Or The Trailer Park Boys
Life in El Tule
El Tule, is known for its Tule tree (Montezuma Cypress) apparently the oldest tree on the planet. In fact, earlier in this century it was put onto the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage sites. It is located near the local Church, that it dwarfs.
El Tule is a fairly typical small town in Mexico, filled with vendedores of all sorts.
So, here we have been in El Tule for a week! As the saying goes, be careful of what you ask for! We have learned a lot in the past week about "overlander world". Of course an overlander is one who travels by motorized vehicle, be it a Vanagon, a Jeep, a Toyota land cruiser or any other abomination on 4 or 6 wheels.
When we rented the casita, we were aware that within the property there were also "overlanders". What we didn't know was that we were sharing our "front yard". We also didn't know that the owner (a Canadian from Kamloops) would agree to filling his campground beyond capacity, to accommodate his newest best friends. The world of overlanders is quite a strange phenomena, from our vantage point.
Our first Evening in El Tule we were invited into town to witness the staging of a weekend festival. Apparently the El Tulusians love fire works! They erected 3 towers, about 60' tall onto which they attached bamboo contraptions that whirled and twirled when the long fuses ignited the fireworks, sending the contraptions into spinning motions. Sadly you are stuck with only verbiage without photos as the 10:00 pm start evolved into a 1:00 am start; far too late for this travelling couple.
For all of you WCB folks, the towers were constructed out of wood in one meter sections. They were tied together by nylon twine. Sections upon sections were linked to arrive at the 60' elevation. I think I spotted a few men wearing steel toed flip flops!
The festival weekend was busy with many activities. One such activity was a "Give Away." Many activities preceded the actual give away: a brass band procession into the Church, what we thought might be a blessing of sorts inside the Church, followed by the longest of processions of people with their give away items that were offered, accepted, and given thanks for.
This procession itself was quite biblical as it reminded us of the "fishes and loaves" parable. People seemed to come out of no where with baskets of goods for the give away. These gifts ranged from food to tupper ware, to endless amounts of candy, cans of beer and Mezcale.
How the give away took place was beyond our imaginations. Under a huge canopy, were hundreds of chairs around the outside perimeter.
These chairs were quickly taken by the more savvy locals. In the centre of the ring were the gifts, to be distributed. At the signal, men and women from the centre of the ring began to "throw" these gifts to the audience. Plastic tupper ware turned into flying saucers and frisbees! Loose candy rained from the skies. The occasional give away was launched like a missile. One had to be careful not to be a victim of the candy shrapnel! Carole was hit a few times by this sweet debris, once leaving proof of our vulnerability! I did manage to catch a tupper ware bowl. I the used it much like a catchers mitt to snag more candy. I was NOT to be out done by the ruthless locals who had much more experience in this game.
Fortunately the beer and Mezcale weren't tossed into the crowd. It was judicially passed to those in the inner sanctum of seats, far from where we stood. With a few goodies and bruises we decided to make due with the little bootie we had and head for the hills!
We've had two wonderful outings. The first was a visit to archeological ruins in a village called Mitla. Mitla is the second most important archeological site in the state of Oaxaca. It is also the most important indigenous site of the Zapotec culture.
The ruins were quite fabulous. Although quite deteriorated, it gave a true sense of the workmanship and splendour of the era. Stone and mortar was used extensively.
Certain parts of the structure were adorned in intricate stone work called frets that added to the beauty of the site.
There were two underground tombs on this site. In order to fit into the tomb area proper, Carole and I entered on hands and knees. A bit eerie yet we both felt quite privileged to be able to visit the bones of such an amazing culture.
In order to get to Mitla, we had to endure two collectivo rides and one short haul ride in a moto taxi. After our two collectivo rides I mentioned to Carole the correlation between the number of rosaries hanging from the mirror and the speed at which a driver travels . . . More rosaries, more speed!
The second outing was orchestrated through En Via Fundiacion, a non profit org that promotes responsible tourism, micro financing and education for women. The day activity cost each group member 650 pesos. It included being picked up by a small bus and delivered to two small communities (Teotitlan del Ville and Diaz Ordaz) where we were given presentations by 6 individuals who received non interest bearing loans from En Via. These small businesses included small textile tiendas, tortilla tiendas and a small food tienda. One of the latest additions to a textile tienda was a small chocolate shop where they received the roasted chocolate bean and made there own chocolate!
Each woman greeted us with great pleasure and pride. They spoke of how the loan had assisted them with start up costs. Many of them spoke of how the loan would assist them in supporting there children to pursue higher education. At one tienda we were offered a wonderfully refreshing drink of tascalate, made from maize. These small tiendas were "honest to goodness" grass root businesses. So many of these woman had redefined 'determinism' with the challenges they faced. They new what was required to be successful and the had the perseverance to do it.
En Via had two different loan formats, with criteria. In order to receive the non interest bearing loan candidates were required to attend a number of workshops. They also had to find two other persons in the community who also wanted to start up their own business. Each person would then have additional support beyond family to assist them through these early stages. Loans had to be repaid within a fixed amount of time eg ten weeks. The interest bearing loans had different criteria and were offered after individuals had exhausted the non interest bearing loans.
At then end of the day, we were driven to another casa where we were served lunch by yet another recipient of a micro loan. It was a great opportunity to ask further questions of our two volunteers from En Via. It also gave us further opportunities to get to know the other like minded gringo folks with whom we travelled.
We then returned to El Tule where we awaited more chaos at the "trailer park!" We do feel very fortunate to have the freedom to travel to these amazing places, meet wonderful people and continue our adventura!
A few final fotos