Two weekends ago we traveled to Morelos to team up with another organization to orchestrate various environmental projects. Arqui (short for The Architect) and Hilda invited us to their home for the first undertaking. Gathered around the table in the garden was a large group of high school students and members of the community eager to help construct Hilda’s new cob stove.
After a communal dinner of beans, tomato rice, tortillas and chicken in a delicious peanut sauce called pipián, Ina’s husband, Manuel, gave a presentation on the history, characteristics and applications of cob. After we mixed the hay and water into the clay and dirt, Rachel taught the group how to dance and manipulate the tarp to blend the cob all together. Everyone took part in some aspect of the process – a true taller (communal project). The cob dancers then rolled the cob into balls and threw it (thus expelling all of the air) against the foundation of the stove. Ina guided the next step to fill in the oven itself. We left a large enclosed space for the wood to burn and built a tunnel system to filter the hot air up towards another burner and eventually outside. Cecilia helped mold the clay and sculpted a kitten to perch on the back of the stove. Irma, one of the women in the cooperative who worked for 10 years to clean up a landfill, was as usual at the front of the pack. She never stopped working and motivated us all with a reflection on the power of communal action.
That evening, we were invited to the home of another family connected with CAM. As we dined on coffee with a delicious assortment of sweet breads, beans, tortillas, cheeses, chicharron (pig skin) and fruits (pears and ciruelas – small red fruits much like a plum), we discussed the difficulties of identifying accents and idiosyncratic phrases in the Spanish language. While expounding upon the day’s work, we also sparked an interest in the host family to build a cob stove themselves. How the energy does spread simply through sharing aspirations, funny stories and delicious food.
We started the same process early the next morning at the home of “La Hermana (Sister),” a nun whose walls of her outdoor kitchen were charred black from years of cooking over the open flame. We disassembled her previous stove while others began mixing the clay with the dirt and cutting the straw. This stove would be a bit trickier because of we were to channel the smoke to a third burner and expel it through a different style chimney. After a few extra hours of work to make sure that the smoke was filtering properly, we all celebrated with a late lunch and some refreshing juice in the shade.
This collaboration between Enlaces and CAM is proving to be a very positive initiative. Through the cooperative efforts of our two organizations and the residents of Zacualpan, we’ve already improved the health, awareness and lifestyles of two families and educated and inspired many others. We are sharing our energy and ambitions and creating links among our communities and our environment. We hope to go back in a few weeks to help another member of CAM with a compost toilet!