If you leave (El 20), you are not smart

Keywords: Fractal, resilience, children of El 20, sunset, pupils, wood.

October 3rd, a very special date for this blog, as it was the last official day in El 20. Part of our team stayed one more night, but Julia, Caro, and I (Claudia) left towards Bacalar and Uxuxubí respectively.

I’ve lost count of my visits to El 20, and although it has become very natural to be here, I always find out new things, and it is always sad to leave. Few years ago, Daniel Dzib explained me that they needed to measure their whole territory very carefully, since it turned out it was larger than they thought. He was given some GPS equipment by the government, and for several months, his job was to walk everywhere, drawing every ejidatario’s polygons. Throughout his walks, he encountered inimaginable elements of their environment (lakes, waterfalls, water springs), and elements of their cultural heritage (there seem to be over 50 archaeological vestiges hidden within their territory). Many of these represent a huge potential in terms of tourism, and they we already planning on offering tours that include these newly found jewels.  

Other times, design facilitation has been crucial for ALM team while being in El 20; nonetheless, by this time, the projects are highly developed and there was not much I, as a design facilitator could contribute with. The teams worked very well. Every labber was a dedicated participant; so much so, that I had to put an effort in convincing the water team that it was alright to miss one sampling session and go visit Rio Bec instead. So, in the end the water team had an early meeting with Herson and Berzaín (the pupils), where they were introduced to water sampling and testing. After breakfast, both teams accompanied Rutopía and their invited tourists in their visit to the largest archaeological site in El 20 (Rio Bec, of course).

I think this was a very good idea. On the one hand, the team had a chance to rest from tedious tasks, and on the other they got to know the community much better. I remember a short conversation with Julia, who had been hearing that the road to Rio Bec was difficult since her previous visit in 2017; but she never imagined how difficult. Henna had taken her knitting gear with her, so she could do something while driving there. The team soon agreed that the drive is way too difficult. Standing in the back of a pick-up truck, they needed to be aware all the time, ready to bend their bodies in whichever way in order to prevent being hit by a branch. About an hour later, we arrived in the first site. It was the Easter break, but we were the only people climbing the mountains at that time.The same happened in the second site which was part of our visit. The buildings are very special; in fact, the show the “Rio Bec style”. Rutopía was carrying a drone, and they were able to take amazing shots which were later shared with Daniel and Rogelio Dzib in El 20.

On the way back, some thought that it was a good idea to go for a swim in the river. And so they did. The water team was a bit suspicious about the quality of the water, and thus decided not to submerge their heads. Back in El 20, we dedicated our time to “closure activities”, such as finalising Herson’s and Berza’s training, delivering a bunch of knitted woolen socks in the hands of Ofe and her family members, buying craft from different artisans, having a talk with the government board, having our last dinner together, packing the lab, and saying goodbye to the kids. It was during the latter that the following conversation took place:

Andrea (girl of El 20): Don’t leave!
Heidi: We must, but keep in mind that you’re very lucky to live here
Andrea: Well, you can be lucky too!
Heidi: Smart girl!
Jaimito (boy of El 20): If you leave, you are not smart…

Since it is time to reflect not only about what happened today, but about the whole visit to El 20, my final word is “fractal”, since the more we do, the more there is to be done. The filter, the community tourism strategy and the microinsurance show the progress of our research programme, and this visit has provided the teams with insights required for the further development of those projects; nonetheless, there are always new questions. I conclude that making the world a better place is a never ending task, and we should probably just take it as it comes.

(Text & Photograph: Claudia Garduño Carcia)

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