Gulf of California

A Story of Layers
by -- May 4th, 2017

I’ve always used my artwork to communicate my feelings, views and perspectives. I believe the simplicity of colors and shapes have the power to convey emotions much better than any word in any language can. Here are three creations I believe accurately portray some of the experiences I was lucky enough to be a part of these past few weeks in Mexico. I entitled this post A Story of Layers and I invite you to open the three links to see the photos I will be writing about shortly in full size to understand why.

I am one of the last people to blog about our trip, so I got the chance to reflect on the entirety of our stay in the country, from Mexico City to the Sonoran Desert. That duality is what I express in this first picture.

From city to sea, from sea to sky from sky to dust and now we fly.

I did not just learn about Community Based Conservation in the Gulf of California during this block. During our travels from village to village, island to island, I was faced with a lot of reflection time and thus learned a lot about my very own self. In this picture I wanted to convey that feeling of immensity, like I was sitting on top of the world itself, admiring all it’s wonders and possibilities. Yet also there is a definite sense of smallness when faced with the reality of my loss and fear at not fully understanding how to navigate my surroundings once I come back down from that point of reflection.

It was a beautiful and confusing sensation that I felt on the peak of this particular hike near the town of Puerto Libertad; like wanting to jump, fly, swim… But not too far and not too fast and with the option of coming back if I don’t reach the spot intended. Perhaps this sensation that I have felt will remain with me for the rest of my life, like the small window of light in my chest on the picture. Indeed I had never really taken the time to seriously think about the long term, about my future or career. My thoughts were simply shaped to fit the semester mindset box and nothing else.

Meeting such a variety of people during this trip from NGO fishery manager Ernesto, to fishing cooperative founder and community leader Mario and even hearing about our professor Xavier Basurto’s wide range of experiences in the field seriously got me to start thinking about what I was going to do with my life and especially how I was going to get there. With my graduation date in 2018 getting closer and closer, I wonder, what’s the next step?

This second picture is a metaphor I think not too difficult to understand; That of full immersion into the culture and land of the Seri (Comca’ac) people who live in the Sonoran Desert. The relationship Xavier Basurto has fostered with the community here for the past 20 years is truly inspiring and I feel honored to have so quickly and intimately integrated their way of living, if only for a few days. Despite how our professor comes to Punta Chueca, the Seri village settled along the Infernillo Chanel, he confessed there are still a variety of things he does not understand about their traditions and customs. So it does seem unrealistic on many different levels to think that my short time with them allows me to say that I understand their way of life. These new interactions have to be looked at not as a full story, but as an introduction. Or even for some, the first few words of that introduction that have the power to morph and grow through space and time.

Danny for example, a young adult Comca’ac, present during our last 6 day camping trip on the island of Tiburon, who is learning english and many other languages, recently added me on Facebook. I believe my relationship with him has the capacity to evolve through cyberspace in ways my encounters with Manuelito will not. Indeed, I believe my relationship with the elder of the Seri community will forever have begun and ended when he sang to us a few short songs in cmiique iitom (the Comca’ac language) on our final night of camping. And part of me believes, that that is how he wants to be remembered.

Based on the short encounters we’ve had and how different each person has been, it still remains difficult to grasp what is tradition, what is not. What is common what is not. What will change and what will stay the same within their community. But it is no exaggeration when I write that they are the heart, lungs and hands of the Sonoran Desert and their coastal islands. They have fostered an incredible relationship with the mountains and the ocean and acquired such knowledge of the lands secrets that one could only dream of.

This last picture is more specific to our camping on Tiburon. During this trip we all got the chance to fully appreciate and discover the wonders hidden in the intertidal areas of San Esteban and Tiburon West. We had been doing this intertidal work since the third or fourth day of our journey to Mexcio, and walking along the rocks and tide pools was usually our first activity of the day. However we had not see much of anything too exciting, mostly isopods and barnacle and very pretty shells, until those two locations. The tide pools we explored there were definitely some of the highlights of the day.

The more closely I looked, the more colors, shapes, textures and sounds were revealed to me. All my senses were put to use and nothing was more satisfying than identifying a species using our portable library books. That feeling of identification and discovery and wanting to know about the functionality of the ecosystem I associate with the Comca’ac and particularly Humberto. He was definitely a person who inspired me greatly, and whose extensive knowledge about the Sonoran desert plants seemed unreal. A casual hike into the desert with him could have easily turned into an overnight excursion about all of vegetation’s history and traditional uses. Even some of the younger Comca’ac we met like Danny or Juliana (present during our second shorter camping trip near Punta Chueca) said that if they could go to college, they would study ecology and conservation.

That way of living, in symbiosis with nature, represented in this picture by the blending of Humberto’s jacket with the underwater anemone pattern, is something that people around the world are losing.

So yes, here are my stories, my pictures, that now that our trip is over all somewhat blend together. But having my memories layer over one another in such ways is not necessarily a bad thing! Indeed I think it emphasizes the depth of what we all experienced, accentuates the dream like quality of the landscapes we were exposed to, and reinforces the beauty of self discovery within a community conservation context.

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