To the extent to which it could be said that I actually had a career, or that any of us coming of age in the 60’s needed one, mine was in what is now termed ‘community economic development’ or CED. Having managed to avoid any formal training in, and hence not knowing any of the possibly proud history, of CED; I was facinated when I saw in my Mexico Lonely Planet this comment “Bishop Vasco de Quiroga, a respected judge and cleric, was sent from Mexico City to clean up the mess. Quironga was one enlightened dude. When he arrived in 1536, he established village cooperatives based on the humanitarian ideals of Sir Thomas More’s Utopia. To avoid dependence on Spanish mining lords and landowners, Quironga successfully encouraged education and agricultural selfsufficiency in the Purepulpa [regional first nation’s who had fought off the Aztecs]villages around Lago Patzcauro, with all villages contributing equally to the community. He also helped each village develop its own craft speciality, from masks to potteryto copper to guitars and violins. The utopian communities declined after his death in 1565, but the crafts traditions continue to this day.”
I wonder if Quironga read More as a socio-political satire? Or was he just pre-Marx – from each according …whatever, regardless the results appear to have kept the more rapacious Spanish at bay, and have clearly resulted in long and well established traditions with the many villages and famiies.
Over the next few blogs I will report on our exploration of these beautiful villages and the extent to which the crafts and skills identified over 450 years ago are still in play. Villages with names such as Santa Clara del Cobre, Tzintzuntzan, Erongariocuaro, Paracho and Tocuaro.
Patzcauro, at 2175 m [200m higher than Mt Arrowsmith] is our base for our forrays by combi fixed price taxi’s and boats. It has a population of around 130,000 I gather. It has two beautiful plazas – not dominated by churchs – and a mandated building colour scheme in the older, adobe part of the city of earth red base and white uppers, with a colonial style font for signage.
This colour requirement goes back some hundreds of years, an early example of community branding. Is nothing new? The adobe buildings remined me of Peruivan altiplanto villages, where I began in the CED lark, and these images and memories, in a much gentler climate have drawn me back to this beautiful spot three times now.
It also has some of the best street food in the whole country. Stay tuned for more Santa Clara del Cobre and Eating sheep’s head in Paracho.