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Jungle Spa and Jungle Market in Puerto Morelos, Mexico

Jungle MarketIn Puerto Morelos, Mexico – a small fishing village sandwiched between the big Mayan Riviera resort cities of Cancun and Playa del Carmen – two community tourism projects provide travellers the opportunity to connect with and experience local culture while empowering a group of local Mayan women to be financially self-sufficient. These two projects created by an American woman, Sandra Dayton, through her non-profit organization Lu’um K’aa Nab, are the Jungle Spa and the Jungle Market. Sandra, who has lived in Puerto Morelos for more than 20 years, started these projects so local Mayan women would have access to the growing tourism economy, become financially self-reliant, and be able to provide their families with a better quality of life.

The Jungle Spa and the Jungle Market are located next to the home where Sandra lives with her husband, Daniel – behind the colonia where the local people live, and approximately 5km from Puerto Morelos. The Jungle Spa and the Jungle Market are indeed in the jungle – massage beds are set up in traditional palapas throughout the property, amongst towering trees and tropical flowers. Although visitors are sometimes taken aback by the rustic-ness of the Jungle Spa (this isn’t your typical spa in a 5-star resort!), having a massage as you hear birds singing and leaves rustling in the wind is what makes the experience so unique and unforgettable. The local Mayan women give visitors a traditional Mayan abdominal massage. This is a technique that has been passed down to them through generations, and which focuses on releasing emotional and physical congestion in the internal organs to bring the body back into balance and harmony.

At the Jungle Market, the same women who give massages at the Jungle Spa sell traditional Mayan handicrafts they have made themselves, including jewelry, huipiles(long white cotton dresses embroidered at the bodice), shawls, and embroidered napkins and tablecloths. They also sell homemade traditional Mayan food to visitors, snacks like tamalespanuchos (a tortilla with hard-boiled egg and beans), andcodzitos (small fried tacos). At a certain point, the women leave their wares to perform traditional Mayan dances for visitors, including the Ribbon Dance during which they grab colourful ribbons and weave complex patterns as they circle around a central pole.

The money the local Mayan women make from the Jungle Market and Jungle Spa stays with them and goes directly to their families and the community. These two community tourism projects are success stories, as they mutually benefit both the local women and the global travellers who visit them.

For more information about the Jungle Spa and the Jungle Market, visit Sandra’s website.

Post by Kat Brimacombe, @kat_brimacombe
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