Wednesday, April 15, 2009

the unlikely zapatista


After 14 hours of sleep, or what felt like it, we awoke to a new day with a new character: Eric. Before i launch, i just... man, the whole time i was there i was blown away by the revolving cast of Characters. Characters with a capital C. The weirdest and most fascinating people i've ever met. Outside of art school.

Anyway, Eric was a Zapatista disguised as a gringo. A Texas native, he had the drawl and everything that came with it, including a refined sense of rebellion. If you've never been to texas, the place is covered with sayings like "Don't mess with Texas" (a clever anti-litter slogan that seems to have shed any of its former good intentions to become the unofficial state motto). I don't know if Libertarianism has a home state, but if i had to guess one it would be texas. Eric represented texas in a peculiar way, he was definitely a rough and tumble don't-F-with-me kind of guy, but with a strange liberal bent. He was all about standing in solidarity with the oppressed, alternative energy & appropriate technology and, of course, fighting the Man. When America's second civil war comes Eric will be our Che Guevara.

Eric was just passing through on his way back to the states from CACITA which is a center for appropriate technology in Oaxaca Mexico (apparently no website for them, but here's some photos on an Italian blog). CACITA is a lot like Maya Pedal but broader in its scope- they do solar ovens, composting toilets, natural building, etc. Supposedly the place is run by a guy named Dracula. A little high strung from what i've heard. Kind of creepy sometimes too.

This dracula character likes to claim that he came up with the bike machine designs he totes up in mexico. We showed Carlos and he immediately got on the phone to give dracula a stern talking to. Turns out dracula was one of Carlos' students years ago. Funny how that works.

Eric wasn't with us for long, but he was wildly entertaining and could talk up a storm. His stories were consistently fascinating and hilarious, though some of the girls didn't always agree. In his two or three days we managed to get him out to Carlos' farm, whacking away machete in hand. He was really into it- it was the highlight of his trip he said. Which includes dracula-time.

So on a sleepy tuesday morning, in which clouds took the title in "clouds vs. sun," we piled into Carlos' truck as per usual and made our rumbling ascent.

When we got there, for wahtever reason, Carlos' truck just couldn't make it up the hill. Maybe too many people? Though that didn't seem likely. He backed it all the way down and came all the way up. Twice.

His family and i got out to see if lighter was better. I guess it must have been.

We got right to it and cleared out a pretty big chunk of land right quick. Sarah and Eric were both pretty fast. Carlos, of course, is a machine.

I know its terrible, but i'm going to go ahead and say out loud that i'm sorry i missed the "burn" portion of farming with Carlos. I really like setting things on fire, and though jungle would certainly not be my first choice, what fire enthusiast could turn up being in the middle of one that big?

Somewhere in the morning some unknown, or perhaps arbitrary, quota of hacking had been accomplished and Carlos decided it was time for a tour. I think this was mostly in honor of Eric who would be leaving shortly.

So we snaked our way up the dusty mountain until we got to top. Turns out, Carlos owns the whole mountain top.

Along the way he just grabs this tree and whacks a chunk out of it, drink he says, and pours a surprising amount of water into Sarah's mouth. I was next. It tasted very much like tree.

The prize of the hike were the two water pumps. One was on Carlos' land, operable only by hand. The other was just next door on his neighbor's property- a bici bomba that Carlos had built and installed.

Eric and Sarah were shining with glee. I'd guess that neither one of them has ever been so excited about water before in their lives. Which might be part of what prompted Eric to drink some of it, that and his i-can-take-anything way of doing things. Given my poor history with the local water i wasn't going to touch it, but how could i get showed up in front of Carlos? I couldn't.

We wandered off the mountain a different way then we came up. We went by a series of huts in a sad state of dilapidation, cobbled together from branches and leaves. I was fascinated by them and wanted to know their story. Turns out Carlos hires several workers to tend to his farm, they live there in the huts.

While we were out there we also saw this little shed which got me missing the tent platform that i used to sleep in during the summers in upstate NY.