Our UT Dallas study abroad group spent the weekend in the “Mar de Montañas” (sea of mountains) in northern Oaxaca. The cabins were situated at an altitude of approximately 3,000 meters. The little pueblo of Nevaria is inhabited by about 70 individuals, many of whom speak Zapoteca. Their livelihood is largely based on subsistence systems. The people, who operate under the “usos and costumbres” system of government–which delegates autonomy to indigenous populations–spend the majority of thier time cultivating, tending to, and gathering crops followed by preparation of food and micro scale selling.
Upon arrival, our group embarked on a three hour hike through the thick of the woods. Immediately noticeable to our company was the nature of the “thin air,” given the altitude. On this excursion, our tour guide pointed out and explained the use of several fauna including plants used for tea for GI disruptions, for cream and deodorant, and trees with the best wood for building. Our second day was service based. Our company was divided into two groups–females and males. The foremost spent thier time learning the grueling process of “chucking corn.” The latter spent thier time assisting with the planting and fertilization of apple trees. This consisted of using a hoe to loosen the superficial layer of the earth, which was then placed into various containers, carried about 120 meters on mountainous terrain, and then dumped in appropriate apple tree plots.
This experience was absolutely humbling. To work alongside these men, women, and children (a woman, man, and thier two children were guiding the planting process) doing what they do on a regular basis indeed broadened my perspective. Furthermore, the complete isolation and void of technology (no wifi or phone signal), enhanced my appreciation for our mother earth and amplified the experience by liberating one from the constraints of city life.