México, Los Pueblos and Summer Adventures

If  you ever want to hear some crazy and amazing stories, just come to Quest University and ask any student what they did in the summer. The answer will usually astound you. Although I didn’t hike the PCT, sail the pacific, trek across Asia, or any other incredibly impressive adventure. I did get to spend some quality time in and around Oaxaca city in Oaxaca Mexico which is incredible in itself. I wasn’t there for business or pleasure.. It was more of a personal educational reconisense and cultural emergence trip. I was a tag along with some very wonderful people that I have known for many years. Because I grew up on a sailboat in the Sea of Cortez in Mexico until I was 6 years old, the thought of going back for the first time was exciting and a little daunting. The city of Oaxaca is beautiful – with colourful streets, busy markets, and ancients buildings full of history and culture (don’t even get me started on how amazing the food is). Streets are narrow and cars are abundant. The city is in a valley and is surrounded by mountains. I did some of the touristy activities like going to mayan ruins, visiting the villages famous for various crafts, getting a tour of a Mezcal distillery, and exploring beautiful and rare petrified waterfalls. For me, however, the culture and everyday traditions fascinate me the most. A few days after arriving and touring around, we were off to the pueblos (towns) in the Sierra mountains – one in particular, the beautiful town of Santiago Laxopa. One of the women I was traveling with grew up in Laxopa and had a house we could all stay in.

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Oaxaca City from rooftop view ©Marena Salerno Collins
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Santiago Laxopa, Oaxaca ©Marena Salerno Collins

This is one of the most magical towns I have ever been to – The people, the culture, the community, the language, the traditions, the location – Wonderful on so many levels. While I was there, I lived with and along side families in the village. Many people in the community were born and raised there. To get to Laxopa for Oaxaca city, you have to either take a jam-packed bus that runs irregularly and takes 5 hours, or get someone who has a pick-up truck to drive you 3 hours up into the mountains. Because of this, many people had never been to the city or rarely travel there if not to sell goods. Instead of collecting taxes, the town allocates different community jobs to every resident. Almost every family has land on the mountains nearby that they walk to daily and take care of their fields or grazing animals. Everyone works. Even the kids and teenagers sometimes have to miss school during the harvest or planting seasons. A Catholic church is the centre of town and sits in the square across form the little store and mayor’s office. The church is always in use and the town lives under the Catholic faith and many Saints as well as their ancient Mayan Zapotec gods.

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New brothers and sisters ©Marena Salerno Collins
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My new family ©Marena Salerno Collins

 In this village I was able to join the local band while I was there and play some of their traditional music. The Sierra mountains, in fact, is one of the most rich musical areas of Mexico. I was able to attend the graduation of all the schools and perform there with one of the two bands in town. Overall, the experience was amazing and eyeopening and I hope to keep a relationship with Laxopa and go back many times in my lifetime.

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Playing with the Band at graduation ©Marena Salerno Collins
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The graduation of kindergarten ©Marena Salerno Collins

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