a strong focus on responsible and sustainable travel
A big component of an El Camino experience is the Social Entrepreneur aspect of each trip where we partner with hand-picked local entrepreneurs of each city and work with them to best showcase their work to our fellow travelers. El Camino's authentic travel experiences allow our travelers to see the city through the lenses of the locals with a strong focus on responsible and sustainable travel.
During our travels, we have met and formed strong relationships with these entrepreneurs who have built a self-sustaining organizations to better their community. With each trip and collaboration, we show our support and celebrate their mission and the work they have done. These are the individuals #WHOWECHAMPION.
CENTRO SOCIAL TIO ANTONIO
Antonio Prieto started the NGO Tio Antonio's because he wanted to give people with disabilities, particularly the blind and the mute, a chance to live an independent life where they can support themselves, as well as, their families. Tio Antonio creates hammocks that serve much more of a social purpose. The hammock store itself employs local youths that are at risk, deaf, or mute. These specific youth in Nicaraguan society are casted as outsiders that aren’t afforded as many opportunities as others, and Tio Antonio's is looking to solve this social issue in the country. Their philosophy is simple and it’s hard to believe other people don’t think the same way: when you interact with people you might have judged or been misconceived about, you realize we’re all just humans with potential. During a time in Nicaragua where nobody would be willing to hire anyone with a disability, Antonio made it his mission to teach these people skills they can use to make a living, like making great quality hammocks to sell in his workshop. He offers resources for those with less so they can contribute to their communities.
Empowerment International (EI) is an organization founded in 1998 that has a goal to address the root cause of and plight of the street children living in the barrios. There’s a trend among street children to grow up in poorer families and can’t afford to attend public school, so they’re sent to work in the streets selling produce and trinkets. EI has a goal to reverse this cycle and get children the education they deserve, by providing emotional and financial support to the children and their families so the children are able to attend school. EI offers community based educational programs for the children, as well as mentoring for the parents on how to enhance their child’s education. EI has been working in Nicaragua since 2004, and with circa 300 students enrolled in the program, the communities worked with have reached an annual school retention rate of over 96%.
SANTA JULIA, NICARAGUA
Apapachoa is an Eco-Cultural Center that promotes agroecological agriculture, education through art & music and eco-tourism. In Nahuatl the language of the mayan people Apapachoa means to "embrace with the soul". They are located in the rural community of Santa Julia, El Crucero in the middle of 800 hectares private forest reserve. The pioneer group living there is made up of a diverse mix of passionate ecologists, funky musicians, eclectic artists, yogis and ambitious social entrepreneurs who endeavor to model a sustainable way of life in harmony with nature and other human beings. They believe in healing a community holistically through building up an individual's self-esteem.
Damartes (Damas de Arte = Women of Art) is a social enterprise made up of seven women that in 2008 took part in a crafting class sponsored by the foundation ProBoquilla. Now, they create jewelry, containers, vases, and other accessories made from coconut, which takes patience and positivity to complete the process: the nuts are soaked, cleaned, and cut over the course of several hours, then worked and polished. The women of Damartes are as impressive as their craft. They’re all mothers that have been molded by their life story, and some grandmothers as well. They all have stories that deserve to be heard and they allow us to get to know another side of Cartagena through their inspiring stories and experiences of overcoming hard times. These women manufacture great things from simple means.
Casa Kolacho is a cultural hip hop center in Medellin, Colombia that aims to strengthen the hip hop movement throughout the capital. It’s an initiative to spread the movement as well as strengthen the community in the neighborhood that Casa Kolacho is located in. Casa Kolacho aims to use these positive cultural reinforcements to combat the world of drugs and violence. In addition to music & dancing, they also use art to strengthen the community, which includes graffiti art tours throughout Colombia. Since they don’t accept money from the government, their main source of income is made from these tours, allowing them more creative freedom without the constraints of bureaucracy. Everything Casa Kolacho does contributes to an innovative model that deserves to and should be replicated.
Explosion Negra is a Colombian local music group. They emphasize music of the Colombian pacific but combining flavors of folklore, Pacific and Atlantic rhythms, their music is set to influence others with the identity of Colombian culture. They have a goal to educate audiences about AfroColombian culture and the preservation of the richness and diversity of their culture. AfroColombian music combines traditional sounds including bunde, chirimia, salsa, cumbia, as well as international beats of hip hop, socca, and dance hall. We strive to give our travelers a different side of Colombian culture, which includes this AfroColombian perspective.
Founded in 2011, Ciudad Movil put Getsemani on the map as the city's cultural hub, supporting a plethora of artistic endeavours designed to help Cartagena's talented youth fulfill their artistic dreams, and being the first independent, self-managed center to do so. Ciudad Movil caters to as many mediums of art as they possibly can, which is included but not limited to photography, dance, music, and theater. Housing multiple mediums allows room and encouragement of creative collaboration, fusion, and experimentation. This platform also allows the center to focus on socio-cultural issues and movements through art. They show us a very different side of Cartagena. They are talking about issues of racism and the economic injustices that are tied to that. They are talking about how stereotypes negatively hurt them. As part of El Camino's commitment to responsible and sustainable travel we offer our guests the opportunity to connect with these artists and hear their stories. We believe in them and how they are confronting these issues of racial injustice.
MEXICO CITY, MEXICO
Carla Fernandez is a Mexico City based fashion label that draws most of its textile inspiration from the city the company is based in. A change agent and innovator, bringing new meaning to luxury fashion, Carla Fernandez travels throughout Mexico visiting communities of artisans that specialize in handmade textiles, utilizing centuries-old indigenous techniques. Her labor-intensive approach is helping to sustain long-standing indigenous techniques and the people who collaborate with her. In the face of today’s “fast fashion,” she is helping young artisans understand that they can earn a livelihood by continuing their family’s traditions instead of migrating to the city and eventually losing their trade. Fernandez works closely with the artisans at the onset of each project, where techniques such as weaving of hand looming are an integral part of the production of new pieces and collection, rather than adding decorative embellishments at the end of creative processes. Dyeing the textiles in mud, or wool felting using the artisans’ feet, are examples of some of the unique techniques practiced. The craftspeople become partners and are compensated fairly for their contributions.
Trinidad & Tobago
Environmental Research Institute Charlotteville (ERIC), Tobago - The island of Tobago is a ridge-to-reef Caribbean ecosystem that is surrounded by the global threatened biodiversity and the ecosystem processes that represent a legacy of local environmental stewardship. This ecosystem, however, faces rapid erosion. ERIC uses a ridge to village to ocean approach to integrate the social and environmental factors that require consultation and consideration for establishing effective and comprehensive resource management. ERIC believes that community engagement and empowerment to gather, share information, and disseminate knowledge throughout Tobago. Their goal is to create a mutually beneficial relationship between community and ecosystem. El Camino has a strong ethos of promoting tourism that is both responsible and sustainable and we offer our guests the opportunity to learn more about the important work done by the ERIC in Tobago.