Monday, March 21, 2016

Mezcal and Family Heritage, Oaxaca, March 13

Oaxaca March 13

Today we were driven by bus to a small community about the size of Chatfield outside of Oaxaca. We visited a small family farm of the Familia Angeles Carreno’s  near Santa Catarina Minas, Ocotalan, that has been in business of making Mezcal from the agave plant for at least two generations. The woman who owned the land gave us a thorough tour of the types of agave, the uses of agave, and the making of mescal. Mezcal is a type of alcoholic beverage similar to tequila but with a smoky undertone and a bit smoother. I have learned to like it in small quantities.
The woman, like all of our presenters was passionate about her work and her family's heritage. I have been impressed by the way the story of Mexican farmer's struggle is echoed in all of the presenter’s stories. We are able to hear and see how the free trade agreement and the land rights issues are impacting family farms and a way of life.
Garciala has been able to add some eco-tourism to her operation and we were the happy recipients. She, her mother and helpers served us a complex meal of garbanzo bean soup, yellow mole stew, onions in lemon juice, a refreshing drink, and Mezcal. It always feels as if we are in a food magazine eating an elaborate meal in the style of Martha Stewart. All 20+ of us around long tables being served these beautiful dishes of Oaxacan food, festive table dressings and with gracious hosts.
She used real ceramic dishes, linen table coverings and tortilla wraps. She made a point of telling us that making tortillas for guests was the highest form of praise. The food was a capstone to a presentation that is grounded in the value of family and pride in a craft. Like all crafts, Mezcal making is often done more mechanically with less regard for the environment or the heritage. Meeting people like the Angeles family continues to inspire me to keep it local and value driven.

In the afternoon we prepped for our trip to the immigrant shelter. Exploring together the reasons for the need to immigrate grounded us in the reason we are in Mexico. We are to give witness to the effects the USA trade agreements and armament policies are impacting the decisions people are making about their future and the future of their families. Lack of work is certainly one of the main reasons for immigration; but so is the gang culture of Honduras and Guatemala. If all you can do to prevent association with a gang is to flee your home; that is no choice. That is a necessity.  
During our seminar I was reminded me of all the women and children I worked with throughout Brooklyn Park. I wonder how they are doing. Particularly the one who was seeking asylum. I think she finally had to go underground.
The fickleness of our government's policies and ways people are treated when they are in extremely vulnerable positions is so infuriating. The whole idea of colonial power and land grabbing makes no sense to me. And it doesn't help anyone, really. Not even those who are in the 1% because they cannot be fully human when others are not treated with dignity. 

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