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San Antonio’s Missions declared a World Heritage site July 6, 2015

Posted by Tracy in : San Antonio, Spain, Texas , add a comment

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Alamo with Moon (Al Rendon photo, courtesy San Antonio Convention and Visitors Bureau)

Tracy L. Barnett, Special for USA TODAY

Five cherished portals to America’s Spanish colonial past have just been elevated to the stature of Machu Picchu, Stonehenge and the Taj Mahal with Sunday’s decision by the World Heritage Committee of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to grant World Heritage status to San Antonio Missions National Historical Park.

“We are thrilled,” said San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor, calling from Bonn, Germany, soon after the announcement was made. “The decision came right after Independence Day and we felt we were representing the United States on a world stage, so it was very exciting.”
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Selma marches, Bloody Sunday mark 50th anniversaries February 21, 2015

Posted by Tracy in : Civil Rights, Civil Rights travel , add a comment

Marchers walking in the rain in Montgomery during the Selma to Montgomery March (Courtesy Alabama Department of Archives and History)

Marchers walking in the rain in Montgomery during the Selma to Montgomery March (Courtesy Alabama Department of Archives and History)


My latest for USA Today, and one I really enjoyed doing. The best part was interviewing two heroes of the Civil Rights movement – Vera Booker and Gwen Patton, who put their bodies on the line time after time. Sad that 50 years later, people are still having to fight for the same things. But it feels good to take a moment, anyway, to appreciate the progress that’s been made.

by Tracy L. Barnett, Special for USA TODAY

Vera Jenkins Booker was the night supervisor on duty at Good Samaritan Hospital in Selma, Ala., the night Jimmie Lee Jackson was shot by an Alabama state trooper who followed him into a restaurant and shot him at close range as he tried to protect his mother and grandfather. The date was Feb. 18, 1965, and as those who have seen the movie Selma already know, it was the first in a chain of events that would focus the eyes of the world on the brutality of racism. The 26-year-old Baptist deacon was among those marching in the tiny town of Marion in protest of the discriminatory voter registration practices of the day; he had tried unsuccessfully to register for four years, and the struggle eventually cost him his life.

“He was in so much pain, and when I pulled up the shirt, that was when I saw a piece of gut the size of a small grapefruit,” Booker recalls. She tended the wound as they waited for the doctor. “I said, ‘You gonna be all right,’ and he kinda calmed down.”

She cared for him throughout the week, and through two surgeries. “He told me he was home from the service, and he said to me, ‘I got a little girl, and I’m going to marry her mother.’ I said, ‘That’s the thing to do, marry that little girl.’ I was sure he was going to live.”

His death eight days later was the match that ignited an already smoldering civil rights movement, kindling Bloody Sunday, the Selma to Montgomery marches, a summer of nonstop protest around the country, and in August, the passage of the Voting Rights Act. Those marches are the focus of an ambitious series of anniversary events in Selma and Montgomery that have already begun. At their peak, on the March 7 anniversary of Bloody Sunday, President Barack Obama is scheduled to make an appearance; other big names to help mark the event include Bernice King, who will be reading her father’s seminal “How long? Not long” speech from the statehouse steps on March 25 in Montgomery, at the same time and spot as her father did.

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Rocky Mountain National Park celebrates 100th Anniversary February 5, 2015

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Tracy L. Barnett
Special to USA Today

It was January 1915, and big things were happening. Alexander Graham Bell made the first transcontinental phone call; the U.S. House of Representatives rejected an outlandish proposal to give women the vote; and the devastating Great War in Europe was making waves across the Atlantic, with the first U.S. ship lost to the war.

It was also the month that nearly a decade of organizing and lobbying on the part of a handful of Colorado citizens finally paid off with the creation of Rocky Mountain National Park, on January 26, 1915.

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“Whenever one of these great parks has an anniversary, it’s a real cause for celebration and also a moment to remember with gratitude our elders who brought these parks into being in the first place,” said Lloyd Burton, professor and environmental policy scholar at the University of Denver. “They decided that it was really important to ensure the legacy of wild, beautiful places for future generations – particularly at a time when there were powerful forces at work that wanted to slice and dice and privatize them – and quite frankly, those forces haven’t gone away.”

Indeed, as the beloved park begins its second century, it faces a number of challenges to its integrity. Climate change, with its recurring droughts and high temperatures throughout the West, has weakened the forests and is believed to have exacerbated a pine beetle blight that has destroyed millions of acres of lodgepole and Ponderosa pine. Another factor weakening the forest has been fire suppression. “Before settlers the fire was the way the forest healed itself; but since we started to suppress the fires, the forest is getting sicker and sicker.”

Read the whole story and see the historic slideshow here

RELATED: See my Rocky Mountain National Park guide, here.

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Enjoying the best, preparing for the worst January 20, 2015

Posted by Tracy in : Adventure , add a comment

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Patricia and Mark Rauch were planning a trip to Italy to celebrate a cousin’s 60th birthday, and they decided to explore a less-beaten path across the Adriatic Sea in Croatia.

Rochelle and Alan Jacobson have always sought out exotic, challenging destinations far from tourist zones, so Myanmar had been on their list for a long time.

Both couples experienced the best of what life has to offer in their travels last year – and each also lived through a hard-hitting reminder to prepare for the worst.

– See more at: http://thebuzzmagazines.com/articles/2015/02/enjoying-best-preparing-worst#sthash.2Gwc06da.dpuf

Común Tierra: A journey through sustainable communities of the Americas July 27, 2014

Posted by Tracy in : Adventure, Consumer travel, Eco-Nomads, ecotourism, Ecovillages, Latin America, Nature tourism, Permaculture , add a comment

Minhoca Ecuador
(All photos courtesy of Común Tierra)

Editor’s note: In November of 2010, as I was winding down my journey through the Americas, documenting sustainability initiatives in the 10 countries I visited, my path crossed with that of Ryan Luckey and Leticia Rigatti, the couple who make up Común Tierra. They were doing exactly what I had wanted to do but ran out of time, funds and energy. They have spent the past four years creating a body of work that is unparalleled in this area, planting seeds of sustainability as they go with their workshops and seed bank and presentations. Their journey carried them throughout the Americas aboard the Minhoca, a motor home outfitted with a wide range of “ecotecnias” or ecological technologies that help the travelers live in a way that’s consistent with their values, while making their home a rolling demonstration project for sustainability.
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Huicholes: The Last Peyote Guardians May 23, 2014

Posted by Tracy in : Guadalajara, Historical preservation, Indigenous culture, Latin America, Mexico, Sustainability , add a comment

This week Huicholes: The Last Peyote Guardians had its world premiere – fittingly in the remote mountain enclave of Real de Catorce, the picturesque colonial capital of Wirikuta – followed by a second showing after a rugged two-day journey into Wixarika territory in the even more remote Sierra Madre.

The most important movie to date about the Wixarika (Huichol) people and their struggle to save the center of their cosmos, the Birthplace of the Sun, this movie weaves the dramatic story of that battle around the pilgrimage of Marakame José Luis Ramírez and his family to the desert of Wirikuta.
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National Parks: Revisiting “America’s best idea” May 21, 2014

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Arches National Park (Neal Herbert photo courtesy of National Park Service)

Historian and author Wallace Stegner once called the National Park System “America’s best idea.” Nearly a century after the park service was established, most who have had the privilege of visiting a few of our national parks would be sure to agree. Nothing captures the grandeur of this fragile, beautiful, incredibly diverse planet the way that our national parks do – and to be sure, I’ve been privileged to see quite a few.

So naturally I was delighted when USA Today invited me to help out with their guide to the USA’s best national parks. Here are my contributions:
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What kind of traveler are you? San Antonio Trips for 5 Types of Travelers May 1, 2014

Posted by Tracy in : San Antonio , add a comment

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By Tracy L. Barnett
Special package for USA Today’s Experience Weekend site


Remember the Alamo? Well, San Antonio has a whole lot more to offer visitors these days, almost enough to make you forget about that iconic shrine to Texas liberty. Miles and miles of newly developed spaces along the River Walk, an irresistible selection of fine dining experiences, a diverse and vibrant music scene, a sizzling nightlife – all of it colored by that special cultural blend that you’ll only find in America’s most Mexican of cities. Nowadays you’ll need at least a week to explore the best the city has to offer. But here’s a warning – once you’ve gotten a taste of the Alamo City, you may not want to leave.

San Antonio for First-Timers

San Antonio for Families

San Antonio for Foodies

San Antonio for Romance

San Antonio for Hipsters

Helmut, the German medicine man April 7, 2014

Posted by Tracy in : Ecovillages, Mexico , add a comment

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Living in Teopatli Kalpulli has many advantages, and one of them is the constant stream of wise and interesting individuals who come our way.

Recently we enjoyed a workshop with Helmut, a German medicine man who comes to Teopantli Kalpulli every two years to participate in the Promesa del Sol ceremony. During his stay he offers a workshop on medicinal plants. This year he didn’t know what the topic would be so he decided to spend the night sleeping under a sage bush to see if he would get any clues about what the teaching should be.

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Here in the Kalpulli the sage grows up to eight feet tall, towering over us in its mature state. I have two of them standing guard outside my door.
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Behind the Scenes: What Wirikuta Fest fans bought with their tickets April 5, 2014

Posted by Tracy in : Indigenous culture, Mexico, Mexico City , 3comments

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“Wirikuta is not for sale!” Wixarika leaders and activists take the stage at Wirikuta Fest to the chants of 60,000 fans.

Story and photos by Tracy L. Barnett

It was a long time coming – but it was worth the wait.

Nearly two years ago, more than a dozen of Mexico’s biggest performing artists came together in a mega-event aimed at saving Wirikuta, one of the country’s most sacred sites, from devastation at the hands of Canadian gold and silver mining operations.

It was a triumphant moment for the indigenous Wixarika people and for indigenous movements in general when, as the daylong festival came to a close, they were invited to come up on stage. A massive screen flashed images of traditional Wixarika beadwork behind them as 60,000 fans chanted, in unison, “Wirikuta no se vende! Wirikuta se defende!” (Wirikuta is not for sale! Wirikuta will be defended!)

Leaders of the indigenous Wixarika people and the Wirikuta Defense Front, the civil society coalition that is supporting them, came forward in a Mexico City press conference recently to give an accounting of how the money was spent – an example of innovation in the face of daunting challenges.
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