Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Building a Just and Sustainable Chacala?

I just read an article in a magazine-in-English called " YES!". It's subtitled "Building a Just and Sustainable World. I only run into to this magazine occasionally, and I don't remember how this issue (Fall, 2007) came my way.But it's an interesting magazine. One of the articles is called "Five Ways to Get Free". Free as in "...making lifestyle choices that protect the environment, reduce global injustice, reflect social responsibility, and contribute to richer communities.....". To live in the world with out destroying it. To live in manner that can be sustained for more than the next 30 years.Here are the author's five ideas about how to attempt to live sustainably. (edited by me):

Reduce Fuel consumption: use the bus
Avoid "fashion" and clothes made in sweat shops: buy used and mend
Buy locally grown or made foods: buy in farmers and locally-owned markets
Money: Barter, share and trade goods (stay out of the money economy)
Entertainment: make music, tell stories, play games, visit, talk with each other
I think these ideas sound very much like my life in Chacala.
I take the bus, taxis, collectivos, and very occasionally (monthly?) ride in the back of pickups and in the front seat sometimes. Since I am an old person.

The new clothing I have bought in my four four years are the following items :
  • replacement rubber sandals (and one pair of leather sandals)
  • and three new pairs of boxers and three white cotton tee shirts a year. From the local tianguis
  • And various shade hats, and umbrellas,which I tent to lose, usually by leaving them somewhere or their flying of my head. The combi driver's usually bring them by the next day. It's kind of embarrassing to be so forgetful.
  • Occasionally I buy used cotton, button-front shirts and shorts at the local tianguis. Maybe one of each a year.
  • And I might buy a new pair of long pants at the La Penita tianguis tomorrow. For bus rides (which are often cold with air con) and wandering round as a tourist in cities and visiting churches. One of the two pairs I brought with me to Mexico disintegrated in Oaxaca last summer. A potentially embarrassing event that worked out okay.
And luckily for me, people sometimes bring me cotton button down shirts from thrift shops across the border.I think it's easier to live a simpler life here. For one thing, temptation to consume is easier to ignore. It's a long trip to go on a buying spree. I almost always cook at home. There is only one really tempting restaurant here, and it's out of my price range.

No car. Lots of things to do at home or within a short walk. Lots of visiting back and forth. And helping each other out.My social life is almost entirely visiting and hanging out with friends. A little loteria maybe, or listening to a local group of wandering musicians. Nothing big. But nice. No travelling, paying money except for a drink or coke maybe. Just relaxing, kids running around having fun. No dressing up, unless you want to. Lots of fiestas for varies things. With food, music and games and lots of fun and laughing.

I love how borrowing is done here. Or at least, this is how I experience it. If you know someone has sometime you need some of (band aid, shovel, aspirins. Sharpie pen, etc etc) it's fine to ask for it. Not awkward at all. And the paying back is different. It's not the tit-for-tat kind of borrowing I am used to. Borrow two eggs. Pay back to eggs. Here, you would probably never get the eggs back, but you might get a sack of lemons, a ride to town, help with something. Your dirty clothes my disappear awhile and come back three hours later, all clean and dry and folded. It's much more relaxed and trusting. It's seems like it's the norm to share with family and friends.

I think this way of sharing is part of the same mind-set as "oh-ha-la". Loosely, "as God wills".
You just kind of go with the flow for certain things in life, including the passing around of items.On the other hand, some local people tell me that there's another norm here about not getting to far ahead of the others (materially) in your circle. They have used the analogy of crabs in a bucket, trying to get out. Some make it out by crawling on the backs of their cooperative fellow escapees. But some people say that here, it's more like that if people see you getting far ahead and almost out of the bucket, they will pull you back down. I don't know if that's true or now. But that analogy has been told to me many times, but local folks. Who knows?
One day I am working on the water line at this house. An anonymous person has chopped the hose with a machete again (accidentally). I am bent over, working on it. The neighbor across the way walks over with the fitting I need. I didn't even know he was watching what I was doing. So I watch for some little ways to pay back. And there's always something down the line. But no one seems to be waiting for paybacks. But they do pay-back all the time.

Today I was buying two big trash bags at the tienda. Someone I helped with some photos last week, paid for the bags. I didn't realize what had happened for a minute. The guy at the cash register kept waving me away when tried to pay. Then he pointed to Juan, and said had paid. So I thanked Juan. Pretty nice. Sharing happens all the time around here. Many people are generous and kind, and they don't understand, or seem to be surprised when they see how possessive some people are about their possessions.

Of course, I may be totally misreading the whole culture of Chacala on this issue. And I have to remind myself that this is mostly a poor town moving out of poverty into lower class Mexico. And other classes have different mores and attitudes. About which I know next to nothing.

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

The second picture - what exactly are those? Are they blankets? They are beautiful!

I think that the whole borrowing thing is the way that the world needs to get back to. It isnt so much as borrowing as paying it forward. That is one of the reasons why I want to go to Honduras. To get away from all of the "things" which are so important here in the US, but in the whole sceme of things, it means nothing.

And that is one of the reasons why I love to read your blog. It focuses on the important things in life. Family, friends and not so much things.