Friday, August 14, 2009

Hierve de Agua

In Mitla, I forgot where the tour van was parked. Generally I pay very close attention to these things. Furthermore, we had only twenty minutes to look around before the van left.

Heidi and Laura decided to shop in a nearby market. The prices were excellent. I figured it was highly unlikely that the van would leave all three of us behind, and so I hung out with them. They shopped and shopped.

Our tour guide eventually found us and we got into a bit of trouble. It turned out that there were two types of trips people on the van were taking. A short trip, which I was on, and a longer trip that Heidi and Laura had signed up for. When we returned to the van I was told that since we were to be back in twenty minutes, and we had disappeared for thirty-five, the van taking the people on the short trip had left without me, and I was now on the long trip and needed to pay the extra cost. This turned out to be a very good thing.

Our van took us high into the mountains, at first the road was paved, but then we came to a blockade. The tour guide got out of the van, had a conversation with the Mezoamerican man responsible for guarding the gate (similar to one you'd expect in a parking garage), the gate was lifted, and off we went. Only now the road was very rough gravel.

The Zapotec people in this part of Oaxaca live on an ejido.

The history of land reform in Southern Mexico is a long and arduous history, that continues to this day.

When the Aztecs conquered the people of this land in the 1521 they introduced the idea of communal living, and the sharing of the land. (ejidos) But, shortly thereafter the conquistadors came and encomienda became the law of the land. Encomienda is a kind of feudal system.

From 1824 onward there have been attempts from the "left" to get rid of the system of absentee landowners, and give the land back to the people who work it. However, government to the "right" continues to oppose ejidos, believing that ejidos are not productive.

The greatest land reformer was Zapata, who fought courageously during the Mexican revolution of 1910 - 1920. Most of what makes Southern Mexico a somewhat dangerous place to this day is the struggle to take back the land.

And so, the barrier that was lifted gave us permission to enter the ejido.

I tried to take some photos of the houses, but the van was bouncing too much. What struck me as most interesting were the different types of rooves on the Zapotec homes. Some of the rooves were made of grass. Some were made of tin, with rocks placed in various places so that the wind wouldn't blow the roof away. Others looked like they consisted of one very large, and very heavy, cement slab. A few had the traditional red tiles, but not many.

Again I couldn't take photos, but the farms were frequently terraced on the hillside. But, the people of this ejido have found a way to add to their farming income. They have built tourist bungalows, and restaurants around their "Hierve el Agua".

The bunglows are only one room, but there is electricity and running water, and who knows, perhaps internet connectivity. If I get the chance I'm coming back to stay for a while. This is a piece of paradise on earth.

"Hierve el Agua is a natural warm spring which contains air trying to escape, hence the name "Hierve el Agua"which means “the water boils”. The water is also full of minerals, so as it runs off of the edge of the nearby cliff, calcium carbonate and magnesium in the water create a petrified waterfall, and the sulphur ads nice yellow accents in places. There are only two such sites in the world, the other one is in Turkey." - Advantage Mexico

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