Saturday, June 24, 2017

San Pedro Itzicán - 2nd Visit - June 23rd, 2017

Our second trip to San Pedro Itzicán on Friday June 23rd, 2017 was a beautiful reunion.  We were met and warmly welcomed by Robert of the Escuela Telesecundaria "Esteban Baca Calderon" in San Pedro, the local volunteer Brigadista leader Anita Torres Guerrero, all the eager students and youth volunteers.

Beautiful Anita at the school garden showing a gift from Jack West 
to the cause...a newspaper maceta maker

Brad "Mulch" Mowers

We were also joined by Master Gardener, Brad "Mulch" Mowers who brought his experience and knowledge to share with our new gardeners.

Brad reviewing the new bean plantings on the 2nd tier

 Demonstrating garden weed maintenance

Brad spoke to us of the effectiveness of garden mulching for soil enrichment and weed control. Robert was a keen listener and promised to use the ficus tree leaf clippings as mulch on the newly planted garden.

Christian Listening

Our other new guest/volunteer was Christian Robertson.  Christian is a new venture business entrepreneur, an arts advocate and a motorcycle rider.  Christian rode his motorcycle from Chapala to San Pedro Itzican that day.

Doris Wakeman gets busy

 We were happy to see the 2nd and 3rd tiers planted and thriving

Always requested...a group foto

Once our lesson is taught, everyone gets to work

Moringa Tree - Post Leaf Cutter Ant Visit

One casualty of the garden was a moringa tree that had recently been visited by leaf cutter ants.  These ants can strip a plant in a day or night, feeding off the tender leaves.  Apparently their favorite leaves in our garden are the moringa leaves.

Brad shared with us his experience with leaf cutter ants and methods that have proven effective to deter the ants from eating our crops.  Robert promised to implement several of these methods.

 School Mural

Everyone Lends A Hand

Tomato Plantings in the 3rd Tier

New Friends

Brigadista's Truck

 Mezcala Home Base

Anita showed our new guests the Brigadista Home Base in San Pedro and also took us to their new location in Mezcala.

The Brigadista Home Base is used for many purposes.  It functions as a meeting space, work space, recycling collection center, classroom, lunchroom, etc.  Talk about effective use of minimal space!

Reforestation Project

While at the Brigadista Home Base, Anita had a surprise for us.  She casually motioned for us to go outside and witness the arrival of 300 trees that will be used in the town's reforestation and beautification project, led by the Brigadistas.

Everyone from guest to regular volunteers, from the town's children to Brigadistas lent a hand to unload the truckload of beautiful trees.

Brigadista Nursery

Brad Comments On and Likes The Vertical Planting System


You were designed for accomplishment, engineered for success,
and endowed with the seeds of greatness. 

--- Zig Ziglar

Sunday, June 18, 2017

San Pedro Itzicán - June 2017

Main Plaza San Pedro Itzicán

After living in the Lake Chapala area of Ajijic 6 years, I finally found the opportunity to visit the towns east of Mezcala, specifically the town of San Pedro Itzicán.  San Pedro Itzicán is located about an hour east of Chapala.  It lies on a narrow stretch of land on the shore of Lake Chapala, east of Mezcala.  It is hugged by the steep and close mountains to the north and Lake Chapala to the south.

Maps of San Pedro Itzicán

San Pedro Itzicán is located in the Municipality of Poncitlan

Vista from Main Plaza of San Pedro Itzicán

Due to recent information being release and publicized on the unusually high incident rates of renal failure in the area, my information regarding this town was faulty.  I expected to find a very impoverished, unkempt, sad town.  Instead what I saw was a humble, clean, naturally stunning town of modest, beautiful people who deeply care about their community.  This is not to say that San Pedro Itzicán does not struggle with lack of employment, pollution, corruption, hunger and now wide spread renal failure problems.  It does, and it is trying to improve its lot with the assistance of outside help and also internally by their people helping their own.

Poster on the town church wall

As an example, this poster found on the main church wall tells locals to avoid certain water resources and gives reasons why; also suggesting to avoid eating carp and to preferably choose mojarra.

I was invited to meet the local school children, to help with the instruction of their own school food garden.  Poco A Poco San Pedro is the organization that has been bringing donations to the town for 6 months now, helping to start assistance programs such as the local organic food growth program, the town clean up efforts, personal hygiene and women's health care instruction.  Please  visit their website at:

Children's Garden Plant Donations

Armed with a carload of plant donations (ejotes, tomatoes, papaya and moringa trees), we awaited the arrival of a truckload of garden soil.  It arrived and the school children went to work moving it from the delivery site to the school garden site.

Soil Arrives! (Gracias Fernando)

Principal Juan Oversees The Delivery

First Planting Tier

Three tiers in the entryway of the school property had been set aside for planting.  The entire truckload of soil was just enough to fill the first planting tier.  More soil is to be delivered throughout the week.

Our Enthusiastic Working Crew

During the labor, we took a break for a lesson/instruction on planting and specifically focused on moringa trees.  Lau'ana Lei, author of Growing Moringa Trees accompanied us that day and gave the class.

Moringa is a tree that originated in India but now grows in all the tropical countries. It grows here in Mexico as well. It has beautiful delicate leaves, white flowers and seed pods. All of which are edible. The leaves have 90 nutrients, 46 antioxidants, a wealth of vitamins, including B vitamins plus all of the essential amino acids, and protein. It’s a full food in itself.

Moringa is being used worldwide to combat malnutrition.

Lau'ana Lei handing out moringa tree seeds


We had many helpers that day, but Leonardo took a special interest in planting and was one of the most talented at the task.

Doris and Jim get digging

Jorge, from the Brigadistas enjoyed the planting

 The Brigadistas Get Busy

 Guys Plant Too



Group Photo Op

Moringa Tree Forest

At the end of the day 30 moringa trees were planted, creating the school's own forrest.  The children will be the caretakers/stewards of the forest watering and making sure the seedllngs will grow big and strong.

Brigadistas Home

Integral to all the town's self improvement projects are The Brigadistas.  

"Brigadistas" are the youth leaders who volunteer to help their community and coordinate other, younger youth. They learn basic fire-fighting techniques, first aid, and learn new skills and interests.

Being a "brigadista" means that they must spend time prior to going to or after school, or at weekends, visiting and helping in their community. They range in age from 13 to 25 years of age, and there are currently over 40 "brigadistas" enrolled in the program from San Pedro Itizcán and the outlying villages.

Anita Torres Guerrero receives us at the Brigadistas Headquarters

"Churro", the Brigadista's mascot

The "brigadista" leaders, both young men and women are trained as local, back-up firefighters - because the local fire brigade would take a long time reaching the town in an emergency. These young trainees get training in Guadalajara on how to prevent, as well as fight fires. 
The benefits to the Brigadista youth is that they get special training (fire-fighting), help their community, take part in community projects, and many other local events. (They are given a uniform (hat, shirt, vest and trousers) but money is raised separately for this.) And they enjoy the prestige they earn.

Brigadista troupe at moringa forest planting

Brigadista Plant Nursery

Perhaps because of the proximity of the mountains to the town to the lake, San Pedro Itzicán radiates natural magic.  It's people, while being introduced to outsiders, are welcoming.  Its town's needs are immediate and this not the true definition of transparency?  And isn't transparency in our governments what we aspire to?

San Pedro Itzicán Lakeshore

I find that direct connection with the people and organizations I choose to work with is best.

You too can create a direct connection and assist.  Please join us in our efforts to help