jump to navigation

Cuba to USA: Welcome Back! August 28, 2016

Posted by Tracy in : Adventure, Cuba, Latin America , add a comment

By Tracy L. Barnett
For Westways Magazine

IMG_0189 (2)

It was my first walk down the Malecón, the famous seawall that has protected Havana for a century along the Straits of Florida. I ended up at a seaside café, where I met a friendly man with a baseball cap. He called himself John and showed me his ID card, which identified him as Juan.

“My parents named me John, and I was John until the revolution,” he explained. “Then, with all the problems—you know, John Kennedy, the Bay of Pigs—it just wasn’t possible to have that name anymore, and the government changed it.”

He wanted to be sure that I knew, however, that he had no hard feelings about the difficult past between our countries.

“We Cubans have nothing against the American people,” he declared. (more…)

Vision Council calls to dreamers and doers from near and far November 1, 2015

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

wpid-thumbnail-3840f254743a58d8d4cddce6a7f0a45b1
By Tracy L. Barnett
For El Daily Post

The Call of the Sage, which will culminate on the week of Nov. 21-28 in the intentional community of Teopantli Kalpulli south of Guadalajara, is the newest manifestation of the 25-year-old Vision Council-Guardians of the Earth. This loose-knit network of visionaries, artists and activists have traveled the globe for decades, with their workshops and performances planting seeds for a culture of peace, one that draws on movements from permaculture to bioregionalism to the Rainbow Gathering and the human potential movement.

The Call of the Sage began as a whisper in the winds of a tiny village on the edge of the Primavera Forest. For two years it has gathered force and volume, and now the call is being heard in lands as far away as New Zealand, Germany, Australia and Slovakia. It has different sounds at different moments and for different people; it’s the early morning trumpet of the caracol, calling us to yoga, to the temazcal, to breakfast. It’s the strumming of the Celtic harp in the women’s teepee, it’s the insistent beat of the Navajo water drum from the temazcal, and the rattle of the Aztec concheras as they gather around the fire for their offering of danza.
(more…)

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.
(more…)

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.
(more…)

Coasting along the Costalegre: Cuixmala, the Soul’s Resting Place December 26, 2013

Posted by Tracy in : ecotourism, Healing retreats, Latin America, Mexico, Nature tourism, Sustainability, Uncategorized , add a comment

La Loma

Part 4 of a series

This fairyland of Moorish-style villas scattered about on a 25,000-acre nature preserve was once the private hideaway of British multimillionaire-turned-conservationist Sir James Goldsmith. The late Goldsmith’s family decided to open the estate to guests and the low-profile, exclusive resort has been visited by the likes of Madonna and Tom Cruise.

I’d received an invitation to visit this off-the-map retreat center, or I’d never have known about it. Had we seen nothing else on our journey along the Costalegre, our escape to Cuixmala would have been well worth the trip.
(more…)

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

IMG_3038

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.”
(more…)

Santa Ana, El Salvador: Volcanos at sunset and a bittersweet sorbet July 8, 2010

Posted by Tracy in : ecotourism, El Salvador, Latin America , 2comments

IMG_5345

COATEPEQUE LAKE, El Salvador – The palms are swaying restlessly in the electric darkness, waiting for the storm to arrive. Lightning flashes over Santa Ana Volcano on the far side of the lake; just a few minutes ago I was walking along the shore with Elmer, catching the last bits of sunset over the lake.

He sensed the storm coming before I did. “Ya viene el agua,” he said. Literally, “Now the water is coming.” The timing couldn’t have been more perfect; rainy season notwithstanding, El Salvador gifted me with a blue sky my first full day in the country, perfect for visiting the pyramids of Tazumal and Casa Blanca, then catching a bus to this sparkling expanse of blue amid the volcanoes.
(more…)

Evo Morales, the plurinational president February 26, 2010

Posted by Tracy in : Bolivia, Indigenous culture, Latin America, Mexico, Mexico City , add a comment

IMG_2185

Forget Barak Obama – he’s so 2009. Evo Morales is the new rock star president, as I learned in Coyoacan this weekend. A sea of enthusiastic people of every ethnicity waited for hours in the hot sun to hear his plea for a more just society, one that provides a dignified life for all and respects the rights of the Pachamama, Mother Earth. His rousing speech was preceded with performances by indigenous dancers and musicians and a Four Directions ceremony.

Here are a few scenes from the rally on Sunday.


Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

At home with the Subcoyote February 21, 2010

Posted by Tracy in : Ecovillages, Latin America, Mexico, Mexico City, Sustainability, Tepoztlan , add a comment

Alberto home

Outside in the darkness, up in the hills not far from here, a chorus of coyotes is greeting the coming of the dawn. How appropriate, I think with a smile. Here in Huehuecoyotl, place of the old, old coyote, I’ve just bid farewell to the greatest coyote of all, Subcoyote Alberto Ruz Buenfil, who is letting me use his home as a base for a few days. Now it’s his time to head into Mexico City, where he is taking the lessons of the Rainbow Caravan for Peace into the barrios of that other place of coyotes, Coyoacán.
(more…)

Hope prevails through a bitter winter in Bancos de San Hipólito February 11, 2010

Posted by Tracy in : Adventure, Indigenous culture, Latin America, Mexico , 1 comment so far

We arrived in the fog-draped settlement of Buenos Aires, Durango, just after 9 a.m. It had been a hard night’s drive through a pouring rain, enlivened only by the stories of my tireless travel companion, human rights lawyer Carlos Chávez of the Jalisco Association in Support of Indigenous People (AJAGI, by its Spanish acronym).

We still had nearly three hours to go before we reached Bancos, but meanwhile, a group of comuneros from Buenos Aires awaited a ride in the back of his pickup truck. Chávez jumped out from behind the wheel he’d manned since 10 p.m. the night before, greeting a shivering cluster of men with good cheer and a round of hearty handshakes. A breakfast invitation followed, and Nora, Cristian and Yaser, three other AJAGI members, joined us as we were led through what looked like a refugee camp. Nora and Cristian had passed the night in the back of the truck; Yaser was less fortunate, having passed the stormy night in Buenos Aires.

A bitter windstorm had ripped through the village, stripping the tin roofs from many of the mud-brick homes in the middle of the night as the residents slept. The unrelenting rains and near-freezing temperatures compounded the misery as residents tried to piece their lives back together.

Nonetheless, a visit from Carlos Chávez and the folks from AJAGI was more than reason enough for a gathering. One family with a sheltered outdoor kitchen still in good working order invited us to huddle together underneath as the rains began again, and steaming freshly ground tortillas came off the grill one by one to envelop home-grown scrambled eggs and savory pork-seasoned beans and potatoes. Family members clustered around to beam at us and urge us to eat more as we wolfed down what was likely their sole daily portion. But to decline would have been an insult, so we obliged.

The strange winds, the unseasonable rains, and the unthinkable snowstorm of two weeks prior were recurring themes in our visit. The summer rains didn’t come in time to water the harvest, and much of the corn crop dried on the stalk. Of what survived, much succumbed to fungus when the rains arrived late. And then, month upon month of winter rains – and now the tornado-like windstorm that has just descended upon them, the likes of which they’ve never seen.

Climate change is not a theory for the Wixaritari, the tribal people named Huichol by the Spaniards for easier pronunciation. They are convinced that they are living it every day, and they are seeing it in shorter growing seasons and strange weather patterns. They don’t know the reasons, but it worries them.

There’s no time to dwell on it, however. There’s firewood to be gathered, roofs to fix, children to feed – and, for some, a regional assembly to attend down in the valley in Bancos.

Attorney Santos De La Cruz Carillo, technical advisors Yaser Ventura and Cristian Chávez, and community members Don Jesús and Prudencio, left to right - and still enough room for me.

Attorney Santos De La Cruz Carillo, technical advisors Yaser Ventura and Cristian Chávez, and community members Don Jesús and Prudencio, left to right - and still enough room for me.

Spirits were high as we clambered into the back of Chávez’ well-worn and mud-caked Toyota pickup truck. Bancos is in a sheltered valley, and considerably warmer than Buenos Aires, up in the mountaintops some 7,000 feet above sea level. Also, most of these families originally lived in Bancos. The residents of Buenos Aires are modern-day pioneers engaged in the act of resettling and at the same time reforesting the land ravaged by timber poachers from the neighboring mestizo communities.

The resettlement is all a part of a larger strategy, devised by Huichol community leaders hand-in-hand with Carlos and the rest of the AJAGI team, which has provided legal and technical assistance for nearly two decades, helping the community reclaim 55,000 hectares of land that had been annexed away from their territory and encroached upon over the years. An estimated 140,000 acres are at stake, including a 10,720-acre swath separating Bancos from its core community of San Andres Cohamiata in the neighboring state of Jalisco. In a groundbreaking decision in 1998, the International Labor Organization ruled that the Huichol people had a right to the land based on ancestral ownership, even though they don’t hold legal titles – a ruling the Mexican government has thus far failed to acknowledge. Repeated pronouncements from the international agency received no response until last year, when the Mexican government finally ruled in Bancos’ favor – but with a catch. It failed to recognize the ancestral rights outlined in a key document called Convention 169, and so the case remains in litigation.

“The case of Bancos at one point was once described by the current director of the United Nations Forum on Indigenous Peoples as probably the most important case in the world” with respect to indigenous land rights, said Chávez. “If the case is resolved in the community’s favor, it will be of benefit to all indigenous people in the world.”

But this is only one of many strategies, one layer of the many layers of stories to be told about the Wixaritari people. I was fortunate to hear many of them in the past week, and I will be sharing them as time permits. Meanwhile, here are some images from the enormously resilient little community of Bancos.


Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.