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.
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.
ST. LOUIS, MO. – Today’s the day.
I’ve made my list and checked it a million times; selected and reselected my gear; said my goodbyes and received good wishes and safe travel blessings from near and far. I’ve left my car keys, my smart phone and my GPS behind. I’ll be making my way by foot now and by mass transit; everything I’ll need is either in my pack or shoulder bag, or it’s something I’ll have to find along the way, or live without.
Somewhere to the south of us, an indigenous farmer is raising his voice against the eradication of ancient seed stocks by corporate interests. An army of volunteer gardeners is sowing a food security system on rooftops, patios and abandoned lots. A tribe in the Amazon is using Google Earth to give virtual tours of its ancestral forests in a bid to build global support for their preservation. A troupe of young bicyclists is plotting colorful new ways to capture the public’s attention and steer its city policy toward the path of sustainability.
As forests burn, icecaps melt and sea levels rise, people at the grassroots aren’t waiting for the government to fix things for them. Nowhere is this more evident than in Latin America.
Today I will follow in the footsteps of Ernest Hemingway, Che Guevara and Celia Cruz to the irrepressible rhythm of the Cuban son – emanating from Cuban human beings, not my CD collection or a cover band in downtown Houston. Far from the Bayou City, I’ll savor the sunset breezes on the Malecón, the famous boulevard that stretches the length of the city along the Bay of Havana. As many a tourist has done before me, I’ll sit at Hemingway’s favorite bar and have a mojito in his memory.
And while I will embrace the cultural magic of this legendary land, my journey goes beyond culture to something more essential, something universal and urgent.
Saving your garbage is a tough sell in a place where gardening is seen as peasant labor. But that doesn’t stop Dulce María Vega from rolling up her sleeves, going door-to-door and recruiting her neighbors for a grand mission.
Dulce is the friendly face of sustainability in her neighborhood. With more than 30,000 residents, Lomas de Plateros is one of Mexico City’s largest apartment complexes. When she first teamed up with Noelle Romero of Organi-K, a local environmental group, to establish a pilot Ecobarrios project at the massive complex, people thought she’d lost her senses.
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…
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.