Belize Travelcast >> Episode 14

The Longest Canoe Race in Central America

Luis Garcia 45 minutes

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Luis Garcia is one of the original founders of the La Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge. Today he is the General Manager of Eco-Friendly Solutions Limited, a Belizean company that distributes biodegradable products in Belize, where single-use plastics are being phased out. Luis is well known in Belize as an advocate for environmental awareness and promoting sustainable practices to conserve the environment. The La Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge, the longest canoe race in Central America, had it’s humble beginnings from Luis’s own passion and love for the rivers and keeping them clean.

In the early 90’s, he was the owner of one of the first local radio stations in San Ignacio called Radio Ritmo. Through the radio station, he engaged in several efforts that promoted clean up campaigns, especially in communities along the Mopan, Macal, and Belize rivers. He organized a canoe race called the “Down and Up Race” which saw paddlers race down the Mopan River to its confluence where it joins the Macal River to form the Belize River, then up the Macal River to San Ignacio, finishing under the famed Hawkesworth bridge. Down and Up was the precursor to the La Ruta Maya race which was conceived along with the late great Richard Harrison as an idea to promote the launch of Vida Purified Water but also to build an event that highlighted the importance of the rivers and to promote community involvement in keeping the rivers clean and healthy.

Luis reminds us that from the inception, the focus of the La Ruta Maya race was to highlight the importance of keeping the rivers clean which is why the race was always followed by a clean up crew. He tells us that some 80% or more of Belize’s population has some dependency on the Belize river and therefore it is vital to continue the tradition that he started so many years ago along with Richard Harrison and others who saw the importance of keeping the rivers clean and healthy.

The La Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge race is held each year in the month of March to coincide with the National Heroes and Benefactors day, which is a public Holiday. In 2020, the race will be held from March 6th to March 9th. You can follow the race on local radio stations or on Facebook. Visit 

Luis also gives us some insights into the other ideas he had for the race which centered around sustainable tourism. Today Luis's focus is with his company Eco-Friendly Solutions which provides an increasingly important line of products to the country. Recently, the Belize Government passed legislation to ban single-use plastic products to reduce plastic and Styrofoam pollution. This is a very ambitious but very important effort that almost all Belizeans embrace. In Belize, it is estimated that up to two hundred million single-use plastic bags are imported every year. It is a staggering number considering that the population of Belize is roughly 350,000 people. Belize's booming tourism industry is certainly one of the main consumers of these products.

Eco Friendly Solutions Ltd is a private company that focuses on selling products that are friendly to the environment and its development to Belize. Their biodegradable line of products includes plates, cups, knives, forks, and bags. All the containers are freezer and microwave safe.
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Luis Garcia

Luis Garcia is the General Manager of Eco-Friendly Solutions Limited, a Belizean company that distributes biodegradable products in Belize. he is a native of western Belize and is well known for his efforts in environmental causes. He is one of the original founders of the La Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge race, which is the longest canoe race in Central America. He is the former owner of Radio Ritmo in San Ignacio where he developed community-based programming and organized environmental health activities.

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