The here and now... and what and why

Complacency is a trap. At least that’s what I was thinking when I up and left the comfort of a Yankee prep school gig, where I taught music, amongst other things, for 28 years. There was also that life long career as a composer, musician and artist.

First, it was a year in St. Thomas, USVI, working as a reporter and shooting photography and then, a year in San Agustin Etla, Oaxaca, Mexico.
Time passed.
More time passed and a year back in the Athens of America followed by a hasty return to Oaxaca where it is all happening.
A couple of years in San Sebastian Etla and now, just down the road in San Pablo Etla. Life is good.

Click on an image to see it larger.
For additional photography please visit my flickr page.
You can find my music on Jango (World & latin - Worldbeat) and at iTunes and most online stores.
¡Soy consciente de todas las tradiciones del Internet!
If you are coming to Oaxaca, please contact me for tours or advice.

Santo Domingo

Santo Domingo
The view from Corazon del Pueblo

The hereafter re me

My photo
Oaxaca, Oaxaca, Mexico
Musician, photographer, videographer, reporter, ex-officio teacher, now attempting to be a world traveler

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Cactus forests of Puebla - San Juan Raya y Zapotitlan

Nothing better than a road trip with Henry Wangeman of Amate Books as he forgotten more about Mexico than most people ever learn. Actually, he remembers everything, so it is like having a walking, talking guidebook.

The plan was to head north to find Los Reyes in Puebla, a village known for its chocolate colored pottery. It is deep in the heart of onyx country, but we had giant cacti in mind and we were not disappointed.

What spectacular country! People really need to make the drive, although all the people we spoke with said that lots of visitors from all over the world were doing just that.

We jumped off the toll road in Nochixtlan and continued almost due north. At one point, with the snow covered volcano, Popocatépetl and its cousin, Iztaccíhuatl in the background, we watched eagles and vultures feed.We made a quick stop in Santiago Chazumba to see the church, which had a curious Roman looking facade and a bright golden interior.It was a very different church at the next stop, San Juan Raya, which is deep in the heart of a regional ecological park. San Juan Raya sits on the continental divide and is famous for its fossils. So there we were with our guide, Felix Reyes, who joked that the place really should be called San Juan Reyes because everyone was in the Reyes family. He was an excellent guide and he led us from the tiny museum out into the countryside. Even though we were at 1300 meters, we found ourselves on what was obviously a beach a one time, approximately 100 million years ago. The whole area sits on active tectonic plates. The place was now a sea of fossils, everywhere you looked. Even some dinosaur footprints.

After a quick lunch of soup and tortillas - the soup was almost without taste, so the woman serving us said, "Oh, you have to add salt" - a new Mexican delicacy, salt soup, we headed into the park.

At one point, we stopped to watch a little baseball on the only piece of flat land for miles. These guys were good and everyone was having a blast. It was infectious. Look at all the cacti in the background.The country is so rugged, dry as a bone, but one can feel the life all around. Hundreds of thousands of huge cacti, some hundreds of years old. The visnaga cactus grow one centimeter a year and we saw huge specimens. The organos or pipe organ cacti towered over us and stretched for miles.

We watched a large herd of goats wander through the spiny plants finding plenty to eat.Horses as well, but they didn't look as happy.The area is patrolled by locals making sure no one is disturbing the park or stealing plants. These plants are worth a fortune and there is a black market for them. They stopped and talked to us for a while. Like everyone on this trip, they were very friendly and informative.As the sun was getting lower, we continued on to the Botanical Garden in Zapotitlan, which is just spectacular, not only for the size and quality of the plants, but the diversity. All around us, for miles and miles, we were surrounded by cacti. Our guide, Silvano, really knew his stuff. We learned about the many varieties of bats that pollinated the different species. We learned that many of the plants store energy during the day, with photosynthesis taking place at night under the light of the moon. We learned that the emperor of Japan had come to pay homage to this amazing 1500 year old "elephant foot" tree. The belief is that by hugging it, it will take all negative energy out of you and fill you with an abundance of positive. There must be something to it, because Henry hugged it for a few minutes and said, "I feel much better, but I think you should drive." He looked a little different.We bought some beautiful plants from the vendors and headed out as the sun set and the moon rose. By the time we got to Los Reyes, it was dark, so no photos, but Henry did pick up some wonderful pottery, all burnished and the color of a Hershey bar.

We cut over to Tehuacan and were home by eleven.


Noble said...

I loved this.

Christopher Stowens said...

You will have to visit the place!!!

shara said...

My husband and I were so excited to find this blog. He is from Santa Catarina de Zapoquila up the road from Chazumba. We will be going back in November - maybe we can touch base with you and get some ideas for places to see around Chazumba and Tehuacan?


Christopher Stowens said...

By all means, get a hold of me. I am sure your husband knows much more than I do, but happy to share, Shara

Mexicomike said...

I was very happy to see your posts. I drove that road last year and wrote about it first some 20 years ago. Glad to see some interest in little-known Mexico. Alas, so few seem to care. Would love to meet your bud, Henry, as it is always good to know someone to swap old-time stories with. Keep in touch and good luck to you. If it is not too presumptuous, you may enjoy my web site as we are on the same wavelength. I searched for Amante Books and nothing useful came up. Mike.

Anonymous said...

Hey! I was born in Chazumba.

Nowadays I live in Toronto. But I've been to most of the places you mention in your blog.

Seriously it is a great blog. The pictures and the videos, the love your writing shows.

Kudos to you.