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!