Oct 14, 2008

Relating, Creating, and Integrating!

A lot has happened in these last 2 weeks. On a global scale, it appears that there have been huge changes. For a tiny pueblito on the Pacific Coast of Mexico, watching the rest of the world’s frantic struggle over the economy and politics seems like just another dramatic soap opera on the talking box.

Still, small rural towns like these have their share of drama. Everywhere there is human culture there is almost always the common theme of the “struggle for power”.

To deal with this recurring dilemma of “who’s right, who’s wrong”, Barra de La Cruz has created a democracy of the people. As an indigenous town they are left mostly alone, free from most government financial support. This means a small health clinic and no federales.

The community makes all the rules; and if you don’t like them you can leave. If you break the rules, the “banda” may come to escort you out of town with sticks and machetes by their sides. Unruly people are banned from town. They recently constructed a new gate on the road into town, which is locked promptly at 9 p.m. and doesn’t open again until 5 or 6 a.m. If you’re in you’re in; if you’re out, you’re out.

A President and a Vice President are appointed each year, then the positions rotate to another member of the town. Each person in the community gets a turn at public service, be it being the police or serving food at the restaurant at the beach. Community meetings held bi-monthly, where up to 200 member of the town gather for a shouting match. We hear that it gets so heated that at least one person is hauled off to the town jail for being too rowdy. But for any significant changes to occur with in the town, the whole community must agree on it, which can often take months, even years.

The fact that we decided to park up at Pepe’s Cabanas, almost 2 months ago now was no coincidence. This was the spot we needed to be, and Pepe was the man we needed to meet!

It takes time to build relationships and to really get to know a place, especially in tight knight communities where one’s family heritage marks one’s standing, and it can takes generations to earn respect. Things are changing however, and old worlds are merging with the new.

The town of Barra is doing its best to protect its heritage, the sacredness of the land, and the interest of the people. Gringos, or “hueros” are not particularly popular here amongst some elderly locals. It is no surprise why, when most of what they see are fancy cars speeding through town, preoccupied with getting to the surf. There is little quality interaction between the two cultures.

Pepe is Vice President this year, and is a prominent figure in the community. He is well respected and educated. It has been a dream of his to make a way for foreigners to interact more within the community, sharing knowledge and experiences, and creating projects that benefit everyone. Perfect! He has been super stoked on our ideas, and gladly gave us the permission to proceed with them. His place was the first in town to implement the Water Bottle Refill Program, and the positive effects are already evident. Now the restaurant at the beach is doing the same.

Water Bottle Refill program in effect!

Our next sustainability project was to build a Slow Sand Filter for making the town water supply potable. The filter consists of a 50 gal (200 liter) plastic drum filled with rocks, gravel, charcoal, and sand. The sand acts much the same as a river-bank, and active bacteria and algae present in the sand remove up to 99% of disease causing pathogens like Giardia and Cryptosporidium cysts. (Click here for a link to our website with plans and more info)

View inside filter of outlet pipe
and first layer of rocks

Aubrey crushing charcoal for a layer
after gravel and rocks

Loren filling the drum with sand to complete the filter media

We heard that the local school does not have an art program. We have been really excited to do some art projects with more kids, so this was a great opportunity for us to work with them in further expressing their creative sides.

We had no idea what to expect coming to the school to “teach” an art class, and were a bit nervous. Our Spanish is decent to good, but kids always seem to catch every word that is not used correctly.

It was overwhelming to think these kids may never have played with colors. They were so incredibly excited when we pulled out the pads of blank paper and the packets of oil pastels. We had their full attention, all 20 of them!

The only thing I really wanted to show them was how to mix and make colors using the 3 primaries: yellow, red, and blue. With these three colors you can make the whole rainbow (arcoiris).

We did not want to give too much instruction, so as to not limit them with their own imaginations. I demonstrated how to draw a few flowers and how to make a star, and after that we set them loose! For a group of 9-10 year olds, their natural ability to make beautiful pictures was incredible. They really went for it!

After they were able to have some time experiencing drawing, we moved on to painting. Loren’s mom Linda donated us two large canvases and a bunch of acrylic paints and brushes. We laid them out in the middle of the school campus, and prayed that it would not rain. The kids attacked the canvases, covering them with mounds of color.

We spent three afternoons at the school with the kids. Their enthusiasm for trying new things was so refreshing. It was such a joy to watch them having so much fun. It was an amazing opportunity to connect with the community in such a simple way.

All the while the barra has been providing us something to ride. It has not been as good as it was, but still a great way to refresh and enjoy our Mother Ocean.

Thanks for sharing the journey!

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