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.
Hope prevails through a bitter winter in Bancos de San Hipólito February 11, 2010Posted 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.
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.
Tonalá: A step back in time February 3, 2010Posted by Tracy in : Guadalajara, Mexico , 3comments
As is the case in many big cities, one of the best things about Guadalajara is what lies outside its boundaries. That’s the case with two colonial villages just outside the city limits, Tlaquepaque and Tonalá.
Tlaquepaque is the more carefully groomed, tourist-brochure version of the colonial village – and it’s delightful, with its nightly serenades by mariachis, streets that were made for strolling and lushly landscaped courtyards. Tonalá, on the other hand, is still a little rough around the edges, with an outdoor market where you can still get a hearty meal of steak, chicken or fish in the market for about $2.50, or pick out your fresh produce and a cut of meat to go with it, all while watching the children run and play in the plaza next door.
Tonalá is a destination for shoppers of bargain artenanía, which ranges from kitchy Aztec calendars and frog-shaped ceramics to sophisticated creations from some first-rate artists. Here’s a little peek.
¿Guapa enough for the baño? February 1, 2010Posted by Tracy in : Guadalajara, Mexico , 2comments
I Loved the bathroom attendant at Parque Metropolitano, Guadalajara.
The good lady was taking 3 pesos and giving out carefully wrapped sections of toilet paper at the door, as is the custom in public places.
“I’m not sure I’m guapa enough to enter,” I told her, dubiously.
“Ah, por mucho,” she assured me. “Todos somos guapos aquí. No hay feos.” (Absolutely – everyone is good-looking here.)
I was so amused that I returned with a camera to document the moment. “Ay no, voy a salir espantosa,” she protested. “Oh no, I’m going to come out looking frightful!”
“Not so,” I reassured. “Todos somos guapos aquí. No hay feos.”
She got a chuckle out of this, and sent me on my way with a blessing from God, and a fun memory of Parque Metropolitano.
Here’s a little slideshow of our sunny Sunday in the park.