Sunday, November 11, 2007

San Felipe del Agua

This will be a research post, sort of, so unless you need a cure for persistent insomnia (which you might after seeing the scorpion photos) do not read any further.

I currently live in San Felipe del Agua, a suburb of Oaxaca that some have called "The Beverly Hills of Oaxaca", although I don't know if in the real Beverly Hills they would allow scorpions. This is an interesting area because of the mixture and contrast of the wealth of Oaxaca's upper class alongside the relative poverty of some of the communities communal farmers. I had an interview with a Spanish teacher from my school on Wednesday. He is a long term resident of San Felipe and was able to talk to me about many of the conflicts between residents and communal farmers. Some interesting things from the interview....

  1. The city of Oaxaca gets 60 to 70% of its water from San Felipe.
  2. The hills above San Felipe were declared a national park in the 70s, unfortunately for the communal farmers, the borders of this park overlapped many of the borders of their own farm land.
  3. The land here is in high demand, being Beverly Hills and all, so many buy land from the communal farmers but don't actually own the land. So, if the farmer decides, he can basically revoke the homeowners privileges to use the land. This has apparently happened before!
  4. The tax base of the area is so high that federal social programs do not help residents in this area, despite the fact that many residents are not rich at all.
These are just a few of the things I learned and between the conflicts and contrasts between rich and poor, the national park whose boundaries and permissions are still being worked out, and the land tenure and water situation, it seems to be an interesting case study. And lets be honest, this man I interviewed has tons of contacts in the area which will really help me out. It is after all, all about contacts so if you can find them you need to use them!

I will actually be moving away from San Felipe in December, I found an apartment in the center of town so I'm excited about that. I will be sharing a kitchen with Ed the retired librarian. That deserves its own post so more on that later.

The pictures in this post are from San Felipe, taken at the entrance to the National Park on a hike a group of us did yesterday. The picture at the top of the post shows two big bulls shading themselves under a tree. Reminds me of that children's story about a bull, Ferdinand something or other. I loved that story.

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