Rebirth of a Mountain
Home-Based Ecotourism in Mexico Shows the Path Ahead
The cackle of parrots draws my head to the autumn sky. Circling over this mountain in Mexico’s eastern Sierra Madre, the birds are searching for a place to spend the night. I had always thought of parrots as a tropical species, yet here we are just three hours south of the U.S.-Mexico border.
“They are maroon-fronted parrots (Rhynchopsitta terrisi), a species which has evolved to live only among high altitude conifer forests in Northeastern Mexico,” says biologist Jose Sanchez de la Peña. The major source of the parrots’ diet, conifer seeds, was destroyed in the wildfire that destroyed 8,000 hectares in this area of the Sierra Madre Oriental in 1975.
Jose’s family runs a small lodge, Renacer de la Sierra (Rebirth of the Mountains), in the heart of the Sierra. The family has undertaken a major reforestation project with proceeds from tourism. The work is slow, Jose acknowledges. But the family has already lived on this mountain for 400 years and for them the effort is worth it.
Renacer de la Sierra offers a glimpse of the path ahead. Efforts like theirs provide the key to rethinking our relationship to the environment.
Ecotourism will never be the solution for environmental conservation, but it often serves as a catalyst to other services and practices important to sustainable development, such as environment-friendly lodging, organic agriculture, the promotion of local handicrafts, and environmental education. In Spanish this is called un ciclo virtuoso or “a virtuous cycle.”
Strangely, in these Mexican mountains I am reminded of Buddhist scholar Joanna Macy’s collection of essays titled Earth as Lover, Earth as Self. Macy writes about the Buddhist practice of “Sarvodaya,” which means “Everybody wakes up.” She writes:
“Development is not imitating the West. Development is waking up-- waking up to our true wealth and true potential as persons and as a society.”
I wonder what the Mexican equivalent of “Sarvodaya” might be. The environmental problems we’re witnessing today will require as much spiritual transformation, experiencing the spirituality of place, as economic change.
Most of what I’ve seen of “sustainable development” in this decade is rhetoric or good-intentioned tinkering with the status quo advanced by international banks, A-list foundations, and wealthy entrepreneurs. It’s only when I come to places where the ideas are being worked out on the ground that I find my spirits lifted.
|Mexico on the Net
To find information on any country on the Web you can use keyword searches on sites such as Hotbot, www.hotbot.com, or Metacrawler, www.metacrawler.com, or look for information by subject matter via indices. In the case of Mexico, a number of online indices are both creative and exhaustive in the way they index web sites. If you have a related page, you can easily submit your link to the each of the following directories:
Mexico Web Guide, www.mexonline.com. A most comprehensive and user-friendly catalog of Mexican websites.
Mexmaster, www.mexmaster.com, is similar in subject matter to Mexico Web Guide. Among its most useful pages are indices of ecology sites and Mexican businesses. Mexmaster will host educational sites for free.
LANIC, lanic.utexas.edu/la/mexico/. Based at the Univ. of Texas at Austin, LANIC is short for the Latin American Network Information Center, one of the Net’s first attempts to catalog information about Latin America. LANIC specializes in providing links to academic resource materials; it also has good links to usenet groups such as soc.culture.mexican. The Mexico page is a well-designed, no-frills directory of information ranging from political parties to arts and culture emphasizing how Mexico interacts with the rest of the Americas.
Ron Mader lives in Mexico and hosts the award-winning Planeta.com website -- www.planeta.com.