Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Field Trip Recap: Day 3....Ixtepec and Juchitan

Wake up, take a shower in the prison bathroom, eat (again), and hop into the van for the short drive to Juchitan. There is an accent in the name but I haven't figured out how to do these yet on the keyboards here. We are dropped off in the town center and stroll around the large market, mostly housed in a beautiful, large, white building with numerous arches. The market is great, as usual you can find just about everything under the sun, but here there are some special items not really found anywhere else.

There are some very intricate, traditional handwoven dresses in this market, some of them very expensive. They are beautiful and most have lots of brightly colored flowers on a black background. There is also quite a bit of gold jewelry and Oliver tells us that if we look hard enough we might be able to find some jewelry that glorifies gang culture. Sure enough, as we walk through the market Oliver finds a gold necklace with a machine gun pendant! The other market items of note were the turtle eggs for sale by many vendors. It is illegal to collect and sell these eggs, the turtles are endangered I believe, but the eggs are an aphrodisiac. In fact my roomie is studying these sea turtles and their eggs so she walks around secretly taking photos of them. The other oddity is iguana meat, both live and not, which is for sale in a few stalls. One of the two guys in our group purchases iguana meat and turtle eggs (to make my roomie angry) and tries them both. I chose not to partake. I also saw live iguanas for sale which was actually quite sad. The break their legs and then tie their tails together so they can't escape, needless to say they do not appear to be very happy.

More iguanas...
Several ice creams later we leave the market for an ecological center by the river. The center was started by several residents of the area and some Germans who were fed up with the pollution in and along the river. The river basically served as a garbage dump for many local residents and large companies upstream, including a Coca Cola plant, were dumping their industrial waste into the water. The river had completely died, no fish, no plant life etc. until this group of people moved in and went to work transforming the waterway. They cleaned up the trash, built the ecological center and began encouraging the residents to bring their trash to the center where it is divided into organic and non-organic and recycled accordingly. The effort began in the mid-90s and while it took awhile to achieve buy-in from the locals (some medical studies on the effects of pollution on the health of those living near the river helped) they now have active participation.

Within the ecological center there is also an iguanario which is basically a place where they breed and raise iguanas! I have never seen so many iguanas in my life, it was great! Green ones, black ones, little ones, bigger ones, iguanas everywhere! They began the iguanario in an attempt to prevent people who wish to sell and/or eat them from decimating the wild population. It is hoped that by not only providing a source for iguanas but also demonstrating that raising them yourself is not only easy but possible, people will adopt this more sustainable method of production.

Next to the ecological center, or rather part of the complex, is a very large two (or maybe three) story building that serves as an educational area. This is one impressive building with a pool, an AV room, all the modern conveniences. The story goes that a candidate for governor (or was it president?) visited Juchitan on a campaign stop and visited the ecological center. He was so impressed he pledged to build an educational center in support of their environmental efforts. Apparently, he won the election and one of his friends with ties to Juchitan made him keep his promise. So he built this huge building for the center which is now simultaneously a blessing and a curse. Our guide through the center explained that while it was great to have such a wonderful space, they were not given any money for upkeep on the building. They must constantly think of new and creative ways to generate funds to pay for electricity etc. One way in which they do this is making recycled paper products and gifts and offering them for sale. They were quite lovely and I wanted to buy one but unfortunately I feared it would not return safely to the U.S.

More later....the rest of the day and day four.

1 comment:

Marissa said...

I'm attempting to leave a comment on my own blog to see if this works. For some reason the instructions on this computer show up in English.