Social Media Community Tourism in the Maya communities of Chichen Itza & Piste / Sustainable Community Tourism is an Indiana University IU Service Learning Program in Yucatan. Indiana University Bloomington taught by Quetzil Castaneda / Heritage Service Learning Field Study Abroad / Summer Study Abroad / Heritage Development Studies, Tourism Studies. Field School. Field Study Abroad. Mexico. community action research, participatory research, participatory anthropology, New Seven Wonders of the World. Mexico, Chichen Itza. Yokdzonot Cenote, Maya Wellness Center. Yokdzonot Eco-Adventure, Responsible Tourism, Ethical Travel, Alternative Tourism in Yucatan

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What is Service Learning? Community Action Research

             IU Service Learning in Yucatán

6 week course Summer Session, 6 credits

LTAM L-426 / L-527, Offered Through IUB Office of Overseas Study,Indiana University Bloomington



What is Service Learning?

"By combining academic theory with practical real-life experience, service-learning provides students with a broader and deeper understanding of the course content, fosters their sense of civic engagement, and sharpens their insights into themselves and their place in the community. The concept is a simple one: Students provide service in their community that is directly connected to their academic coursework, and the community provides an educational experience for the student.


There is a wide range of types of Service Learning. Multiple different kinds of community, educational and non-profit organizations are heavily involved in designing, creating and conductin Service Learning in the diverse settings where this kind of social and civic engagement is needed or desired. These organization have each sought to define service learning in ways that accomodate their work for communities. Here is one classification system based on four basic types that combines different definitions and concepts available on the web.

  1. Advocacy. Participants work to inform a public audience about a social issue and work toward creating a specific change in public policy, to help groups and communities attain relief from some kind of negative social forces, and to act in particular public and legal arenas for the benefit of those effected by this issue. 

  2. Direct Service Learning. Participants work to directly provide specific services that are explicitly needed by individuals, a community, organization, business or other group.

  3. Indirect Service Learning. Participants work to indirectly provide assistance, services and benefits for a community, public, group, business or organization by way of addressing issues related to the context and situation of those groups versus working within the group as a temporary member.

  4. Research or Project Based Service Learning. Participants work to create information, that is, conduct research, that is in direct service of the interests and needs of communities and groups; using this information, through dissemination and project development, for the benefit of these communities

Research or Project Based Service Learning is conceptually and practically related to forms of applied anthropology, community action research, and practicing anthropology that have been created in the social sciences in the 20th century.

For more information on Service Learning visit:
→ Service Learning from
→Indiana University Service Learning
→Univ. Central Arkansas Service Learning
→Historical and Philosophical Roots of Service Learning



Community Action Research and Applied Anthropology

Process & Structure:  Direct, Project & Modified Service Learning

This course is designed to accommodate service learning with different types of community partners, some of which are highly or formally organized groups — such as unions, cultural centers, and cooperatives — while others are loose associations of community members that share a particular work or economic identity. Direct service learning and even project based service learning are therefore not always possible if the partner does not have any formal organization or institutional and geographic location. Our course structure and design therefore uses a modified form of service learning that combines direct, project based, and community action research. 

Students conduct participatory action research with community partners in the field of community tourism development.  Students are assigned to work with community partners according to identifiable student interests, backgrounds, educational motivations, and language skills. Students are grouped in teams of two or three based on complementary strengths in order to conduct their projects. 

IU Community Tourism Service Learning Projects consist of a five step process.

  1. Knowledge Foundation.  Students gain the necessary knowledge foundation of the specific partner and their place in the tourism economy.  This knowledge is gained directly through experiential learning from and interaction with participating members of the organization and is supplemented through the Reflections Workshops conducted in the on-site seminars in which students discuss their knowledge and experiences of working with community partners.  Fieldnotes and Reflections are the primary learning assessment tools.  Student creation of their knowledge is ongoing process.

  2. Destination Assessment for Tourism Evaluation—DATE Students conduct a two-tiered TADA of the tourism attraction(s) associated with or operated by specific community partners.  First tier is an analysis of the destination from the perspective of the tourist Second tier is the conduct of focus group and participant observation methodologies to learn, document, and analyze the partner perspectives and understandings of their needs. 

  3. Project Design. Students design a service learning project that negotiates the two assessment of needs as perceived by both the community partner and the student as tourist-perspective.  Seminar provides the intellectual and academic framework for students to write up a project design that builds directly on knowledge foundations and destination assessments.  Projects require collaboration, participation,  and dialogue to be built into the project dynamic; student’s individual and team skills, abilities, motivations and capabilities to be prioritized; a vision of immediate and short term phases of project development; and completion in the given calendar for that season of all work associated with the project for that phase of work. Projects must be approved.

  4. Conduct Project. Students work in their teams to conduct and complete the service learning project with the community partner. Variable activities and methodologies are put into play with guidance from teaching staff.  Reflections workshop seminars are used to report on student and team success, achievements, frustrations, and self-assessment.

  5. Project Report: Evaluation and Presentation.  The student conference allows teams to report to other teams and to their partner representatives; includes submission of portfolio.  Students are asked to participate in a IU-CITL forum the following spring semester to showcase Project Engage service learning to the IU community.


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Castañeda Explains the Goals of IU Community Tourism Service Learning in Yucatan

Interview with Dr. Quetzil Castañeda
by Rebecca Hecker, writer at The Playa Times, an English language newspaper covering Playa del Carmen and the Riviera Maya.
June 12, 2015

  1. Your summer program is a 5 week course for students that is spent here in the Yucatan Peninsula. Tell us more about the program and what your students experience during the 5 weeks.

We are just now completed the first year of an ongoing course in community tourism marketing. The students engage community partners such as Cenote Yokdzonot and the loncherias of Pisté, Yucatán to help them create sustainable development in their tourism business. The students work closely with community members to give them training in branding their tourism services and destinations. The idea is that for small businesses to compete with the eventual corporate investment in these Maya communities, they need help to understand how to brand and market themselves on the internet.  Students created web presence with websites and profiles on Trip Advisor as well as re-designed menus for the loncherias.


  1. What kinds of opportunities for sustainable tourism have you determined are effective for the local communities you work with? 

In a place like Pisté, only 3 kms from Chichén Itzá, just like Tulum, tourism is an ongoing global development process.  It is not reversible nor can it be stopped short.  The problem for communities is to figure out how to create a unified or coherent vision of how they can take pro-active roles in the creation of services and products over which they can maintain control.  Branding their destinations is crucial.  As we know, all communities, regardless of culture or ethnicity tend toward political divisiveness.  What we as outsiders can offer communities is a way to help them grasp the deep significance and long term value of collaboration despite histories of differences.  As well, we also provide knowledge and understandings of contemporary technologies and provide training and basic workshops in the tools and methods by which they can assume greater ownership of their future.  Neoliberalism and “caring capitalism”  talk about helping communities and persons at risk. However, these humanitarian forms of tourism are actually in the business of perpetuating their own well-salaried jobs in global and international non-profit organizations.  Helping communities with knowledge and expertise not the construction of a new bathroom or website is the only path to an ethical and sustainable tourism that truly benefits communities, not the global caring neoliberal non-profits.


  1. Tourism to the Yucatan Peninsula, specifically the Riviera Maya, has exploded in the last two decades, and in some areas, the growth certainly appears to be unsustainable. Is there any area of Yucatan or Quintana Roo that you can point to and recognize for responsible growth? 

Responsible growth and sustainable growth are two different things.  As harsh as it may seem, tourism, to my mind, is a form of development that is infinitely sustainable even in its most horrifying forms – unfortunately!  Thus, responsible tourism is quite a different thing.  It is entirely based on creating local expertise and understandings of marketing, branding, new communicative technologies, social media and the like. These are forms of capitalism that are still free or accessible to the underprivileged and the marginalized. Thus the task for expats who come to the Yucatán and Quintana Roo this is what is required of them. To create real collaborations that are premised on mutuality, respect for others, and comprehension of cultural difference.



Program Content Program Logistics

⇒ Service Learning Projects  

⇒ Program Cost  

⇒ Program Locations 

⇒ Eligibility & Requirements 

⇒ Program Lodging and Meals 

⇒ Application Process 

⇒ Field Trips and Tourism Attractions 

⇒ Student Travel Info 

⇒ Community Partners 

⇒ Program Calendar & Schedule 

⇒ Course Syllabus   

⇒ Teaching & Research Facility  

⇒ Program Director & Staff / Faculty  

⇒ Travel Safety & Security in Yucatán  


This Service Learning experience will make THE difference in your life

Visitors to Service Learning in Yucatan Program, starting November 2, 2014

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