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The Rolling Cameras of Guadalajara January 29, 2014

Posted by Tracy in : Adventure, Biking, ecotourism, Guadalajara, Mexico, Nature tourism, Sustainability , add a comment

Camara Rodante
Last week I had the chance to visit with Carlos Ibarra, news photographer for El Mural and one of the founders of Camara Rodante (literally, “rolling camera”.)

Carlos with his collection of miniature bicycles and a photo of his father, an avid bicyclist.

This intrepid group of biking photographers is dedicated to promoting biking in a variety of ways. Besides their weekly outings, which traverse a variety of rural terrains around Guadalajara and further afield, they’ve organized get-out-the-vote campaigns, children’s outings, first aid workshops, bicycle repair workshops, and a fundraiser for Haiti – all aboard the seat of a bicycle.

Heading for Guadalajara January 12, 2011

Posted 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.

Guadalajara Guerreros: Fighting for a better world February 19, 2010

Posted 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.

La Minerva

Tonalá: A step back in time February 3, 2010

Posted 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.

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

It’s not enough to be biodegradeable… January 31, 2010

Posted by Tracy in : Guadalajara, Mexico, Sustainability , add a comment

Life in Guadalajara is not so different from life in Houston. Sometimes, only the language is different.

My friend Alicia, like me, struggles to remember to bring the cloth shopping bags when she goes to the supermarket. This day, she remembered. Here’s a little reminder she likes to keep handy:

“It’s not enough to be biodegradeable; it’s necessary to be bioAGREEABLE.”

I liked the way this clever slogan captured one of the most important principles of sustainability: “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.” In that order.

Guadalajara by night – and by bike January 21, 2010

Posted by Tracy in : Biking, Guadalajara, Mexico , add a comment

It’s not every day you get to ride with 500 enthusiastic bicyclists to the theater. But in Guadalajara, you can do it once a week.

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

Matter of fact, you can ride with a herd of cyclists pretty much any night of the week – just pick your flavor. “Al Teatro en Bici” (To the Theater by Bicycle”) is one of a seemingly endless number of bicycle-oriented initiatives in Guadalajara. There’s Camera Rodante, a hard-riding group of biking photographers. There’s GDL en Bici, a group of young professionals dedicated to reclaiming the streets for all commuters, not just cars. Their nocturnal rides, each one with a theme and costumed riders, have drawn upwards of 4,000 participants.

Tuesday I got a taste of the Guadalajara bicycle explosion, as well as why it may have evolved. Guadalajara is a city that has evolved, like most U.S. cities, around the automobile, and public transit is somewhat disorganized. A morning taxi ride to Tonalá, a village on the southern outskirts, took me 15 minutes; the bus ride back, an hour and a half. It took longer than that to figure out how to take the bus back to Tonalá.

And that’s not even mentioning the aggressive stance a pedestrian must take in order to negotiate the glorietas, traffic circles where a seemingly endless churning mass of vehicles whirl past.

Little wonder, then, in a city where many people don’t have cars, that frustrated commuters turned to bicycles, then teamed up to find safety in numbers. It couldn’t have been easy, however; in a city where just a few years ago, bicycles were seen primarily as a vehicle for street vendors and poor people.


On Tuesday, the first ride after the holidays, hundreds milled about with their bicycles in front of Punto del Arte, a classy cafe in the Centro. Suddenly a shout rang out – “Ya vamos!” followed by the voice of Aretha Franklin blaring from the loudspeakers attached to the lead bicycle.

“What you want, baby, I got it… What you need, you know I got it. All I’m askin’ for is a little respect…”

I don’t know about the impatient drivers who waited as the wheeled hordes streamed through the red lights, but the message wasn’t lost on me.

The eclectic soundtrack weaved from Rolling Stones to Caifanes, from Lynyrd Skynyrd to Café Tacuba to Guns ‘N Roses, and the elation was so high you could feel it bouncing from the Beaux Arts decor in the old city streets. We plied those streets for about an hour before ending up at the spectacular neoclassical Teatro Degollado, where we piled in to see a free showing of ZaikoCirco, a surrealistic international troupe of circus performers who, of course, supported the effort with bicycles in their act.


All in all, a phenomenal performance – beginning with the commute.


A leap of faith in Guadalajara October 24, 2009

Posted by Tracy in : ecotourism, Esperanza Project, Latin America, Mexico, Nature tourism , 5comments

Luis Medina, founder of Eco-Tours Guadalajara: "This is my office."

Luis Medina must be one of the happiest men alive.

“This is my office,” he says with a broad smile and a sweep of his arm toward the mirror-like pool in front of him, the basalt formations all around and the forest beyond. We’re in a place he’s dubbed “Naturaleza Mistica” or “Mystical Nature,” where water has carved these crystalline pools into the rocks all around.

"Naturaleza Mística"It’s a place that invites contemplation, inspiration and renewal. Birdsong ricochets from tree to tree in the stillness of the afternoon; the water drips from pool to pool, and a cricket chirps from a nearby crevice. I can’t imagine a better place for an office. Luis is the founder of Eco-Tours Guadalajara, the area’s first tour company dedicated to outdoor adventure. Now he and his 10-member crew lead adventures in rockclimbing, rappelling, ziplining, mountain biking, scuba diving and canyoneering.  Today he leads a group of travel writers, in Guadalajara for the SATW convention, through various degrees of terror and exhilaration on the first three, beginning with a rappel down a 50-foot sheer wall and a clamber up another one, followed by a leap from a cliff on a zipline.

On a recent El Diente tour, travel and outdoor writer Bob Sehlinger makes the first descent.
On a recent El Diente tour, travel and outdoor writer Bob Sehlinger makes the first descent.

Now we’re following him through a grassy field to a rocky forest as he interprets the geological and biological wonders of this place.

A lava flow over basalt bedrock yields clues of El Diente's origins, Medin explains.

It was a leap of faith that brought Luis to this place in his life. He was an excellent secondary school teacher – so good that he was promoted to school principal. He enjoyed education, and his wife Lucinda taught there, too. But something in Luis kept calling him to the great outdoors, to the wilds of the mountains that encircle Guadalajara.

“Finally I couldn’t take it anymore,” he said. “I needed to be outside, in nature.”

So after 11 years in public education, he and Lucinda left their jobs and founded Eco-Tours, taking their teaching skills to a new audience. Now their pupils learn to overcome their fears and bond with the natural world around them.

El Diente (The Tooth)It wasn’t easy in the beginning. Luis approached local tourism officials for support, but they were skeptical.

“Ecotourism in Jalisco? There’s no demand for it,” he was told. But he persevered, and now business is booming. His is one of four ecotourism companies in the Guadalajara area.

“We have one of the most spectacular sites in the country for ecotourism – excellent walls for climbing, beautiful landscapes, amazing canyons, and all just 45 minutes from Guadalajara,” he says. “This place is a natural for ecotourism.”

Click here to take the photo tour

Contact Luis and his crew at promociones@eco-toursguadalajara.com or call (011) (52-33) 13 68 93 11. The Spanish-only website is at www.eco-toursguadalajara.com but Luis is conversant in English.

Bite of El Diente, and Tips for Climbers October 7, 2009

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

Most climbers tackle their art with a passion that could only be called contagious. I exposed myself to that particular virus this spring, carried by veteran rock climber/writer/attorney Jamie McNally, and I suppose that’s why, as I prepare for a week in Guadalajara, I’m packing my climbing gear.

One of the menu of outings offered by the Society of American Travel Writers in its pre-conference lineup was “Eco-Adventure in El Diente,” and with a name like that, how could I resist? Especially with the excellent training provided by Jamie, who nearly killed me in my first exposure to rock climbing this spring. It wasn’t until I went online today and googled it that I realized that where he failed in May, he may have succeeded in October.

El Diente (The Tooth) is about to bite me...

El Diente (The Tooth) is about to bite me…

My account of my May adventure will appear in the Dallas Morning News this fall (posthumously, perhaps) so I asked Jamie to provide a few tips for beginners as I prepare to punish myself on the cliffs of El Diente. (El Diente pic compliments of Marc and Kristi, who climbed there a year ago and made it sound like a piece of cake in their excellent blog… Thanks, guys!)

OK, so after reading Marc and Kristi, and after going through Jamie’s tips (below, for the very brave), I’m feeling better about the climb. Honestly, it’s the mountain biking that I’m kind of freaked out about. I’ll keep you posted – if I’m not in traction.

Read on for Jamie’s excellent tips. And if the climbing bug bites you, don’t say I didn’t warn you.