This story is from the Winter 2021 edition of Florida Tech Magazine. For more, visit fit.edu/magazine.
In October 2020, Maria Fernandez ’04 advanced her career to regional president at Tier 4 Advisors, which helps its clients with IT infrastructure-related services. But while some find hobbies like sports, music or collections, Fernandez’s idea of filling downtime is much grander in scale: she is building a luxury eco-resort in the Chilean Patagonia.
“When my partner took me to Patagonia, I was overtaken by its vastness, untouched wilderness and raw, breathtaking beauty,” says Fernandez. “Patagonia became a common topic in our ‘dreaming’ conversations, and soon we said, ‘Well, what’s stopping us from doing something wonderful here?’”
She drew upon her transferable job skills—negotiations, project and program management, international teamwork and regulations—to start Eko Patagonia, this side venture of vast proportions. Then, in pursuit of this new dream, she learned even more—business plans and funding, international real estate, architecture, reusable energy and remote-area construction logistics, to name a few.
“It really was a brand-new adventure with a ton of learning! I say it was like doing an MBA of Hard Knocks,” she says, but adds that it is the best decision of her life. Fernandez is building something one of a kind: modern, Western luxury in a rustic, untouched part of the world while remaining as ecological as possible.
Repurposed shipping containers found on-site form the lodging structures. Grey water is reused or returned to the land. Reclaimed fishing nets wrap walkways to prevent slips. Reclaimed light poles are given new life as raw material used throughout the property.
The goal is to not subtract from the land for resources or add to it with waste—and all without sacrificing comfort, maintaining the five-star level of luxury that is rare in the region. “We want to share the untouched beauty that the region offers and keep it that way for generations!” Fernandez says. Eko Patagonia’s grand opening is scheduled for fall 2021.
TV show of the moment:
“The Queen’s Gambit.”
Travel blogger and international philanthropist.
Anything with Nutella on it.
Favorite Florida Tech memory:
Evening RA rounds with my residents.