Mexico Meets Mahalo

( * Below is a “guest blog” written by one of my dear friends and an ICON in the Mexico travel industry. Greg Custer, along with his lovely wife Jane, own and operate Destination Ventures. This amazing company has been almost single-handedly responsible for educating and promoting Mexico to travel agents nationwide. In turn, those of you who utililze these skilled travel specialists have certainly been touched by their experience. For the last 20 years, Destination Ventures ( has presented the most well known and comprehesive educational seminars about Mexico available today. In addition, their “Online Learning Modules” are changing the dynamic of the entire travel marketplace.  If you’re a travel agent, this is a shameless plug to visit their site and check out their offerings for 2008-2009.

Destination Ventures is also closely tied to UNESCO and “Friends of World Heritage” ( and works tirelessly to promote this organization to preserve and protect the World Heritage sites for today’s travelers and future generations. Thanks, Greg, for sharing your story with us, and we hope to see you more often! )

Mexico Meets Mahalo

By: Greg Custer

I just spent seven days touring Hawaii. It was a most rewarding trip, being able to make presentations with the US National Park Service, Expedia and the U N Foundation. The mission was to promote the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and its credential as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The World Heritage program is mostly about identifying and protecting all things natural and cultural that represent humanities shared legacy. There are 20 of these sites in the U.S. and Mexico now has 29 sites. World Heritage is about what connects us all as humans. It’s about how we’ve interacted with each other and our physical world. World Heritage sites belong to all the peoples of the world, irrespective of the territory on which they are located.

So it was with great amazement that while touring the islands I came across a bit of botanical history. It turns out the flower used to make Hawaii’s iconic lei is actually not Hawaiian. It’s Mexican. That’s right. In 1860, a renowned German physician and botanist (who happened to also be the doctor to the Hawaiian Royal Family) crossed the Pacific from Mexico. He carried cuttings and planted Hawaii’s first plumeria adjacent to an early hospital in Honolulu. While the Mexican source of these clippings is unknown, visitors can today see the original blooming tree on the grounds of the Foster Botanical Gardens.

The plumeria has a storied past in Mexico, supposedly used by Mexica (Aztec) in ceremonies and rituals hundreds of years ago. Now firmly embraced by our Hawaiian amigos and their millions of visitors, the plumeria is loved and cared for by all who see, touch, smell and feel her flowering limbs. Like World Heritage, it belongs to everyone — it belongs to no one.