A Visit to Morelos to assess community needs

On Saturday, May 21st, we traveled to the neighboring state of Morelos to convene with another clan of do-gooders focusing on personal water conservation. We met with two groups called Voces (Voices) and CAM (Centro Antonio Montesinos), traveling to each member’s land to assess the space and necessities for their potential projects.

In Jaltetelco, we first walked through a school yard to look at a space for a cistern. Rain catches on the slanted roof and slides into this small jungley nook. As of this moment, the children have no access to water during the school day, and a cistern would provide a simple and green solution.

We continued walking down to a 10,000 sq. ft. dump site across from milpa fields (plots specifically allotted to corn). The fields had been abandoned by the farmers many years ago; debris from the dump  encumbered their crops to the point that the inconvenience outweighed the profits. Under the direction of Irma, a truly inspiring woman with an iron spirit, seven women and sporadic volunteer groups dedicated ten years to sift through the muck (both literally and bureaucratically speaking) and clean up the site. They have since planted a diverse array of fauna, even using some recycled materials like tires and bottles, to revive the land. Irma would like to incorporate a communal space on the property, such as a dry compost toilet for visitors, or a cob structure as a cool meeting spot.

Walking back up to the town center we discussed what it takes to keep on keepin’ on with what you know is the right thing to do, even with apathy and anger fighting against you. The diligence and drive she has to change her community for the better is profoundly inspiring to everyone. Sometimes it is difficult to visualize the significance of our work because we are so focused on the small steps being taken. Hearing Irma’s story serves as a reminder that such work does make big change.

We paused for carretas (round sandwich bread made of corn dough and peanuts – delicious) and icies, and knocked on the door of a gentleman whose cob silos had been standing for about a century. The thatch roofs were made of palm frawns; and that which wasn’t eaten by the cows was replaced every 30 years or so. He offered us mangos and zapote fruits and showed us pistachios and mamey from his other trees. Talk about a self-sustaining paradise.

Every time we paused to find refuge from the powerful sun, we were standing under a different extravagant tree. Every plant was either bursting with some combination of neon or was dangling a new variety of fruit just above our noses. Endless families of ferns, elephant ear bushes, and a creeping plant whose leaves were speckled with pink greeted us as we entered the different properties.

Moving on to the town of Zacualpan, we stopped at five other sites for prospective projects.  The interests were evenly divided among compost toilets, cob ovens and cisterns. Two women currently use outdoor stoves and comals – hot plates over a wood fire used to make tortillas. The walls behind the stoves were deeply charred as the smoke from a daily fire brushes against the wall and cycles back into their nostrils. A cob oven for these two ladies would conserve the heat and channel the smoke up through a pipe and out of the kitchen. They are both enthusiastic to begin gathering the small list of local and cheap materials it will take to drastically modify their situations: tools, clay, straw, dirt/sand, and piping.

Later on, we analyzed the possibilities of adding compost toilets onto two separate houses, a cistern to the back of another home, and finally ended at a church that had a cameo in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”. Apart from the gorgeous architecture of the late 1500s, the point of interest here was the terraced levels out behind the church that have a lot of potential for planting and routing water from the river.

We finished the day in a communal dining experience, chowing down on picaditas (a style of tortilla topped with beans, salsa and cream) and discussing our aspirations for the projects and impacts to come from this collaboration. Community Links is typically focused on working within the heart of one community – Tecuanipan. But if we can share our knowledge and experience to guide others in a similar goal, then we are enthusiastically within the realm of our mission to create relationships based on coexistence and social responsibility. We’ll be getting to work next week!

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About Community Links International

Community Links is an environmental, service-learning, immersion, volunteer, and international educational organization.
This entry was posted in Cob Cook Stove, Construction Projects & Natural Building, Mexico, Service-Learning Trips, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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