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Women in indigenous and rural tourism in Chile

The role of women in the development of indigenous and rural tourism

The role of women in the development of indigenous and rural tourism

by Stephanie Carmody

Tourism activity in rural and indigenous communities has been developing in recent decades in order to diversify local economies in addition to valuing indigenous and peasant cultures that have been marginalized throughout history. 

This type of tourism is characterized by the participation of the community in all stages of the process of creation and development of the experience. The tourist activity in the rural and indigenous communities makes possible a true intercultural dialogue and mutual knowledge between the traveler and the community about:

  • the environment and the valuation of biodiversity, 
  • the cultural identity of peoples and their territories, 
  • and, culminating, the strengthening of local societies. 


Together with Sandra Flores and her ancestral caravan we will know the value of the llama for the Andean worldview and the importance of this animal in the daily chores in San Pedro de Atacama

However, it has been women who have led these processes in many communities of Chile and Latin America. Community-based tourism, whether indigenous, rural, or peasant, has allowed many women to become leaders in their communities. The tools that tourism activity offers for the leadership and empowerment of women are based on respect for their culture, the environment, and their worldview. 

On the other hand, it is important to emphasize that tourism deepens the relationship between community members and tourists and can help visitors to better understand their problems and difficulties. This could be not only an opportunity from an economic or empowerment point of view, but also a means to be able to claim their rights that are recognized by most countries, but very little respected in almost all of them. 

Women are the ones who have led these developments in many communities in Chile and Latin America.

In this sense, women’s ventures are related to their cultural background and are materialized with:

  • the manufacture of handicrafts, products related to herbalism and traditional medicine, 
  • guidance services and the care for the environment that is part of their perception of the world.


Juana Jimenez from the Casa Piedra community in Tirúa Surnos teaches Mapuche loom weaving.

Each story, each space, each meeting between travelers and rural and indigenous tourism entrepreneurs is unique. They strengthen the notion that tourism activity in rural communities has direct effects on women’s self-esteem because of the complementary employment opportunities that are generated and, as a consequence, their revaluation and autonomy. Therefore, tourism brings as a consequence the revaluation and autonomy of women to rethink their role in their families and in local power structures, creating and managing their own resources, increasing the degree of financial autonomy and improving the value of women’s work.

One of the experiences that I value most in my work with communities is having had the possibility to visit these territories. A conversation around the fire with a round of mate that accompanies or a walk through ancestral paths with millennial forests as witnesses, or the ascent to the top of some volcano that is the only witness of the passing of time and the immortality of history. It is women leaders in their territories who have facilitated these experiences, who have accompanied me and taught me on this journey to value their cultures and honor their stories.


Traveling around Chile and recognizing these women can be a transformative experience, and you can do it together with Travolution Travel.

Imagine learning about traditional oregano crops in the town of Socoroma near Adelaide Marca or walking through the High Puna with volcanoes and salt flats as witnesses with Palmenia Mamani

Oregano harvest from the village of Socoroma in the Arica and Parinacota region alongside Adelaide Marka.
Oregano harvest from the village of Socoroma in the Arica and Parinacota region alongside Adelaide Marka

Further south we can meet Sandra Flores and learn about her work with the recovery of the ancestral practice of Llama caravanning, as well as the importance of the Llama in the Andean worldview.

We can accompany Marinella Maldonado in Chañaral de Aceituno who shares with us her knowledge of the fragile biodiversity of the territory and how the communities of artisanal fishermen, descendants of the Chango people, have survived throughout history.

How would you like to share a Mate by the fire in the company of Estela Nahuelpan on the coast of La Araucanía? To know how she has led the process of protection and conservation of Monkul’s wetland while listening to some epew (traditional story) of the territory. 

Margarita Pailaya (Mapuche educator) welcomes us into her home to talk and share her experiences as a Mapuche woman and multicultural teacher

If you want more adventure, Isabel Caripan invites us to walk at the foot of the Ruka Pillán volcano along trails surrounded by native forest and ancient araucarias, faithful witnesses of the evolution of the geological formation of that place.

These are some examples of women leaders who share their knowledge from the tourist activity, invite us to value their history and make our meetings with the communities genuine and transforming interactions. If you want to know more about these places, do not hesitate to contact us here.

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