Welcome to the Jungle

“We say we’re in the heart of the Riviera Maya.” – Don Miguel Pani, Uxuxubí community leader


The main community palapa was built by Uxuxubí community members using local materials

After two days of preparations in Cancún, we loaded into a van and set off for Uxuxubí. None of us knew quite what to expect, but as the van jostled down the 11 bumpy kilometers from Akumal, the nearest city, we knew that it would be quite an experience.


Situated deep in the jungle west of the Riviera Maya, Uxuxubí is home to 20 permanent residents. Four of the five families who live there year-round have young children who attend the community school. The village has a small community center with a large event palapa, a community kitchen, and an impressive bathroom facility. There is some solar power in community areas (enough to charge small devices, like phones and cameras), a communal landline phone, and a wifi router, though we weren’t able to get it to work while we were there. Although it is situated close to the bustling tourism of the Riviera Maya, it often felt like a world away. Being off the grid for a week in this lovely village surrounded by nature was a refreshing change from city life.


We interacted with four families who live in Uxuxubí year-round. Clockwise from top left, they are the households of Don Manuel and Doña Maria, Doña Chely, Don Rámon and Doña Nareida, and Don Federico and Doña Rosa]

Along with the three of us from Aalto, we were joined throughout the week by an Aalto mentor and a team from our partner university, Instituto Tecnológico de Cancún. The team included:



Janett Hernandez  – BSc Accounting


Aaron Lopez  – BSc Mechatronic Engineering


Carolina Isquierdo – BSc Administration


Jorge Trejo Alor – BSc Accounting



Dr. Kennedy Obombo Magio  –  Instituto Tecnológico de Cancún


Anni Hapuoja – Aalto University


Matleena Muhonen  – Aalto University Planning Officer, Sustainable Global Technologies Programme

Project Leader


Dr. Elisa Guillen-Arguelles –  Instituto Tecnológico de Cancún

Guiding us throughout the week was the village leader, Don Miguel Pani. Don Pani is the driving force behind the community, and we were often staggered by the depth and breadth of his ideas for Uxuxubí. We were lucky to be working in a community with such a visionary leader who could provide us with a rich treasure trove of information throughout the week.


Don Miguel Pani – Community Leader

The rest of the village was also extraordinarily helpful and hospitable during our stay. We’re so grateful and humbled to have gotten to work with a community that was so willing to participate in our research and make our stay as comfortable and memorable as possible.

We’re back in Finland now, and we can’t wait to share everything about our trip. We saw great potential for community members to develop tourism on their own terms, and we think that Uxuxubí could eventually be a model for sustainable community-based rural tourism.  

– Liz Miller

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About Lawrence

A Ghanaian international currently studying a master degree in Geoinformatics at Aalto University. Strong interest in GIS and Geoinformation technologies. Accepts the challenge of working on practical problems to develop myself, learn new things and try to have fun while doing it :). Positive attitude and good sense of humor.

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