When Mexicans say: This is your home, we mean it. I have had to visit the entire country, for reasons not only tourism that, too, am a good fan to tourism, but for political reasons. That is my profession; this has been a good part of my life.
And I have had to go up to the lofty houses of Mexico City or Monterrey, or the poorest huts in remote communities across the country.
Here in Chiapas, from Chenalhó or Navenchauc, or in many places where poverty, indeed, is material. But the native is there, the poor family is there, when you visit, they clean their house, order his things and invites visitors to dispose of their home. And when he says: This is your house, truly, he means it. We, my friends, we are a hospitable people. We have problems, yes.
But we are people with courage and character, determined to fix our problems. And more importantly, we are a people that we like to greet people. It is our nature, is in our DNA, that Mexico is truly a friend of the world, and we like it. So we are a country that celebrates both its visitors, because the joy of Mexico, a joy that has to do with what we are, with life, with death, with the colors, the flavors of our Mexico, is a joy that we share.
That is why we believe that Mexico has the potential for tourism. And that is why we know that the Mexicans, for example, in the United States are the best service providers, such as restaurants, hotels, because there is a innate kindness.
That is why the experience of visiting Mexico is not a postcard that is sent back home. It is something more. That was an experience and is an experience and is a state of satisfaction and joy that makes 97 percent of our visitors, when they survey, say they would like to return to our country.
I know how important it is for all adventure tourism. I sincerely hope that this summit allows us all to share experiences, become better providers of tourist services, better understand the success of the other to move forward and succeed us.
Be able to provide our people the jobs needed, which requires and that has the right to live with dignity, to overcome their poverty and, at the same time, the adventure tourism, which gives us the resources and give people the resources to care for and save the natural heritage of humanity, the environment, today threatened more than ever.
For that reason, I’m glad you’re here in San Cristobal, Chiapas, to enjoy Mexico, to enjoy this wonderful land. And I say from my heart, on behalf of all Mexicans: This is your home and welcome to our beloved country.
And if I may, i am going to do so formally the Declaration of the inauguration of the Summit. So:
Being the 17 hours with 21 minutes of the October 17, 2011, I declare formally opened the World Summit on Adventure Tourism, wishing you every success, and that this Forum will contribute to promote this segment of tourism, and identify new and attractive opportunities for welfare and sustainable development for our peoples.
Congratulations to all of you.