Photo Credit: Hotel con Corazón
A Social Impact Hotel In Mexico That Funds Local Children's Education? A Review of Hotel Con Corazón
Having previously spent 5 weeks in Oaxaca City, convinced that its art gallery-lined streets and delicately plated dishes of juicy memelas and tlayudas were going to be enough to keep me longer, I eventually left with a soft spot for the city in my heart. When I had the chance to return for a short weekend, I knew that I wanted my stay to present me with another side of the city. Here’s my inside look at my first time staying at Hotel con Corazón.
Oaxaca is already known for being one of Mexico’s most vocal cities. A short walk to the center of the city will show graffiti speaking out against gentrification, violence against women and more nationally relevant issues. One piece of graffiti that always finds its way into my stories about Oaxaca read in Spanish, ‘Oaxaca will not become the next Tulum’. A neatly scribed reminder that no passers-by or street vendors flinched at.
The social, cultural and indigenous commitment to maintaining original roots speaks clearly: Oaxacans love and preserve the land they are on. I admire it, and extend that admiration to Hotel con Corazón, a local hotel that allowed me to further witness this in action.
Here in the heart of the city, maybe a short 8-minute walk from my temporary Airbnb home from my last visit, was Hotel con Corazón, a social enterprise dedicated to Oaxaca’s education depravities. As humbly as it presents itself online is how it feels when arriving. I remember it as an oasis of natural lighting, the pastel green outside-wall easing you into one of the purest and most easeful stays of your life.
As a solo Black woman traveler, a foodie, a newbie nomad, shamelessly attracted to hotels with cute colourful minimalist designs, Hotel con Corazón almost convinced me never to leave the hotel premises. And it wasn’t just the pleasing aesthetic, it was the fact that as a Black person aware of the effects of under-developed and under-served communities, this felt like a form of tourism I could easily relate to.
The run down, what is Hotel con Corazón?
The first thing to know is that the Hotel con Corazón enterprise is the first of its kind in Latin America, and the Oaxacan hotel is the first in Mexico.
With Oaxaca being one of the poorest states in Mexico, many kids do not receive adequate education. With this motivation, Hotel con Corazón invests around 75% of its profits in local education. This includes profits from the hotel rooms, the artisan shop adjacent to the hotel, the traditional cooking classes, the local tours – the whole thing. On the website, it explains that “Our Oaxaca program supports teenagers in marginalized areas around Oaxaca City in their education path, in order to give them a head start at the labor market and break their families’ poverty cycle.
Being located exclusively in Central America where poverty is increasing while tourism does, the overall goal is clear: ‘students finish school, locals find formal employment and tourists give back to the community.’
In 2006, the first Hotel con Corazón hotel was opened in Granada, Nicaragua and before long the three-star hotel turned into Granada’s best-selling accommodation that helped over 700 children finish school while serving 40,000 hotel guests. Shortly after in 2018, the Oaxaca branch was opened and has lived up to the prestige.
Currently, there are several hotels under construction, including two destinations in Costa Rica and one in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Mexico.
As far as hotel aesthetics go, Hotel con Corazón deeply impressed me, obviously. If I could describe the vibe in a word, I’d go with honest. From the hotel staff to the warmth in the vicinity, there is a lot of transparency that is appreciated by all who find themselves at the hotel.
The effortless blend of minimalism, with bursts of vibrancy that rivals the cityscape itself, surprised me even after my long-term travels here. It is not always easy to capture Mexican history and wed it with a modernism that is understood by all, but that is what you’re getting – from the patio through to your room.
Too humble to be deemed luxury and too sincere to be termed boutique, Hotel con Corazón truly offers something special that is hard to define in hotels. It simply exists to show you the real Oaxaca: the beautiful, the potential, the culinary greatness and yes, the social problems that need working through.
Aside from the decor and design, the staff are welcoming and always very willing to offer suggestions as to how you might further enjoy the city, the hotel’s amenities and your understanding of Mexican culture. A quick stop at the reception desk turned into almost an hour’s conversation about the preservation of languages in Mexico, Latin America and across the globe where original peoples continue to fight erasure. This is what I mean about the open, honest vibe.
The rooms are equally a delight, all individually designed where the art nods towards the social enterprise aspect of the hotel, reminding you what your stay means for the community. Spacious, airy and all garden-facing – with balcony access if you choose smart. The rooms pay homage to the attention to detail that characterizes Oaxaca.
Whatever comes to mind when you hear ‘Breakfast included’, forget it, entirely. Breakfast at Hotel con Corazón, in Mexico’s darling culinary state, with local Oaxacan chefs and ingredients? You will clean your plate in 5 minutes flat. As someone who never skips breakfast, I’m a very tough critic but the food did not disappoint. Not only was the presentation gorgeous, but it was so thoughtfully curated, ensuring to offer the best and most recognizable traditional dishes with some more unknown ingredients too. As a vegan, my options weren’t super varied, but I definitely ate well.
Breakfast is included, and further meals and local drinks/beers throughout the day can be purchased.
Was it worth booking a social enterprise hotel?
As a traveler who has never come across a social enterprise hotel, this was an experience I am keen to repeat. With responsible, socially conscious and, to be straight, kinder travel trends making a reappearance as travel slowly restarts as normal, Hotel con Corazón exists for all the best reasons. Knowing that my stay was positively impacting the local community, rather than straining it, made traveling feel more mindful.
The main difference, though, is that I didn’t just check out and move on to my next destination like usual, thinking about how cute but forgettable the hotel was. Since visiting, I feel aware of the potential that my money has and can have in the tourism industry and seek out opportunities to make this a habit. Certainly, while planning trips to Nicaragua, I am considering how I can support the local Granada community with my stay in the Hotel con Corazón branch there.
As a final thought, I have a lot of appreciation for the hotel and for what I learned about Oaxacan culture. The humility, coupled with the confidence in the future that is being built through the profits, creates a space that is hard to ignore.
Hotel con Corazón is going to make an impression on you, I’m pretty sure of it. And when it does, hopefully it will open your heart to new ways of engaging with hotels, communities and travel habits.