Nagore Espinosa, CEO of in2destination has interviewed Josefina Klinger, director of Mano Cambiada, a non-profit corporation that promotes the social and integral development of the inhabitants of the Colombian Pacific. A passionate and persistent woman who transforms lives and provides opportunities from her homeland, Chocó (Colombia). Just another example of an incomparable woman, an inspiration to be followed by every girl in the world. For all this and for her specific labour in tourism, we count on her for our blog.

 [Note: due to the length of this interview, we are publishing below the most relevant messages of our conversation with her. At the end of the article a *.PDF file with the entire interview is available, only in Spanish thus far, apologies. Please note that this is a literal transcription of our conversation with her.]


“We are a natural pantry and an environmental wealth, that is one of our main assets, but the other principal and most important asset, which complements this binomial of gold, as we say, is the people, our people, who we are, our essence, our worldview of life and death, our peaceful spirit and the cultural wealth we have.”

“We decided to do a marketing strategy to only generate positive news, we needed the brand but we needed to be generating positive information every day.”

“… of about 45 kilometres of beach, today the natives do not even own 1 because they sold everything and I had anguish or fear that the same would happen to us as other similar destinations: Cartagena, Capurganá, San Andrés itself, where we were not in the real dynamic, being protagonist and host in the tourist activity. So, it was at that moment when I began to understand that threat, but I also began to see the opportunity that the activity had.”

“I began to realize that the visitor no longer wanted those destinations where you just go for a walk, the visitor wants experiences, wants to live authentic and unique experiences, and with this territory and this cultural magic we have just the added differentiating value that can guarantee that experience in an authentic way. That was also what I was visualizing because I began to understand that for any process to develop, a territory to develop, you need to have a territory, incredible people and money. If we already had the territory and we had the incredible people, what we needed was to revitalize the economy.”

“For us as natives it is our commitment to life, it is a territory where our navel is buried, where we make our history and it is a territory that gains strength which goes much further than economics for us.”

How does Mano Cambiada emerge?

“…we intended to make tourism in a territory with all its basic needs unsatisfied, without potable water, without energy, without good quality schools, without business opportunities, etc., an oversight that I will always assume to be a shared responsibility.”

“I understood that this dynamic had to be developed by whoever was awake and aware of wanting to do it, and that is difficult because of different reasons. First of all, nobody cares about you, we do not all have the same vision, people believe that living in the day-to-day is enough, then they do not measure the impact that can happen in a few years and it was very complicated. So in order to have a valid face, that institutionally we could be there, as in the agenda and at the tables, there was the need to create the Mano Cambiada Corporation.”

 “… what was at stake was the autonomy in the territory, the empowerment and, above everything, the ability to define our future in a decisive way, in the whole dimension of what tourism actually means. In 2006 we created the Mano Cambiada Corporation, which was born to promote development, using ecotourism as a strategy.”

“Even today, after so many years, we still find reticence in our way of doing things, in our way of understanding tourism: people do not measure what we really want with tourism activity, tourism has to be seen in its entirety in an integral way“.

Mano Cambiada, defending sustainable tourism

“We reach souls, it makes the territory, and we complement it with logistical support and with great affection the hosts of this territory. There is a before and an after of knowing the Chocó and to whom we are part of it.”

“Of course we wanted to make a model not of going out to sell a particular hotel, but of selling an experience and the experience is not made by the hotel. It is made when you commit the one who sells the biche, the one who makes the cocadas, the one who makes the crafts, the one who provides the service…”.

“Mano Cambiada (Changed Hand) means profession barter, exchange of trade, exchange of labour.”

“In tourism, we apply this model. In order to be able to apply this model the first thing you have to renounce to a little is the desire to capitalize individually and quickly. You have to understand that tourism is a system, that the neighbor is not my competitor but my counterpart, that I can specialize in what comes from my soul and I know how best to do and that the other one specializes and get to have relationships of peers and trust to put the same objective in common.”

“… you cannot at every moment control the same quality, the standardization of the experience, but when you have the patience to choose your value chain, that generates a relationship so beautiful, that we are seeing it materialized today.”

“There have to be some criteria, it has to be environmentally friendly, it has to avoid involving children in the negative impacts of tourism activity. Someone who works with us in our value chain cannot allow bad practices in his or her environment cannot allow bad environmental practices.”

“In the operation to mitigate environmental impacts, we start by complying with our own house. We are in a protected area and more than because of that fact; it is because it is incorporated into our way of thinking and feeling the territory.

“Besides, what we are contributing to is that we are raising awareness among the children and young people so that they also understand that the environment must be better, as we would like it to be in the whole of our destiny”.

The feeling of belonging

 “… we needed to create a trademark that would identify us when we saw it (…) we could finally make this black woman with the jungle on her head, which is a territorial trademark that shows our beauty, our direct look and our open smile (…) we are now related to people, and for us it is that even though this still needs to be strengthened, with this information and with this image we are beginning to change the imaginary of our own people, who today identify with it, but, above all, of the visitor who comes and says: I want to be there and I want to go and meet people like this. In other words, with this we are transmitting and beginning to change the imaginary inside and outside the territory“.

“We have brought more than 1200 children to visit the Utría Park, so that they can begin to associate the jungle and water (…) as a synonym of happiness so that one day they can help to positively transform the reality of what is missing, because the main thing is already there. We organize a festival, which is the festival of peaceful migration in which we raise environmental awareness. We transmit how to honor three relevant species that visit us from June to October, but how to add to that this cultural value from music, from theatre, from dance, from ancestral practices such as sailing boats, cooking, how to enjoy music, how to make some troupe, how to judge and how to be happy. These all make us go to our ninth festival and the children who started with nine years old can now be young people of 17 and we have already seen how we have influenced them. It is the only way for young people that one day understand that staying in the territory does not make them less important, that it makes them very brave because there are many things they still have to challenge.

Current Challenges

What we are doing is a process of human transformation using ecotourism as a strategy. We want to generate a model of sustainable development and we want to become a world reference of how an empowered community can help transform its reality by looking for partners or allies who live in the same dimension, challenging their own fears.”

“…. to continue accompanying the children in their dreams in this territory so that they can sit back and rest peacefully from a tree and be able to see how this territory is managed with a lot of responsibility, a lot of sense of belonging, how tourists are received and how we contribute to the well-being, not only of ourselves but of humanity“.


Total interview to Josefina Klinger (ESP): in2destination_Josefina Klinger