Three perfect days for Dad on the Riviera Maya December 27, 2011Posted by Tracy in : Adventure, Mexico, Nature tourism, Sustainability, ecotourism , 5comments
PLAYA DEL CARMEN, Quintana Roo – A light breeze moves in the jungle beyond our patio at the Grand Velas resort; birds call to each other with liquid notes, and my mother reads her Bible beside me as my father sleeps.
We’re winding to the close of our action-packed itinerary – maybe too action-packed, I reflect, but as Dad would say, “We had ‘er to do.”
Unforgettable moments flip through the slideshow of my memory: my father’s boyish grin lighting up in spite of himself as he stood, lifejacket up around his ears, the dolphin leaning in and kissing his cheek. Shaking his head in disbelief as our two waiters explained the special six-course meal that the famous French chef at Piaf, Michele Mustiere, had prepared for him, taking into account all of the complicated restrictions of his diet. Seeing him lying back on a canopied lounge on the beach, soaking up the sun and the attentions of an efficient and watchful staff.
My factory-worker dad, father of nine and grandfather of a houseful of rambunctious little ones, had never come close to such luxury. He hadn’t even known that it existed. A shadetree mechanic and consummate fixer of broken things, I found him examining the cooling system in our suite and chatting up the shuttle drivers and motorcycle salesmen we would meet along the way.
Hacienda Petac: “A little piece of Eden” December 22, 2011Posted by Tracy in : Mexico, Uncategorized , 5comments
The sound of running spring water and the night noises of the jungle surround me, the toil and trouble of the city far behind.
This long-anticipated journey with my parents – their first to Mexico, and the first stamp on their brand-new passports – had gotten off to an admittedly bumpy start, what with a raucus all-night party in our hotel on the first night, getting lost in the chaos of the city’s Centro Historico, a virulent case of bronchitis for their driver and guide – yours truly – and too many other complications to mention. Had I made a mistake? My ailing father was exhausted – and this trip had been planned as a healing retreat for him.
But as we passed through the colorful towns on the outskirts of Merida and entered the ornate iron gate into the shady front courtyard of Hacienda Petac, I felt the tension dissolve. Marlene, one of more than a dozen Mayan women who attended to our every need during our stay, materialized from one of the three graceful arches of the hacienda with a traditionally embroidered dress, a beautiful smile and a tray of tempting red drinks.
My heart sank – I was sure they coudn’t be on my father’s diet. They almost certainly had sugar in them, and would be another disappointment. But there was Colleen, greeting us with a hug and a rundown of the ingredients: hibiscus tea and orange juice. Pure, simple and delicious. Dad reached for it and downed it, delighted.
Earth, fire and why I’m here March 6, 2011Posted by Tracy in : Mexico , 2comments
TEOPANTLI KALPULLI, Jalisco, Mexico – I live at the corner of Earth and Fire streets, around the corner from a pyramid. I wake each morning to the crowing of roosters and the lowing of cattle. On Sundays I join my neighbors in kneeling and entering the womb of my mother in the form of a temezcal, the sacred indigenous sweat lodge ceremony, to sing and pray and to burn away the impurities of body and spirit.
I’ve been here for a little over a month, and the time has come to answer the question of my friend Ruhksana, whose voice came to me over a great distance when I announced my decision to move here.
Why Mexico? She wanted to know. After traveling for a year the length of Latin America, why did you choose to settle there? There are ecovillages everywhere. Why did you choose that one?
The question is a big one, and the answer is a forked river of tributaries that have carved their way through the landscape of my life all these many years. I will forge my way up one of those streams and see where it takes us.
My relationship with this particular piece of land began a little over a year ago, at the beginning of my journey through Latin America, reporting on sustainability initiatives for The Esperanza Project. I began my project in Mexico City with members of the Vision Council and the Rainbow Peace Caravan, a loosely interwoven band of activists, performers, permaculturists and visionaries who have waged a colorful, creative and loving battle for a better world throughout the hemisphere – and in some cases, throughout the world – for nearly two decades.
This network inspired, informed, and in some ways guided my journey, and one of the nodes on that network was here at Teopantli Kalpulli, whose name means “village of the sacred standard”. In the midst of my whirlwind of Guadalajara interviews, I spent half a day here with Levi Rios, a young architect and permaculturist who grew up here and serves as a sort of spokesman for the community.
I was impressed with what I saw: Mexico’s oldest intentional community, located here on a piece of dry and overgrazed farmland 18 years ago, nurtured into a shady and compact village with a bakery, a school, a house of worship, a huge garden and a cluster of temezcals, where sweat lodge ceremonies drawing people from around the region were conducted periodically.
The community was founded by a group of spiritual seekers, practitioners of yoga and vegetarianism who sought a simple life, close to the land. Soon, as Levi explains it, they began to realize that their own indigenous traditions held a wisdom as deep and as powerful as those that had been carried over from the East, and they began reaching out to teachers of those traditions.
Those inquiries brought to the Kalpulli the first calihuey – the house of worship of the Huichol or Wixarika people. It also brought indigenous leaders from the north, Lakota and Navajo medicine men, carriers of traditions that some say originated here in Mexico – the Sun Dance and the temezcal – but were fiercely repressed by the Spanish conquest. Instead of disappearing, these traditions were carried north and kept alive by indigenous groups throughout the States. In 1983, Tigre Perez, a Chicano activist from Laredo descended from Purepecha Indians from Michoacan, completed the cycle. Perez had studied with Lakota medicine men and Sun Dancers and came to the Kalpulli in 1983, shortly after its founding. It was here that Perez first brought his Kanto de la Tierra, song of the earth, back to its ancestral home.
That tradition continues alive today. And although I didn’t know it at the time, it was that energy that called me back here.
(to be continued….)
Home at last (my Mexican home, that is) January 19, 2011Posted by Tracy in : Adventure, Ecovillages, Mexico , 5comments
It was sunrise when I saw my daughter Tara off at the airport, a tearful farewell to be sure, but one filled with joy at knowing that we are both following our dreams, and that the distance, as my sister Tami once said, is only physical.
It was the journey I had dreamed of and then laid awake nights worrying about: Would we really be able to pull it off? In the end, we did. We spent 10 action-packed days on the road, covering more than 2,500 miles – every step along the way, receiving reminders to SLOW DOWN and to take care of the present moment.
Some of those reminders were costly, others just funny. Many times I looked in the rear-view mirror at the utility trailer I was hauling and thought of my pioneer great-great-grandmother Caroline, who packed all her belongings into a covered wagon and traveled to the wilds of Missouri to start a new life. Apparently some of her pioneer spirit was my heritage, but in an era of internet, motor vehicles and airlines, it’s a much, much easier proposition.
Heading for Guadalajara January 12, 2011Posted by Tracy in : Adventure, Mexico , add a comment
COLUMBIA, Missouri – A shooting star snaked across the blackness of the night sky as we pulled out onto I-70 in our pickup truck, utility trailer in tow, a brilliant blessing on our journey. Some 2,000 miles of road beckoned, with a new home in Guadalajara on the other end. But for now, one last lingering visit with family at my brother’s house in Kansas.
It’s been a long, long journey since I launched the Esperanza Project a year ago, taking me as far south as Buenos Aires and full circle to the place that, Lord willing, will be my new home in Mexico. I found a casita for rent in the ecovillage Teopantli Kalpulli – the oldest ecovillage in Mexico and the subject of a story I recently wrote for Ecovillage News http://www.ecovillagenews.org/wiki/index.php/Indigenous_Past,_Ecovillage_Future. I was deeply impressed with the community when I wrote about it in January, and when my friend Levi told me about a house for rent there that cost less than my storage locker in Houston (truly!!!) I took it as a sign.
I’ve always thought that I would end up living in Mexico someday – not so soon, but finances are telling me, it’s almost time to renew my storage locker and after so much movement, I’m feeling the need to stop for a moment, plant some seeds, do some thinking and some writing, and build a solid base to launch my travels from. Teopantli seemed just the place.
My life has come full circle in a way this year. It was in Guadalajara that I connected with the group at Teopantli and also an indigenous rights group called AJAGI that works with the Huicholes. Long story short, as I was looking for guidance on the direction of The Esperanza Project, I was drawn back to Guadalajara where I will be working on freelance and book projects for the first part of the year and also be volunteering part-time with AJAGI and the Huicholes as I document their struggle to save their most sacred site, as I wrote at www.theesperanzaproject.org.
So just a couple of weeks ago I landed in Missouri and with the help of my amazing father found a truck and a trailer to haul my things. Many twists and turns along that trail, beginning with a bad transmission in the first vehicle, but all is working its way out. My daughter Tara has agreed to accompany me on this journey, and Saturday we drove to Houston to unpack my storage locker, sort out what I wanted to take with me to Mexico, visit with friends – Mona Metzger of Houston Green Scene and Lise Olsen of the Houston Chronicle and head on to San Antonio, to spend the night at the home of Audrey Lee, the dear friend who has backed me up on this journey more than anyone, receiving my mail, dealing with my emergencies and serving as a sounding board and emotional support. Yesterday we did much a much needed shopping trip, and now we are preparing to make our crossing. We decided to splurge our last night in the USA and got a room at La Posada, recently named the No. 1 hotel in Texas by Expedia – and it’s easy to see why.
The second part of the year I will resume my travels with a special focus on indigenous struggles to save their land and cuture.
I will be writing much more about all of this in the months ahead. Meanwhile I continue to pray for guidance and support as I chart my course and share the stories of those who are tending the fires hope from south of the border.
Giving Thanks, Making Peace November 25, 2010Posted 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.
Evo Morales, the plurinational president February 26, 2010Posted by Tracy in : Bolivia, Indigenous culture, Latin America, Mexico, Mexico City , add a comment
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.
At home with the Subcoyote February 21, 2010Posted by Tracy in : Ecovillages, Latin America, Mexico, Mexico City, Sustainability, Tepoztlan , add a comment
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.
Huehuecoyotl: An eco-power center in the hills of Morelos February 19, 2010Posted by Tracy in : Ecovillages, Mexico, Sustainability, Tepoztlan , 4comments
Long before I ever planned this trip, I learned of Huehuecoyotl, an ecovillage inhabited by an international group of movers and shakers nestled into one of the most magical valleys of Mexico, up in the hills outside of Tepoztlán, about an hour outside of Mexico City.
This week I finally got a chance to go and see it for myself, and to meet some of its inhabitants. It was as beautiful as I’d imagined; constructed in the early 1980s by artists, green architects and permaculturists, the community is infused with a colorful yet gentle aesthetic that pleases the spirit as well as the eye.
Guadalajara Guerreros: Fighting for a better world February 19, 2010Posted by Tracy in : Esperanza Project, Guadalajara, Mexico, Sustainability , add a comment
Today I awoke in the verdant mountains near Tepoztlán in Central Mexico, far from the commotion of city life in Guadalajara. Before I move on, I want to take a few moments to acknowledge the work of 24 extremely dedicated, talented and creative people I met during my time in that city, people who touched my life and gave me hope for a better future.
To read about them, please visit Guerreros de Guadalajara, a bilingual entry in my Flickr account.
La Minerva, warrior woman of old and symbol of modern-day Guadalajara, photo courtesy of TheLittleTx, Flickr Creative Commons.