Written by McKenzie Campbell, Founder and Director of Living Roots
Living Roots, Baja California Sur, Mexico, based non-profit is working to: Help endangered cultures protect their unique cultural identity by increasing economic opportunity and kindling a generation of youth as stewards.
We are excited to announce the roof is up on a Cultural Center/Marketplace in the mountain community of San Javier, which is the oldest continuously cultivated mission orchard in the Californias, rich with grape vines, pomegranates, dates and several of the oldest olive trees in the Americas. Throughout the summer, the community has come together to build adobe walls, a thatch roof and stone floor in the traditional way. The space will be an exhibition of San Javier history and culture, a store for regionally-made artisan food and craft and a tourism hub for visitors interested in mule rides, interpretative medicinal plant walks, rock art etc.
We have been working with the community of San Javier and the surrounding ranches since June 2010, when the community identified the desire to protect their unique, self-reliant culture while developing a direct connection with a market for traditionally Baja sierra-made products and rural tourism. Through helping the community incubate a regional marketing association, Raices Vivas San Javier, and facilitating the collaboration of the municipal and state governments and the foreign resident community in Loreto, Living Roots has helped turn San Javier’s vision into a reality with the creation of the Cultural Center/Marketplace. With Living Roots assistance, the Raíces Vivas Marketing Association, primarily governed by women, has set the goal of forming as a legal entity by May 2013, with the hope of fully taking over fiscal and administrative reasonability for their community driven enterprise.
We have also been pleased with the success of their youth programing this year. As part a series of Sierra Heritage Skills workshops with the aim of inviting local master craftsmen into the school system to re-teach traditional skills, Living Roots organized a several month Leather Work course. Students learned from tanning to making small bags and wallets how the unique regional leatherwork has been made for generations.
We are excited about this opportunity, secondary school students and teachers alike were eager to explore more ways to learn from local experts. Their enthusiasm has led to the creation of a “Jóvenes Documentalists” program which will launch this fall. This year long program will begin by professional training for youth in how to use cameras and audio equipment to capture the stories and know-how of the elder generation. Teams of students will then hike and ride to remote ranches, learning how to identify useful plants and the essential skills of traveling through their arid back yard landscape, and arriving to interview and learn from these local legends. Older ranchers are thrilled with the idea of being able to tell their stories and impart their knowledge before it is too late.