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From sierra to sea: Huichols make their mark on Cancun December 16, 2010

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CANCUN – “Arriving at the ocean is very important; you can’t just walk up to it like it’s a common thing,” Antonio told us as we bumped along through the night on our way to Isla Blanca. “We consider the sea to be sacred; we come from the sea. We have to ask permission to be here.”

That’s how I found myself standing at the edge of the gleaming surf, saying a prayer of gratitude and tossing a chocolate cookie along with a 5-peso coin into the Caribbean along with my prayer. Antonio made an eloquent petition to the great spirits of the ocean and of the five directions sacred to the Wixarika people, asking for special attention during the climate summit proceedings – that everything go well for all of humanity, for those attending the COP-16 events, and for all the Earth.

The candle was offered to the sea as well, and a last gleaming spark scooted downwind along the edge of the surf: earth, wind, fire, water. There couldn’t have been a more perfect way to begin our mission, or the first visit to the Yucatan for all five of us.

Eagle and condor meet in visionary gathering of souls December 16, 2010

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CHALMITA, Mexico State, Mexico – Long before the sun appears over the towering white cliffs all around us, this temporary village comes to life. The guardians of the ceremonial fire are stoking the flames for the temezcal; the kitchen crew is chopping and peeling and stirring; smoke is rising from the women’s tipi. Suddenly the resonant call of the conch rings out over the valley, calling us to the salutation of the sun, and the cry of an eagle pierces the air like a blessing.

We are gathered in this enchanted valley for the Call of the Eagle, the tenth intercontinental gathering of a group of dreamers and doers who are quietly changing the world from the inside out: the Consejo de Visiones – Guardianes de la Tierra (Vision Council – Guardians of the Earth).

Some 500 visitors from as far as Australia and as near as neighboring Chalmita – filmmakers and farmers, psychologists and shamans, artists and teachers, spiky-haired punks and lyrical poets – are learning to live together under the blue skies and bright stars of an itinerant ecovillage conceived more than a decade ago under the banner of the Rainbow Caravan for Peace and the Mexican Bioregional Movement. By the end of the week, this event will have touched the lives of more than 1,000.

Giving Thanks, Making Peace November 25, 2010

Posted by Tracy in : Colombia, El Salvador, Esperanza Project, Guatemala, Mexico, Mexico City, Travel wisdom , 5comments


MEXICO CITY, Mexico – Thanksgiving day – I awoke this morning far from home and family but filled with a profound sense of gratitude.

Grateful for the sun that was just beginning to brighten the sky outside my window; grateful for the dear friends who have given me a home in this city of cities. Grateful for the health and the support of my family, who continue to love me faithfully despite my wandering ways.

Most of all on this day, I’m grateful for the path I’ve been given this year, a path that has led me from inspiration to inspiration as I traveled from Mexico to Argentina, seeking to learn from those who are each changing our world in their own way.

Colombians changing the world with color and style November 6, 2010

Posted by Tracy in : Colombia , 1 comment so far


My time in Colombia was so full of amazing people and organizations that it didn’t leave me time to write as much as I would have liked. This roundup gives a little information about each of them, with hopes to come back to each of them with more information later.

Perhaps more than any country in Latin America, Colombia has suffered the pains born of a savagely unequal distribution of wealth and the gross distortions of humanity that can evolve such a system. Colombia is a land of extremes: beginning, as the entire story of Latin America does, with the Spanish conquest – but more recently, with La Violencia, the decade-long wave of violence unleashed by attempts at land reform in the 1940s and ’50s. This brutal backlash laid the groundwork for guerilla, military and paramilitary violence that wracked the country for four decades, laying the groundwork in turn for the narcotrafficking that accelerated the violence, until recently, to the point of paroxysm.

El Hatico cattle ranch: The problem is the solution October 30, 2010

Posted by Tracy in : Colombia, ecotourism, Latin America, Nature tourism , add a comment


VALLE DE CAUCA, Colombia – When Alicia Calle, an environmental scientist with Yale’s Environmental Leadership and Training Initiative, first told me of El Hatico Nature Reserve, her face lit up for the first time since I’d met her an hour ago. We’d been talking about the state of the environment in Colombia, a subject with much to lament, given the spread of mining operations, cattle ranching, vast monocultures of sugarcane and African palm and coca, deforestation, water contamination, the same story throughout the Americas.

What is it that gives you hope, I asked her, as I do in every interview. It was then that she pulled out a booklet and started showing me photos of El Hatico.

“Let me be clear: I don’t like cattle farming; I think it’s created terrible environmental problems and social inequalities throughout its development in Latin America. But this is a place I’d really like you to see, a place that’s turned a major problem into a part of the solution.”

Catching my breath in Cali October 6, 2010

Posted by Tracy in : Colombia , 6comments

IMG_0901CALI, Colombia – Cali took my breath away from the moment of my arrival, and I still haven’t quite gotten it back.

From the San Francisco-like inclines of its streets, to the beauty and intensity of its landscapes and its cialis 10mg people, to the pace of the dancers that whirl around a thousand discos and salsatecas seven nights a week, Cali is a city that moves you.

Yes, this is Cali, whose name is spoken like the name of a lover, once home to one of the world’s most infamous and powerful drug cartels. Not so long ago it was caught in the violent vice between guerilla, military and paramilitary forces and narcotraffickers, and mass kidnappings and shootouts were the order of the day.

Only today, the passionately patriotic caleños can look back and reminisce in amazement that they survived it all, and that their beautiful city is theirs once again.

A piece of Paraguayan paradise: San Rafael preserve September 20, 2010

Posted by Tracy in : Paraguay , 2comments


SAN RAFAEL RESERVE, Alto Vera Province, Paraguay – “You are about to enter the most beautiful place in the world,” Daniel advised me as we bumped along on the rutted red road, which was growing more rutted and narrower by the minute as the dark forest closed in around us. Waist-high ferns and vine-draped trees rose in the darkness.

It had been two and a half hours since we’d left Encarnacion, Paraguay’s southern hub on the banks of the Parana, and it had been nearly an hour since we’d seen any kind of human habitation. Instead, miles and miles of wheat fields stretched to the horizon – the winter crop here, which will be harvested soon to make way for Roundup-Ready soy.

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“The changes here in Alto Vera have been really dramatic in the past few years,” Daniel tells me. He’s watched as the vast Atlantic forests of his native land and the small farms that once dotted them have fallen, mile after mile, to make way for these fields.

“What’s happening is very sad,” he said. “The campesinos who have lived and farmed here all their lives are in a very precarious situation – if they have one bad season, they will be hungry all year. When a big producer comes to them and offers them money for their land, many of them can’t refuse. At $6,000 a hectare, it’s an inconceivable amount of money – they think they’ll be able to live on it for years, and they move to the city. Within a year or two, it’s all gone.”

Stretching the spirit at Iguazú, the "Great Water" September 13, 2010

Posted by Tracy in : Argentina , 2comments


IGUAZU FALLS NATIONAL PARK – Agoutis and coaties, monkeys and toucans and brilliant morpho buy cialis 5mg butterflies blessed my path in this jungle wonderland, as did a brightly colored bird whose name in Guarani means “grandchild of the rainbow.”

These waterfalls are famous the world over but are known mainly in the United States for their starring role in Robert De Niro and Jeremy Irons’ classic film The Mission. I’d dreamed of coming here for years; its majesty dwarfs the mighty Niagra, and the natural beauty of its jungle habitat bids one to linger.

I arrived first thing in the morning but waited to see the falls, choosing instead to integrate myself into the natural surroundings first. I started with a seven-kilometer hike through the jungle on the Macuco Trail, named for a reclusive, chubby brown land-dwelling bird that lives in these parts.

The jungle is best visited in the early morning, when the birds and animals are still at their most active. The insects clacking and chirping in the trees are overwhelming in themselves; the trail winds through vine- and moss-draped trees and groves of bamboo. I hadn’t been on the trail more than five minutes when a family of coatimundis ambled across my path, snuffling under leaves and bark in search of juicy ants and other insects.

In Argentina, Labor Day is Immigrant’s Day September 6, 2010

Posted by Tracy in : Argentina , 1 comment so far


POSADAS, Argentina – I had almost forgotten that today was Labor Day – which is celebrated on May 1 here in Latin America, rather than in September. Here Labor Day, or Dia de los Trabajadores – Day of the Workers – is much more of a rallying event for the working class, a concept foreign to most Americans these days, even as our own labor movement seems to fade into the sunset.

At any rate, it’s not Labor Day here, so I wished my family a happy holiday online and headed for the central plaza to find a bank to change my money. It was my first day in Argentina, having crossed the border from Paraguay last night. In any new city here in Latin America, the Plaza de Armas is always my first stop – or, as my host corrected me, the “centro,” as it’s called here in Argentina. Here in Posadas it’s also known as the 9th of July Plaza – the day commemorating Argentine independence.

“”Plaza de Armas’ is so Latin American!” he teased me. “Argentines don’t really think of themselves as Latin Americans.”

“Of course you don’t,” I joked right back. “But naming your plazas and your streets for dates is so Latin American!”

“Really?” That stopped him.

Chacoí: A little bit of Chaco on the Río Paraguay August 23, 2010

Posted by Tracy in : Paraguay , 7comments


Like any river city, one of the best parts of Asuncion is its location on the waterfront – in this case, the mighty Río Paraguay. Sadly, the riverfront has been neglected in most parts and has been populated with ramshackle settlements of the poor. Nonetheless, the area around the port and the government palace is quite beautiful and well worth a visit, and a boat ride on the Paraguay is a must for any visitor to Asuncion.