Que rico!

It has been nearly 2 weeks here in Mexico City working with Isla Urbana and I have just put in my order this morning for my last squeezed juice!  This is my second time working for this Rainwater Harvesting Tribe here in Cultura Mayo Tlalpan, on the far southwest of DF (Distrito Federal) and this time I have been able to really immerse into the work, and much also into the many different flavors of this city (literally, I think I have eaten my way through these last 2 weeks!).  Last nights dinner with Carmen, a neighbor and family friend of IU was the most mouth watering meal I have had in ages!  Que Rico Carmen, Gracias!

I have been working mainly with the effervescent Jenny White, and with Antonio Cervantes, also known as the Dude (this guy is uber cool, he dresses “cholo” with a flair, and has an innate sense for music, film, and language).  Driving around the barios that Isla is making a mark in with an ease and knowledge of the communities and it’s members.  Antonio doubles as a linguistic teacher when he is not out pushing the rainwater revolucion! 

It truly is a revolution with this band, yesterday saw the premiere shooting of a television spot they will be having with Aztec TV’s “Hola Mexico”, along with Enrique Lomnitz’s addition into Ashoka’s Fellow’s, an exciting honor for the Director of IU who’s vision is strong, sure and vivid!

 Mexico is a rich blend of colorful culture, food, music and warmth, so it is not surprising that Isla Urbana is striking forth with a similar mix.  Life is not just about infrastructure, it is about so much more, and to see how they work in communities  that they implement the Rainwater Harvesting System’s in shows that to be succesful with infrasturcture, you really need to connect in so many other ways.  And so they do, community cleanups, spending time with participants, knowing the communities and always coming up with new ways to reach out. 

The proof is also in the fact that they have woven and extremely tight relationship with the Huichole, an intensely private and proud indiginous group living in the Siera Madres, some 14 hours drive from Mexico City.  The project known as “Ha Tatukari” (Huichole for “water is life”) has spanned the past 3 years and they are now part of the family and go regularly to spend time and continue with progress in the community who needed help with water.  More to come on this chapter for sure!

I will be sad to leave my amigos here, I have been touched with the warmth and sincerity not only of Isla Urbana, but also the people that I have met here, always welcoming and genuine.  Mexico, estas deliciosa!



When ever I am working in new communities – which is pretty much all the time as my job is ever changing – I try and connect as much as possible with the organization I am working with, the people they work with, but also with the essence of the culture.  This is one way to really understand, both what they are about, as well as opening myself up to change.  Often I will read prior which is obvious, and one might think potentially a little dry, but I have been able to gain huge insight.  Reading “Mountains beyond Mountains” about Dr Paul Farmer’s work in Haiti made me a lifelong fan of him and PIH/ZanmiLasante.  Sometimes I have to get really creative with ways to reach out.  When Melanie Jones and I were in Haiti, we ended up going down to the river to do our laundry, and kapow!, we met the most amazing woman, Guerline

Here in Mexico with Isla Urbana, I have been rendered speechless at times by what I am experiencing.  Jenny White is my running partner here, an amazing Urbanist from Maryland, she moved here 3 years ago with David Vargas, an engineer.  They wanted to make change, and as the story goes they soon came across Enrique Lomnitz, a Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) Industrial Designer who had recently come up with a Rainwater Rooftop Harvesting System.  Another Kapow!, Isla Urbana was born and the Rainwater Revolution was begun!


Since then Jenny has gregariously adopted many aspects of Mexican life with gusto!  On my first trip here I was introduced to the Temezcal, a kind of traditional adobe sweat hut.  Last night she asked if would like to join her for the dancing in the central square.  She had been going for the past month, some women meet in the central square of Tlalpan and anyone can join in.  I thought it was going to be some kind of Mexican Zumba! 

Instead what I got was an amazing cultural experience that was as magical as it was difficult, complete with incense smudging, conch blowing, rattles, chanting and more.  The elements in the dance were repetitive at times, but always with a difference, making it challenging to follow along.  The beauty in Concheros is in conveying the earth, wind, water, with reference to the plants and animals to a rythmic beat (the Aztecs really covered all their corners!) was a holistic experience that made me want to connect even more.  I really felt amazing at the end, it was religion, joy, connection, community and excercise all in one.  I think better than yoga!

This attached video was done on my iphone, the soft focus allowing the mezmerization of the drums, but if you look carefully you can see the ghosty silhouettes of some of the dancers, drummers, and the wafting of the amazing incense that I can still smell now if I try!

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