Earth, fire and why I’m here

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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.

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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….)


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