We started the day at our local organic farmers market for our weekly restocking of Brad's kefir, lovely swiss chard and delectable greens...we also stocked up on delicious tamales from Jocotepec....so we were set for the week.
We ran into our friend Santiago and is son Ivan, in Ajijic Plaza. They were strolling and relaxing, taking in the local flavors...so I suggested we get paletas (fruit flavored popsicles)as we sat in the plaza. The Casa Cultural sits in the plaza as well and acts as the local art museum and arts school. Ivan said he liked drawing and painting...he has even had a few classes with local master Efren Gonzalez. I suggested we stroll through the art museum to see what exhibit was handy.
Ivan in Stairway, surrounded by The Birth of Michicihualli mural, Casa Cultural
Detail, The Birth of Michicihualli
What we found were the wonderful murals of our friend Jesus Lopez Vega, reflecting the local history, imagery, cosmology and colors. I promised Ivan that we would have an art day in our community garden soon.
The Birth of Michicihualli
In the interim, Santiago and Ivan invited us to their farm the following day....so the next day we headed lakeside to their farm in Mezcala Town. We had visited Mezcala once before and had taken several boat trips from Mezcala to the floating fish farms off Mezcala Island, but had not explored the town of Mezcala much. This was our opportunity to see the real Mezcala, guided by our local friends. We jumped at the opportunity...and we are so glad we did!
Mezcala town is an Aztec-Nahuatl Indian community located on the northeastern shore of Lake Chapala just 10 miles from Chapala town. Mezcala has a history of defending its land/territory ever since its founding as a colony. Some say that it has a belligerent local identity. Since early on, from the beginning of this century, there has been pressure from real estate and government interests to support and develop tourism in the town. With the dismantling of the post-revolutionary corporate State, the land of peasant communities in Mezcala became available to the general real estate market.
But in Mezcala the population has reacted in a way summarized in the phrase: "We do not want to end up like those of Ajijic, as servants to those who now have our lands." A mobilization is taking place around the Communal Assembly, resisting illegal occupation of Mezcala's properties. There is a push to stop the occupation of the Mezcala territory.
This mobilization and confrontation are fueling a renewal of ethnic identity, as the defense of the territory is being made on behalf of the rights of "Pueblo Coca de Mezcala" and international treaties that advocate Indigenous Rights. But this same renewal of indigenous rights has had a global effect on tourism.
So Mezcala life in the twenty-first century can not be separated from its location. It is still to be seen how this relationship can and will be developed via fair trade, without the loss of elements such as territory, identity and history. Mezcala is a proud town grounded in it's lands, its people and the place it occupies lakeside.
Santiago's Farm sits west of the town of Mezcala, on a lovely lakeside piece of land. It is planted in Green Beans and Okra. I was not a fan of Okra, not having had it often as part of my childhood diet. In fact, I had not even seen an Okra plant until this day on Santiago's Farm.
Planted in Green Beans and Okra
Santiago y Marisela Explain
Brad Inspects The Crop
Green Bean Fields Lakeside
Don Silverio, who lives in the town of Mezcala, helps Santiago with the farming.
When we arrived at the farm we originally settled under the shade of a nearby tree, but eventually moved to the edge of the lake to take in the view. As we approached the farm, Santiago stopped at a home down the road to order fish for our dinner. The family, a local fishing group, took their boat out on the lake to catch our food. As we waited for the fishermen, we settled into making a fire and preparing the rest of our lunch, exploring the area, watching Ivan easily jump from rock to rock and play at the lake's shore.
View From Santiago's Farm
Our fishermen eventually returned with Tilapia and Catfish in hand. Ivan, the constant biologist, inspected the catch.
Tilapia For Comida
Time To Eat
We settled down to eat our lunch...a delicious meal of freshly handmade corn tortillas, freshly caught lake fish, lovely rice, grilled Okra, steamed green beans and Pico de Gallo....a delicious comida! Somehow fresh food, that you've just caught or picked, eaten al fresco can't be beat.
Time To Swim
And of course, after comida it was time to swim...at least this is what Ivan told me, so I took my first dunk in the lake...a sort of baptism for me. The water was warm, with occasional currents of comfortably cooler water.
Ivan told me that he had not learned to swim, so I told him of my teaching my mother to swim. If she could learn at a later age, he could definitely learn at his sprout like age...so we started his lessons.
Teachin' Ivan To Swim
He learned to float and the Dogie Paddle stroke....good work for one afternoon of lessons.
Ivan also likes to catch animals to observe them....and he brought us two minnows and a lake crab. These were returned to the lake before we left.
After comida and swimming, we learned from Santiago that the plants had grown quicker than expected and needed to be harvested, so we all pitched in to help.
Green Bean Pickin'
Beans and Plants
Okra y Green Beans
We were able to pick one costal of both Okra and Green Beans...not bad for a quick afternoon's work.
Harvest At Home
Mangos For Dessert
Green Bean Fields
As the sun started setting over the lake, we packed up and headed home, before the rains caught us. We made it home quickly and promised each other to have more adventures like the one we had today.
In just one day with Santiago and his family I had lived several of my dreams: to eat freshly caught, freshly cooked fish from the lake, to swim comfortably in our beautiful lake and have a naturally beautiful time with friends exploring the town of Mezcala.
Magic seems to happen here often.