A way to rethink the way we travel is through sustainable tourism. Travel and hospitality can be a polluting, displacing industry and the concious traveler often wants to put their travel dollars towards righting this. Welcome to Sonoran Desert Inn, the only non-profit inn in the USA doing things a little bit differently.
Sonoran Desert Inn is the only non-profit inn in the country.
Based in Ajo, Arizona, right on the border with Mexico in the Sonoran desert, this inn is housed in a converted school house of those once robust, desert mining towns that dominate imagery of the west.
Do you like off-the-beaten-path travel visiting ghost towns, old mining towns or factory towns? Then this place is for you. And you’d be giving funds to marganilized communities.
As a not-for-profit organization, the inn functions to attract visitors to Ajo and the surrounding region. It helps to support Ajo’s economic development through direct employment and partnerships with local businesses, entrepreneurs, and artists. The inn partners with ISDA (International Sonoran Desert Alliance*) to tell Ajo’s rich history in early 20th century America. John Greenway was the manager of the New Cornelia Copper mine. With his wife Isabelle, in 1914, John was inspired America’s City Beautiful movement and sought to build an idyllic town that would keep mine workers and their families happy and productive. Think gargantuan buildings in Spanish colonial and neoclassical style rising out of the desert dust. A beautiful town plaza, a school, huge theatre.
The school of the town, The Curley School Campus serving childing K-12 that closed in 1995. This is now the Sonoran Desert Inn!
Now it wasn’t all “happy families.” There was Mexicotown, Anglotown, Indian village and still there is loose segregation today that the Sonoran Desert Inn and it’s partner ISDA is attempting to combat. Indigenous food cooking classes, food, art, and artist in residency program. It’s a perfect stop on a Southwest family road trip. While I was there, I met several guests from the East coast who found the space years ago and came back regularly. There were also German travelers!
It was really cool, very charming. I bought a beautiful Jasper necklace from the gift shop there with all of the proceeds going to the non-profit. We had a delicious Mexican food from Lucia’s Sonoran Kitchen. After dinner, we listened to Lorraine Eiler, ISDA board member recount her experiences growing up in Ajo and seeing it’s transformation into an artsy mining community.
Stays at the Sonoran Desert Inn start at $125 / night. The property is 15 minutes away from Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.
Happy Indigenous People’s Day!
Here is some of the street art in Artist’s Alley in Ajo.
**ISDA is an alliance of peoples from three Nations: the Tohono O’odham Nation, Mexico and the United States. We are committed to fostering communication, understanding and cooperation among the richly diverse cultures in our region. Our intention is to preserve and enrich heritage in a way that transcends borders and boundaries with thoughtful and non-extractive economic development initiatives.