Now, you all have a chance to do the same thing, coming up on Sunday, March 13. This event is coordinated by Verónica Rico, one of the founders and motivating forces behind MOM. At 8:30 a.m., guests will be taken by bus from Plaza Zaragoza to Guillermo Prieto, where you will be shown up close and personal how Sacramento and her team work, teach, learn and live. Highlights include: the water collection system, creation of compost, worms, and the gardens where they grow their beautiful produce.
Later, you will enjoy lunch / brunch in the fields with organic produce, prepared by Sacramento and her team. The cost is only 380 pesos, including the transportation, tour and lunch. You should be back in Mazatlán around 3:00 p.m. or so. This is a great way to understand the origin of organic produce in a small local farm and the people who grow them!
Here is a link to our tour in 2012. I can only imagine how much they have grown since then. Here are a few shots from a similar tour in 2013:
You can write to Verónica Rico at firstname.lastname@example.org or give her a call at 6691-48-4010 for any questions. Verónica speaks English fluently. Tickets will be available at the Organic Market in the Plazuela Zaragoza this coming Saturday from 8:00 to noon.
This is an opportunity that does not come along very often and we encourage you to go if you are able.
Doing the wash while her parents are in the fields
The plight of migrant agricultural workers sadly continues, decades after César Chavez’ death.
In one month this year, five children died just in the migrant camps of Teacapán: one fell into a ravine, another was bit by a scorpion, a third choked, a fourth drowned in an uncovered tinaco… On our trip to visit the migrant workers in Teacapán recently, we met a family that had lost a two year old just a few months ago. Such is what happens when adults need to work in the fields to feed their families, and children are left home to take care of younger siblings and neighbor kids. Click on any photo in this post to enlarge it or view a slideshow.
Girl takes care of her 3 siblings
Most of us can agree that child labor isn’t a good thing. Many of us perhaps campaigned or voted to outlaw child labor. Grocery stores up north won’t buy produce harvested by children, so the local growers are vigilant to ensure that children don’t participate in agricultural activities. But, with the absence of effective support systems, and given the horribly inequitable economy in which we live, outlawing child labor has meant that children are dying, and are not being educated, in record numbers.
The thousands of migrant workers in Sinaloa come from places like Oaxaca, Chiapas, Guerrero—poorer states of the republic. Most of the workers are native Mexicans: Miztecos, Zapotecos… Many of them don’t speak Spanish, as it’s a foreign language to them. Most of them don’t have birth certificates or official documentation, as they were born at home and it’s not their custom to register with the government. Given the lack of language and birth certificates, most migrants are unable to enroll their children in school.
Sound like a hard life? Add to it the fact that the migrant workers are treated like outsiders in most any community in which they work. In Teacapán, for example, I was told the migrants pay 2000 to 3000 pesos a month for rent—of a ROOM, with no running water, no furniture, and most definitely no toilet or kitchen. It was heartbreaking to see.
Loading a truck with produce
Laughter and joy
Traveling home from the fields
Not feeling well
During my trip to visit the migrant workers, there were still huge puddles of standing water on the roads, in the yards and fields. I was told that Hurricane Patricia dumped 25 inches of rain on Teacapán in 15 hours; the puddles were the months-later remnants of the flooding.
The migrant workers are disciminated against. Many of the townspeople tell their children to stay away from the migrants; they call them filthy and stupid. I suppose if I didn’t have access to water or a toilet at home, I’d be dirty, too. Last Christmas a church in Mazatlán brought toys to the migrant workers’ kids, and some of the townspeople made such a stink because their kids didn’t get toys, that the church was afraid to go back this year. The mistreatment of migrants is by no means limited to Teacapán; that is just where I happened to go visit them.
The migrant workers told me they stay here in Sinaloa for about six months, then travel to Baja or Zacatecas to continue their labors, rotating their residence to follow the agricultural cycle. One worker told me he is paid two pesos for a bucket of chiles; how is that for exploitation! Can you imagine how long it must take to pick a bucket of chiles? Women work all day in the fields, then return home in the evening to cook and care for the kids.
I went to visit the migrant worker families on a trip organized by Sue Parker of Vecinos con Cariño. Each of the ten or so of us on the trip that day paid 400 pesos, money which is used to buy food, disposable diapers, baby formula, and basic medical supplies (cough syrup, cold medicine, aspirin, first aid supplies), after paying the expenses of the van and driver.
In Teacapán we visited the home of Helen and Jerry Lohman. They have a gorgeous place, right on the ocean. Their yard is the biggest stretch of green grass I’ve seen in Mexico outside a golf course. The Lohmans and their driver, Ulises Gil Altamirano (a retired engineer), do all they can to help the migrant workers. Helen has learned the hard way that the migrants do not like to wear shoes (they wear huaraches or go barefoot), nor do the women wear slacks. She has personally sewn 22 pairs of jeans, 57 dresses, and 72 receiving blankets that she’s given out to the migrant families just in the past couple of months. She has five volunteers who now help her. Ulises works as ambulance driver, interpreter, and lawyer for many of the migrant families.
Jerry and Helen Lohman
Milk from DIF
One of Helen’s hand-sewn dresses
A pair of Helen’s jeans
Ulises Gil Altamirano
On this trip we also met Brenda Irvin, who lives in Teacapán with her husband. Despite having her arm in a sling, Brenda goes out three days a week every week to hand out nutritive biscuits and milk to the migrant children. Oh how they look forward to her visits! She has divided the town into four zones, and each of the days she goes out, she visits a different zone, in rotation.
Brenda, the Lohmans and Ulises worked hundreds of hours to get registration information for 500 members of the migrant worker community. They got a judge to agree to issue them birth certificates, so the kids could go to school, and the parents could get access to health insurance. But, after all that effort, the documentation remains in limbo; the judge has not come through on his word.
Brenda told me that a few years ago she happened to gain an audience with Governor Malova. She showed him photos of the conditions in which the migrant workers live. He agreed to get the state DIF (Family Development Services) involved. Now Sinaloa DIF sends milk, the nutritive cookies, and some other basic items to Teacapán regularly, and Brenda delivers them to the workers’ families.
I am posting a lot of photos, because the photos tell you more than I can with my words.
An open-air, wood-fired kitchen
Laughter and joy
11 days old
11 day old baby and his sister
Running excitedly to get milk!
Enjoying milk and cookies
A dentist could help here
Sucking on a screw
An extended family of kids
If you are interested in taking this trip with Vecinos con Cariño (VCC), contact Sue Parker via email. She tells me she will do a couple of trips in January, 2016.
VCC will welcome your donations; 100% of what you donate will go to help the migrant worker families. The money goes a long way; a donation of US$300 helps them clothe all the kids, for example. They will also take donations of gently used clothing, basic medical supplies, disposable diapers, and non-perishable food items.
Our third stop on Meseta de Cacaxtla today was Los Llanitos. (Links to blog post 1/Chicayota or blog post 2/Guillermo Prieto) By the time we got there we had already decided we had had a terrific day. And it only got better! What a gorgeous place this was, by far the most economically successful, and the people were so much fun!
What stood out for me right away were the stories of jaguar in the area. I do hope that some day I might get to see one!
Los Llanitos was so fancy, after our previous two stops, that it even had a little kiosk in the plaza in the center of town! Very charming.
Our hosts were all ready to serve us lunch. I fell in love with the setting. It reminded me of picnicking in a vineyard in Italy, with the bright colors and flowers.
Carlos’ wife had taken some of the organic tomatoes, sliced them, and added goat cheese, fresh-picked basil, olive oil and a bit of low-sodium soy sauce. OMG! We were in HEAVEN!!!!! I think I ate about ten tomatoes they were so good!
While we were munching, Maximiliano, the grandfather, started regaling us with stories of the pre-Hispanic artifacts he has found while tending his fields in Los Llanitos. The area, according to him, is home to the game of ulama; this town is where it originated, they say. Max brought out a couple of pottery figurines that he passed around to show us.
The figures had clear faces: eyes, nose and mouth, arms and legs. They seemed to be wearing shirts or tunics. They reminded me of the Chinese burial dolls, which I’ve also seen in Japan, as well as among some of the Pueblo Indians of the US Southwest.
Most fascinating to me, however, were what I first thought to be “angel wings” on the back of the dolls. Upon closer scrutiny, they seem to be the hands of other dolls. It would appear these dolls were part of a set or group of dolls, with one doll hugging the next.
As if after our big breakfast and all the tomatoes we might still be hungry, our hosts in Los Llanitos brought out some of the best tamales I’ve ever had. Organic beef, tomato, chile, and squash, in a thin wrap of corn masa.
Followed by freshly harvested corn on the cob, which our pretty new friend proceeded to drench in fresh cream, cover with grated cheese, and serve up. Oh my!
But, no! That still wasn’t enough. There were homemade jamoncillos.
And my personal favorite, freshly baked empanadas de calabaza, pumpkin turnovers, made by one of the daughters in the family.
My new friend Consuelo lives in Mazatlán with her daughters. They are all three estilistas, beauticians who do manicures, makeup and hair styling. We hope to see them here again soon. She also has a son who was there for the winter holiday, Marcos. He is graduating soon as a biologist, from university in Ensenada, and will return to Los Llanitos to contribute to the local community.
The kids were really cute, but what really stood out for Greg and I were that the boys were sharpening knives for use in cockfighting or palenque. It seems they often hold cockfights in the backyard. I’ve seen men who love this, and I know families attend. I just didn’t realize that kids from such a young age raise chickens for fighting and get so excited about it.
After lunch we walked or drove over to the fields, passing some corrals along the way.
One of Consuelo’s brothers, Gustavo, had a deerskin cell phone holder on his belt.
Gustavo, Greg, and his brother and daughter really hit it off well. They insisted we come back to visit soon, and we have every intention of doing so. This is obviously a very hard-working, wholesome Mazatlán community that we would love to get to know better.
The fields on one side of the road are organic. Gustavo told us the produce is mostly sold to Mexico City or exported abroad. They had many different kinds of vegetables here, scallions and corn. Acres and acres of green.
The fields on the other side of the road are “regular,” non-organic. These fields seemed to go on forever. We were there just as the field workers finished loading 16 TONS of tomatoes into a trailer truck, bound for DF.
We had to leave earlier than the rest of the group, so we missed visiting the dairy and the “biodigestor” (compost system?). As we drove out, however, a group of field workers asked if I’d take their photo. Here it is, folks.
One young man in particular wishes to send a special hello to all the young ladies on Facebook 😉
I’ll close with a beautiful shot that Greg took of some turkeys in the yard. It was a long and very wonderful day. Thank you, Martha, Gaby, and everyone else who helped make today happen. We are so happy to know you, and look forward to seeing you again soon and helping in any way we can to support you as you work to develop our area in environmentally respectful and sustainable ways.
Second stop on our tour today was at the organic community orchards and gardens of Comunidad Guillermo Prieto, a couple of kilometers north of La Chicayota on the highway. My oh my do they have beautiful produce! (If you missed it, link to blog post on our first stop, La Chicayota)
Lush, delicious, fresh; all they lack is a market. They sadly told us that much of their first-year bumper crop of scrumptious organic tomatoes went unsold! We of course immediately told them about the new Mazatlán Farmers’ Market/Mercado Orgánico de Mazatlán every Saturday morning in Plaza Zaragoza, Mazatlán. The cooperative’s leader, Sra. Sacramento, promised they would be here this Saturday to start the application process, so that their organic produce might also be sold there on Saturdays.
Sra. Sacramento… a beautiful name, don’t you think? That is her in the photo at left. When I told her she had a beautiful name, she said it’s what she’s been “saddled with” because when she was young her father moved north to tend fields in Sacramento, CA.
To Sacramento’s left, in the red shirt in the photo, is Carlos Carballo, an engineer, teacher of organic farming, holistic cattle raising, and ….
Hydroponics. These farms are located in an area of town that is sort of “off the grid.” The only source of water, other than private delivery by truck, is to have it piped in from Dimas, miles away. The water from Dimas is turned on once a day for two hours. To work around this shortage of water and be able to reuse some the precious water they do have, the community has turned to hydroponics.
Another difficulty facing the organic farms of Comunidad Guillermo Prieto is that they don’t have a steady market for their product. Traditional planting aggravates this market problem because crops ripen at the same time and need to be harvested quickly. Hydroponics, as we were told, allow the plants to root indoors in a greenhouse, protected from the sun, and provide the farmer a bit more leeway with when to put the plants in soil. In this way, the cooperative farmers can choose when to transplant a hydroponically rooted strawberry or lettuce plant, and extend the harvest!
Comunidad Guillermo Prieto uses two kinds of hydroponic systems. The first, as you see above and at left, is a tube system. The engineering uses readily available items (see the rebar holding the piping on the wood support).
The second hydroponic system we saw here were floating gardens — plants rooting into the water through holes in styrofoam! It was really cool. Four times a day for 15 minutes each time, pumps are turned on to circulate and refresh the water.
We saw lots of kinds of lettuce, cilantro, and scallions growing in these floating gardens.
And here in the photo you can see how well the roots respond to the floating garden concept.
Because the community here doesn’t yet have sufficient greenhouse space or netting, they are unable to vine-ripen their organic tomatoes. If they allow the tomatoes to ripen on the vine, the birds eat their crop. Thus, they harvest them while still green, and allow the tomatoes to ripen inside the netted greenhouse, safely out of the way of the hungry birds.
We saw a lot of different crops here, including peppers, camote(sweet potato), cherry tomatoes, and citrus fruits.
A bumblebee inside a camoteflower.
And some camote, peeking up through the soil.
A nice healthy broccoli plant…
Many thanks to our hosts. We weren’t able to spend a lot of time here. I would have loved to have toured the orchards and some of the other fields. As we left I was gifted with a huge bunch of basil and three gorgeously sweet grapefruit. I will be back, to buy some plants and produce, and to visit the terrific people we met. Thank you all!
(Link to third and final blog post from today’s journey, Los Llanitos)
I am really happy to report that yesterday, Jan. 28, Sacramento and her crew were at the Mercado Orgánico Mazatlán. Conanp had submitted all their paperwork, and will be buying them a tent to aid their display. Hooray! So very happy that this trip and this post had a positive outcome in that way. Sacramento was psyched because they quickly sold out of greens and were well on their way to selling out of other vegetables as well. So glad also that MOM/Mazatlán Farmers Market and Conanp are also now in touch.