Friday, October 21, 2011

Puerto Peñasco

Okay, so we drifted a bit south of the border, but we want some beach time too! (Actually, we just wanted to visit Altar, Sonora, where we are now!)  But, let me tell you, Puerto Peñasco is a strange place.  We did some awesome things with some awesome people, but there are way too many rich Americans in Peñasco in their fancy beach homes. 

We were told that Peñasco is the beach of Arizona and that rattled around in our heads the whole time we were there, and we realized, "What!?  Arizona, home of some of the most anti-immigrant sentiment and laws, has her vacation home in Mexico?"  Of course, Arizonans (and other folks from the US) want to be able to travel across borders, stretch their dollar and enjoy a pristine environment where they can plop a house just 50 feet from the ocean, but those people who are building their house on that beach shouldn´t be given the opportunity to cross a line to earn a decent wage or give their kids a decent education, right?  No way.

So, it was a little icky feeling and I think this feeling put me in a funk for a couple days because even though we did some awesome stuff, not a lot of it sunk in.  Now, I have all these questions I am wondering why I didn´t ask, but in the moment, I was just floating along. 

Our stay in Peñasco was much improved by the fact that we stayed at CEDO, a desert and ocean research and eduction center.  And the fact that we stayed with this semester´s crew of students from the Earlham Border Studies Program, a semester long, domestic "study abroad," if you will, that is based in Tucson but brings students all over the border and Mexico, studying immigration, human rights, globalization, environmentalism, etc.  With CEDO and the crew from Earlham (you don´t have to go to Earlham to participate), we went on a kayak tour of an estuary on the Gulf and up to the Pinacate peaks, a range of volcanoes and craters, just on the other side of the border from the Cabeza Prieta Wildlife Refuge in Arizona.

We kayaked in the Morua estuary as the tide rippled in, where we saw crabs, a great variety of birds (sandpipers, egrets, herons, osprey, some kind of kingfisher, and, of course, sea gulls), and jumping fish.  We also passed several oyster farms, one of which was part of a women´s cooperative.  I have seen sewing and weaving women´s cooperative, and even cooperatives that make composting toilets, but this was a first!  How awesome! And sustainable too. Of course, we had to give our support and try some oysters.  A bit gooey for my taste, and fortunately, it wasn´t until after we ate them that they informed us that they are alive when we eat them.  (Sorry, no pictures, until I get my disposable underwater camera developed! (talk about not sustainable...))

On Sundy morning, we ventured over to the Pinacate and Great Desert of Altar Biosphere Reserve.  We enjoyed the visitor´s center, where we watched an awesome video that told us the history of the area, the historic indigenous migrations, and had awesome wildlife footage.  With all that, the fact that stuck the most was that vultures are bald so that infection won´t grow on their head as they feast on flesh--fascinating, huh?

Eric is much better than me, and he recalls that the indigenous people of the area, the O´odham, seasonally traveled from what is now Arizona, through the Pinacate, all the way to the Gulf of California, where they would catch fish and dry them for future consumption.  They were wise to the landscape of the Pinacate and relied on hidden pools of rainwater called tinajas, similar to the huecos at Hueco Tanks State Park right outside of El Paso.

Then we went out and visited two maar craters, which are created by groundwater coming into contact with hot lava.  The Pinacate Reserve is home to 9 maar craters, one of the largest concentrations in the world.

Crater El Elegante - a maar crater, caused by steam

Eric and I with the Earlham crew
A big thanks to the Earlham Border Studies Program for inviting us along on their adventures.  You can find a blog written by this semester´s students here.

Another really awesome thing we did while in Peñasco was meet with the Tohono O´odham governor in the area, Jose Cervando Leon.  We met Cervando on the beach, and he chatted with us for a couple of hours about his personal history and the struggle of the indigenous people of the area.  Being who we are, we were especially interested in how the border wall and heightened border security has affected the O´odham people.

Cervando shared that the wall and security has greatly affected the people, as they are no longer able to cross where they used to, though both sides were originally Tohono O´odham territory, and many people do not have the resources or money necessary to acquire a visa to cross into the United States.  This affects people´s participation in meetings, ceremonies, but also their medical care, as the O´odham´s hospital is located near Tucson, AZ. 

Hearing this from Cervando, compiled with learning about traditional migration patterns of the O´odham people from the video at the Pinacate, added a whole new perspective to our learning on the border. We remembered this border has not been here forever and it is stopping the movement of people who have been around much longer than the Border Patrol.  Human migration has happened as long as there were humans on Earth, and here we are, trying to stop it with laws and jail sentences?

Chatting with Cervando gave us a whole new perpective on the border reality, bringing indigenous groups into the picture.  We are so grateful to have had the opportunty to speak with an O´odham leader!

The public beach where we met Cervando
Eric with Cervando

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