by Jane Di Leo
Entertainment, fun, excitement, diversion. These are just a handful of the visible ways that amusement parks and attractions give back—often on a daily basis—to those in their surrounding communities. What is often less noticeable, however, is the social and environmental work these parks undertake to create an even greater positive impact than what is visible on the surface. One standout example in the Latin American community is El Rollo, a water park nestled in the heart of central Mexico.
Located in Tlaquiltenango, a small town a few hours south of Mexico City (near Cuernavaca), El Rollo is known for its famed water attractions. These include a wave pool, steep 25-meter (82-foot) slides, a fully enclosed water loop slide, and the much-talked-about “El Revolcadero,” which is an attraction where a large wave pushes seated visitors into a pool of water. El Rollo also offers a special VIP area, which allows families and parties to rent private villas with their own whirlpools. In spite of the tough economic climate of the past few years, the park has seen growth. It now has more than 800 employees and hosts more than 400,000 visitors annually.
Founded in 1955 by Dr. Ignacio Rodriguez Saucedo (Finado) and his wife, Carmelita Quevedo de Rodriguez, El Rollo quickly became the hotspot for Mexican families to visit to cool off during the hot season (February through August). “Today, the Rodriguez Quevedo family still owns El Rollo,” says Luis Díaz Juárez, marketing and public relations manager for El Rollo, who has been with the company for 15 years. “What makes El Rollo so special is that in all these years, throughout all our changes, our mission of allowing visitors to ‘discover a magical place that exceeds their expectations, serving them with pride and quality, demonstrating our values, and reaching levels of quality and excellence’ has not changed. What makes us great today are the same values that made us great 50 years ago.”
These values, however, go deeper than providing visitors with a fun day of distraction from daily life. “Though we pride ourselves on the service and experience we offer our visitors, what we are really proud of is what we do for our surrounding communities,” Díaz Juárez says.
Take for example, the case of Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos (NPH), a home for orphaned and abandoned children located near El Rollo. “We open our gates to homes such as these, as well as school groups from around the area, so that children who might not otherwise have the opportunity for a day of fun at a water park may experience at least one of the delights childhood should entail,” Díaz Juárez says. “A major value that we instill in our business’ culture is that of giving back. If we do not take care of those in our surrounding communities, what good are we doing?”
Each year, Jim Hoyt, an Arizona-based fundraiser for Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos, takes a group of donors with children from NPH to El Rollo. “Part of our mission trip itinerary is bringing our group and their godchildren from Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos to El Rollo,” Hoyt says. “The management of the water park graciously comps the pequeños’ visit and arranges a special discount for our group. Every year, this excursion is one of the highlights of the trip. It provides an opportunity for the group to spend the day together swimming, eating, and laughing. On the way back to the home in the bus, most of the children have fallen asleep on one another after an exhausting day in the sun. However, their memories and time spent together carry long into the future.”
In addition to the work El Rollo does with lower-income student groups, the park also gives 50 percent of its ticket sales from school groups back to the school, much like a fundraising mechanism that schools may use to help drum up much-needed income. The money goes to help local schools with such projects as upkeep, improvements, school supplies, and sports equipment. “We also help the local Red Cross, fire departments, and civil service organizations by allowing them to use our facilities for events to raise funds for their institutions,” Díaz Juárez says. “El Rollo has become a huge help in the development of the surrounding community and has benefitted the local economy, which, in turn, helps the economic growth of the community and state.”
Along with the work El Rollo does with its community, the owners and employees of the park pay attention to the environment. “Our company has received many awards, one of the most important being the qualification for ISO 9001:2008 and ISO 14001:2004 for the environment,” Díaz Juárez says. “We are proud of the fact that we have been highlighted as ‘a distinguished clean point,’ which is given out to businesses dedicated to cleanliness and hygiene in all areas of the business, by the secretary of tourism. We are achieving our goals for quality and excellence not only in the experience we provide our visitors but also the natural environment. Each employee attends workshops and receives training on environmental issues to ensure that our environmental priorities are a permanent part of the work culture, as well as in our employees’ own homes.”
Special attention is paid at El Rollo to ensure not only the water quality that visitors experience, but also conservation of water in an area that often suffers from drought and a lack of water, especially during the hot season. “We are very conscious of the fact that water is a precious resource, and it is our duty to help conserve this,” Díaz Juárez says. “That is why we place an emphasis on minimizing the impact El Rollo makes on the environment.”
“Each day,” Díaz Juárez, continues, “we all come to work knowing we are doing something that is bigger than each individual here. We are working together to provide joy to those who visit, as well as those near us who need a giving hand.”
To date, El Rollo’s efforts have paid off. Not only has the park survived for more than 50 years in good and bad economic and political times, it has created a positive impact in the community it serves, motivating visitors to come back, time and time again.
New York City-based freelance writer Jane Di Leo writes for city, regional, and national magazines, including Women’s Health and Delta Sky Magazine. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.