Oaxaca is one of the most diverse states in Mexico. It’s Pacific coast is rugged, rocky, with swirling turquoise water, warmed by ocean currents. Our group from North Carolina State University Department of Horticultural Science has been based in Puerto Escondido, a favorite spot for world-class surfing, too.
This is a global sea-turtle nesting area, among the top five in the world. Preservation efforts to protect the eggs are a priority by volunteers and wildlife preservation group. Several species have been on the brink of extinction.
Harvesting sea turtle eggs has been banned by the Mexican government since the early 1990’s, but ancient cultural traditions are powerful. Coastal indigenous communities have depended on turtles and turtle eggs for food long before the conquest. It is difficult to change ingrained habits.
Poachers still roam the beaches in the midnight hours to find nesting sites and steal eggs.
One of the most incredible experiences of this journey with students and faculty was to take part in a baby turtle release on the coast just north of Puerto Escondido. We arranged this through our wonderful hosts at Hotel Santa Fe.
The gender of a sea turtle depends on the warmth of the sand and where the eggs are laid in the nest. Climate change has a huge impact on future populations and reproduction.
I remember visiting the coast village of San Mateo del Mar in 2008 to meet the Palafox family weavers. Located on the coast, surrounded by lagoons, the fishermen of the village depended on sea turtles for food.
A huge pile of turtle eggs graced the center of the dining table at the lunch prepared for us. I couldn’t eat, and I know it was rude to pass the bowl without taking one.
This week, there were faces filled with delight as each student scooped up a tiny baby turtle with a coconut shell bowl to carry it from the nest to the edge of the sand, where it would make its way into the ocean.
The group left Oaxaca yesterday. They are an amazing set of young people, smart, curious, sensitive and courteous — a tribute to North Carolina State University. I am impressed by their intelligence and caring, and I will miss them.
It was a privilege to work with the faculty at NCSU to develop this program.
Our donations to participate in this activity help to fund the on-going preservations efforts of the sea turtles along Oaxaca’s Pacific coast.
Volunteers patrol stretches of beach throughout the night. If a volunteer encounters a poacher who finds a nest before s/he does, the volunteer can offer money or most likely backs away to avoid confrontation.
Sunset in Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, Mexico
My internet connection is funky and while I wanted to publish a post today about our Oaxaca Textile Study Tour trip to the mountain village of San Juan Colorado, it may not happen. The photo download is not cooperating.
Sunset at Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, Mexico
So in lieu of hand-spun green, brown coyuche and creamy white native cotton, I’m going to tell you about our first night in Puerto Escondido on the beach after flying in the AeroTucan 13-passenger single engine Cessna Grand Caravan skirting 12,000 foot mountains and not going higher than 9,300 feet altitude.
Patrice Petrillie tells us about the endangered caracol purpura snail
How do we know? We could all see the altimeter. The pilot sat a mere eight feet in front of me!
Patrice Patrillie, director of Dreamweavers Tixinda Cooperative invited our group to the home of a supporter for sunset on the beach, a presentation about the purpose of Dreamweavers to sustain indigenous textile craft, and to participate in a release of endangered baby sea turtles.
Barbara and Sandi enjoying appetizers before the turtle release
Dreamweavers was having an expoventa on Sunday, January 21, and our itinerary dovetailed so that we would return for the event from our wanderings along the coast and in the mountains discovering textile villages in time for the 10:00 a.m. opening.
Being here in time for the expoventa was planned as part of the itinerary for the Oaxaca Textile Study Tour.
I’m accepting names now for people interested in our 2019 trip.
Please send an email.
We put the sea turtles on the sand to make their way to the ocean
Before touching the turtles, we were asked by our host to wash our hands in sand and sea water to eliminate any odors.
The sea turtles are a food staple for indigenous people who live in coastal towns along the Pacific. There is a rescue operation in place to protect them from poachers.
Along the Puerto Escondido coast where we learned about the caracol purpura
The tension is always about honoring the cultural traditions of native people who rely on sea animals to survive and wildlife preservationists who want the species to survive. With global warming, survival is becoming a more difficult challenge for all of us.
As I held this turtle, its flippers were strong, eager to escape
As with the turtles, the caracol purpura, a snail that lives on the rocky coastline of Oaxaca, is at risk of extinction. Mixtec people have used the snail ink for millenia to dye their clothing a brilliant purple, just as the Romans harvested the snail along the coast of Morocco to color the senators’ robes. But, this creature is also endangered and caracol threads incorporated into clothing drives the price up. Yet, this, too, is part of the regional culture as humans interpret their lives through the garments they wear.
The last bit of sunset before we return to town
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Posted in Cultural Commentary, Photography, Travel & Tourism, Workshops and Retreats
Tagged caracol purpura, Dreamweavers, Mexico, Mixtec, Oaxaca, Puerto Escondido, purple dye, sea turtles, textiles, Tixinda, weaving