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A flowery side of Mexico

Mineral del Chico, Hidalgo, Mexico

Like all things and beings, Mexico has a shadow. Corruption, cartels, murder, femicide, and machismo, to name a few. Nevertheless, I felt safe in El Chico and the rural communities I visited, even though my brother-in-law was murdered in December not far from there.

Las Monjas tower above the town.

Mexico also has a luminous side. Its people are welcoming, warm and joyful. The landscapes are mystical and the cultures are diverse and stunning, especially the arts, music, crafts, food, and architecture. In the town of Mineral Del Chico, the light shines brightly in its many instances of solidarity and gratitude.

Entrance to the mine Mina de Guadalupe

Semi-nomadic tribes first populated this rugged mountain town until the Spanish discovered silver and gold in 1565. For almost 400 years, all economic activity centered around mining. Then in the 1930s, the mines closed, leaving the residents without a livelihood. The men followed the work, and those who stayed starved.

Agapanthus or African Lilly

Hungry and desperate to feed their children, the town's women gathered every day at 4 AM with baskets (chiquihuites) filled with calla and agapanthus lilies and kiln-fired charcoal tied to their foreheads with an ayate or hemp sling. Daily, they trekked up a steep, wooded mountain trail, then down a dirt road to the city’s market to sell their wares and buy food and supplies before returning to town. Some walked the 16 kilometers barefoot with a child or two clinging to their skirts.

The sons, daughters and grandchildren of these women, now in their late seventies, have a unique way of commemorating their ancestors’ resiliency and resourcefulness. On individual trees along the trail of the Floreras, they have affixed a plaque with the name of the women who made the daily trek almost a century ago. Every year, descendants recreate the hike, placing flowers under the trees bearing the plaques with their ancestors’ names.

Caritina remembers accompanying her mother to sell coal at the market. The annual walk for her is a way to recognize how we can all contribute to the greater good, no matter how small our actions are. “Even the poorest can do good. They can help someone cross a street or pick up the trash from the tourists,” she says.

I will miss Mexico, its people, and marvels and I wonder if the brighter the light, the darker the shadows.

The trail up and over the mountain to Pachuca

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