Editor’s note: After the earthquakes of Sept. 7 and Sept. 19 in southern and central Mexico, a nascent natural building movement – known as “bioconstruction” or “bioarchitecture” here in the Spanish-speaking South – has stepped forward, seizing the opportunity to rebuild with an architecture that promotes long-term resilience and human, environmental and social wellbeing. This article is part of a series featuring a few of those initiatives.
In the days after the earthquake that brought reality crashing down for millions throughout central Mexico, Huerto Roma Verde, the community garden and green gathering space at the heart of one of the most stricken sectors of the city, was transformed into a major hub for emergency relief. With the help of more than 5,000 volunteers who arrived to lend a hand. Roma Verde became a civilian-organized shelter, community kitchen, aid distribution center and much more, offering a space for rescue workers, medics, attorneys, psychologists, chefs, bicycle and motorcycle brigades and professionals of all kinds to offer their services to a traumatized public.
In the ferment that arose in the round-the-clock disaster response, a vision evolved of a sustainable society arising from the rubble. By the third day, recalls Arnold Ricalde of Cuatro al Cubo, a network of environmental organizations connected with Roma Verde, immediate needs were being covered and it was time to look forward to a sustainable reconstruction.
Sr. Edia “Hermana Tita” López was living out her mission as a Sister of Mercy, seeking the best ways to serve the poor and disenfranchised of Immaculate Conception Parish in La Concepción on the western end of Panama, when she learned of a plan that would leave many far poorer.
She and other religious in the Vincentian community where she was working in 2005 heard about a “public consultation” in the nearby town of Volcán, and they went to see what it was about. Church and community leaders were shocked to learn that a company was planning to build 11 hydroelectric dams on the largest river in the area, Río Chiriquí Viejo.
Once known for its spectacular whitewater rafting and lush riparian forests filled with wildlife, Chiriquí Viejo was a Neotropical gem. Along its banks, farmers produced much of the food for the nation.
The Jalisco village of Ahuisculco was one of the few places in Mexico where residents could open their taps and drink fresh, clean water. But an anonymous corporation moved in last September and began digging. After a while, the villagers’ crystal-blue springs ran a muddy brown. That’s when the camp went up.
AHUISCULCO, Jalisco – The grey mists of morning rise in the valley of Ahuisculco, bringing the new day to the roadside encampment where ten hardy villagers have spent the night around the fire, drinking coffee and sharing stories to ward off chill and exhaustion. One by one, reinforcements begin to arrive from the nearby village with chicharrones, chismes and good cheer.
It’s another day in the plantón, the protest encampment blocking the path of the bulldozers – where hundreds of villagers of this town of 5,000 have taken a stand for more than a month to protect their water supply from the excavations of a shadowy corporation that has yet to be identified. Here in the entrance to the construction zone that menaces their springs they’ve blocked the construction with their bodies, building a temporary encampment complete with kitchen, port-a-potties, sound system and now an open-air tent chapel with their beloved “Chaparrita,” the miraculous Virgin of the Ascension. Continue reading →
The film Huicholes: The Last Peyote Guardians will be on a North American tour with 30+ screenings in more than 20 cities in the United States and Canada, with the U.S. premiere at Rice Theater in Houston, Texas, and theCanadian premiere hosted by Cinema Politica in Montreal, Quebec. The documentary presents the emblematic case of the defense of Wirikuta, sacred territory to the Wixárika (Huichol) people against the threat of transnational mining corporations. The Wixárika people, native to the Sierra Madre, have since time immemorial made their pilgrimages to this land; now they find themselves at the forefront of a spiritual crusade to protect life, evidencing the internal contradictions in our materialistic world.
“This documentary combines stunning cinematography with engaged and compassionate storytelling to bring an underrepresented tale of resistance to Cinema Politica audiences and beyond,” said Ezra Winton, co-founder of the Montreal-based media arts organization.Continue reading →
By Tracy L. Barnett
Texas Journey magazine
Deep in San Antonio’s Westside, at the corner of El Paso and Chupaderas streets, the 10-foot-tall face of Jesus overlooks a scrappy landscape, a world of sadness reflected in his weary brown eyes. For more
than a decade, the locals have come to this corner to pray.
There’s a story about this corner that artist Cruz Ortiz likes to tell, a story that’s been retold so often it’s become local lore. One time, Ortiz showed up at the mural and saw a woman resting against a nearby pole.
“Are you okay?” he asked.
“I come here every Sunday,” she replied. “Because they won’t let me in at the church.”
That corner had become her church, her resting place, her place of hope.
On other corners in this neighborhood, people find stories of triumph and defeat, of musical legacy, of loved ones lost, and of celebrated heroes. Continue reading →
Canadian author and activist Maude Barlow atop the Cerro Quemado with Wixarika leader Santos de la Cruz. (Tracy L. Barnett photos)
REAL DE CATORCE, Mexico – From the moment Maude Barlow passed under the crumbling stone arch and saw the first nopalera laden with red cactus fruits, she knew she was entering another dimension.
Accompanied by a retinue of Huichol leaders, activists and a wandering journalist, the Canadian author, public speaker and social leader was making her own pilgrimage to the Birthplace of the Sun. It’s a journey the Huichols or Wixarika people have made for over a thousand years, coming to reconnect with the ancestors, light the candles of life and pray for the balance of all life on Earth.
Maude’s mission was a different one. She had come to see for herself what was at stake in Wirikuta, this most sacred of Huichol holy sites, currently slated for exploitation by Canadian mining companies. Continue reading →
MERIDA, Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico – Finally, I can relax.
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. Continue reading →