Spring Again!

Living Roots/Raíces Vivas News from the Field

Spring is always a busy and productive time of year for Living Roots. This year we have several new and exciting projects.

To find out about Semana Santa (Holy Week) activities, including interpretative walks and hikes to rock art, go to our Facebook page.

Growing our Impact through Loreto Farmers’ Market

Living Roots has joined forces with Mariana Urias to launch a new Farmers’ and Artisan Market at the incredible Palmas Altas Property in Loreto. The market has been an immediate success! Rancheros and artisans within a hundred kilometer radius of Loreto are excited to finally have a direct sales outlet for their harvest and crafts.

Participants have begun to band together as a unified group to take the reins of shaping the development of the market with the goal of promoting a healthy and vibrant local community.

Mercado Invite

School Garden Harvest!

Chard, spinach, lettuce, carrots, beets and radishes livened the Secondary School yard this spring. With the help of Raíz del Fondo, La Paz based non-profit, students planted a small garden and learned the importance of eating home grown vegetables.

To celebrate the harvest, we made salad, dressing and sautéed greens with the students. Over mouthfuls of leaves, we facilitated an interactive nutrition activity. Some kids still aren’t convinced that vegetables are their favorite foods in the world, but we all had a fun day!

Chalino getting ready to harvest in the Secondary School - nutritious salad greens for the whole class!

Chalino getting ready to harvest in the Secondary School – nutritious salad greens for the whole class!

San Javier – Through the Eyes of a Local Guide

During the busy months, up to hundreds of visitors make the journey up to San Javier every day.  Until recently, the option of being introduced to the history, culture and landscape by a local resident did not exist.

Living Roots in conjunction with the Autonomous University of Baja California Sur, La Paz Campus, has begun to empower a group of motivated residents to identify local attractions, organize administration and guide several interpretive trails.

We plan to fully lunch the local guide service during Semana Santa (Holy Week), April 14-20.

Local guides walking one of the three new interpretative trials as part of their training.

Local guides walking one of the three new interpretative trials as part of their training.

San Javier Youth Visit Las Animas and La Paz

The community of La Animas, in the municipality of La Paz, has been working through the challenges of coming together as an organized community for the last four years. Last month, Azucena Higuera, our San Javier Field Coordinator, who was born and raised in Las Animas, facilitated a community exchange for a group of young representatives from San Javier to experience and learn from rancheros from Las Animas. They came away impressed with the pride and optimism of Las Animas to truly unite to solve community challenges, and with a renewed pride themselves of the lushness, and regional significance of their own hometown.

Getting ready to ride the Las Animas Interpretative Trail

Getting ready to ride the Las Animas Interpretative Trail

The group got to ride mules through the new interpretive trail Las Animas is opening, see various community operated cabanas in the surrounding area, visit several artisan stores and spent a morning with Raiz del Fondo’s Youth Leaders in their garden Sabores de La Tierra in La Paz.

Upon return to San Javier, the youth presented what they learned from their trip to the public and began an important conversation on the importance of uniting as a community.

Checking out regional artisan work at the Casa del Artesano Sudcaliforniano in La Paz

Checking out regional artisan work at the Casa del Artesano Sudcaliforniano in La Paz


The Cultural Center Gets a Facelift

The Cultural Center looks beautiful! Just in time for Semana Santa (Holy Week), a team of volunteers from the community, Loreto, Loreto Bay and Cayote Bay helped spruce up the Cultural Center by white washing the walls, building picture frames, hanging beautiful posters and redesigning displays.

Improvements were made based on recommendations from a Focus Group in February, who provided suggestions on how to continue improving the Cultural Center, artisan products and produce sales.

Looking good in time for Semana Santa (Holy Week)!

Looking good in time for Semana Santa (Holy Week)!


Behind the Scenes of the Cultural Center – Capturing Participants Stories

To relay the story and history of each Cultural Center participant, their products and their ranches, we have been compiling a catalog of images and anecdotes. The book will introduce visitors to the Cultural Center and Loreto Market to the people and places behind the scenes.

Thanks for your continued interest and support – until next time, onward and upward!

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Changing of the Seasons

Another exciting season of change and community building! 

It has been an active summer for Living Roots as our influence and potential to support and empower the unique region San Javier continues to grow.

The Sierra la Giganta is beginning to glow green after a strong downpour left by Tropical Storm Octave earlier this week.  The rain, always welcomed in the sierra, will help keep the arroyos running and wells full for months to come.

In San Javier and the ranches, families are already busy making fruit dulces or preserves in preparation for their festival in early December, and are readying the ground for planting season.

Living Roots Welcomes Azucena Higuera to the Team!


Azucena Higuera

San Javier residents and Living Roots are excited to welcome Azucena Higuera as the San Javier Field Coordinator this tourist season.  Azucena is originally from the sierra community Las Animas. Located a couple hours north of La Paz, Las Animas is well known for their artisanal knives.  Since graduating from UABCS La Paz with a degree in History, she has been working on community development, environmental conservation and local tourism projects with Niparaja and RED Turismo Sustentable in both Las Animas and San Javier.  We are thrilled to have her on the Living Roots team.

Young Documentarians Exhibit Their Work

Young Documentarians

Young Documentarians

This month, Living Roots and the secondary students from San Javier will present the “Jovenes Documentalistas” photography exhibit in coordination with the celebrations surrounding the founding of Loreto.  This presentation, lead by Hugo Sanchez, Living Roots Youth Coordinator, is the culmination of a year long project in which students learned documentary skills in order to capture the essence and stories of the landscape, culture and history of their backyard.   The exposition will be held Sunday, Oct. 27 at 6 pm in the Mission Museum Patio in Loreto – we look forward to seeing all of our Loreto area supporters there!   From Loreto, the exhibit will then travel south to Ciudad Constitution and La Paz.

Interviews with Rancheros Contribute to PhD Research and Living Roots Evaluation

This summer, a team led by Melissa Haeffner, a PhD student from Colorado State University, interviewed rancheros throughout the San Javier region on the effects of drought on migration in the area.  As she finishes her analysis later this year, Melissa plans share her findings with the community.

A summer of valuable research - PhD student collects data on drought and migration, while Living Roots evaluates how to improve its programs.

A summer of valuable research – PhD student collects data on drought and migration, while Living Roots evaluates how to improve its programs.

Martha Drew, Living Roots’ Artisan Program Coordinator, also spent the summer conducting interviews and surveys to evaluate the effectiveness of Living Roots projects in the sierra and has begun to incorporate her home ranches of San Juan Londo into Living Roots activities closer to Loreto.

School Garden Project Update

Living Roots will be continuing our partnership with the La Paz based non-profit, Raiz de Fondo to create a garden in the yard of the secondary school in San Javier.  Students will learn organic planting, seed saving and water conservation techniques.

Thank you for continuing to support and follow Living Roots.  For more information or to make a donation go to: www.livingrootsbaja.org or follow us on Facebook.

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Baja peninsula from the air

Baja peninsula from the air

Mila’s Return to Baja – What an incredible feeling to be back in Baja and working in the field with Living Roots again! Life itself is a journey and my return feels like a journey begun 4 years ago has come full circle. I can’t believe how much has been accomplished in Living Roots’ pilot community, San Javier. Living Roots has graciously let me use this blog to bring you updates on this epic journey, the last week of which has been generously supported by Vail Resorts‘ Epic Volunteer program.

Cultural Center – Building Community Brick by Brick

Visitors check out the cultural center at the grand opening

Visitors check out the cultural center at the opening

It started on Saturday with the grand opening of the Cultural Center in San Javier to serve as a community center, product sales outlet and tourism hub. I remember vividly that when we asked the community in July of 2010 what they wanted for the future, their answer was “a place to sell our goods and coordinate tourism”.

A multicultural crowd comes together to celebrate everyone's hard work

A multicultural crowd comes together to celebrate everyone’s hard work

The idea at that point was literally just a gleam in their eyes. Now, I was fortunate enough to be here to celebrate the incredible place they have built using hand-made adobe bricks and palm thatch roofing in the traditional style. It was clear to all at the inauguration, that the Cultural Center is a timely and an extremely well laid foundation of community participation that can organize future activities and address community needs.

Adobe blocks : getting ready for construction scheduled to begin on December 5th

Adobe blocks used to build the Cultural Center

the blocks on the right make up the building brick by brick

Tourists – Ready or Not, Here They Come

It was also obvious that the newly paved road is bringing tourists to town with increasing frequency as at least ten people stopped by to ask about the Cultural Center while the event was underway.

Downtown San Javier and a marvelous tourist attraction with the mission in the center of town

Downtown San Javier and a marvelous tourist attraction with the mission in the center of town

Interpretive Walking Trail – Rejuvenating Old Paths

Leno showing us the olive trees and explaining they need a male and female planted together to produce

Leno showing us the olive trees and explaining they need a male and female tree planted together to produce

On Sunday we held a kickoff meeting to start the process of community organization for rural tourism. Javier Arce from the Baja California Sur’s Oasis (Joint State and University) Project presented a fabulous overview of walking trails, their uses and their design. The outcome of this meeting was to start mapping the trail and its attractions.

Later that afternoon, the Living Roots team, Javier and a few community elders walked the trail to identify points of interest including the extensive irrigation system developed by Jesuit missionaries in the 1700’s, varied plant life ranging from

Orchard and medicinal plants seen along the trail

Orchard and medicinal plants seen along the trail

orange trees to edible cactus, and impressive olive trees which are some of the oldest in the Americas.Using GPS technology, Javier started developing a map that will become the basis of an interpretive brochure and will be displayed in the Cultural Center to orient tourists to the area.

These trails have been used for centuries

These trails have been used for centuries

Youth Engagement – Kids Walking in their Grandparent’s Footsteps

Walking the trail with Deneb (just now 2 years old)

Walking the trail with Deneb (just now 2 years old)

The next step in the trail project is to have a capacity building workshop for young guides and incorporate teams from the “Jovenes Documentalistas” or “Young Documentarians” program that Hugo Sanchez, Living Roots’ Youth Programs Coordinator, has been organizing. These teams will use multimedia techniques to capture the trail’s attractions and the historical descriptions of the area by those families who have lived in the region for centuries.

Young Documentarians Program

School in San Javier

School in San Javier

Beginning last fall, this program has invited audio-visual experts into secondary school to train students who are 12 to 16 in how to use cameras, voice-recording and written text to interview important figures in the community.  These documentaries will capture the important stories and know-how of the elder generation in a registry and traveling display which will first be exhibited in the San Javier Cultural Center and then travel to cities around the state.

Team huddle of high school students in San Javier

Team huddle of high school students in San Javier

In small teams, students have begun the interview process in San Javier (in town) and are gearing up to go on 4-6 days expeditions in early April to various surrounding ranches.  They will hike to the ranches accompanied by a local guide (guides are their fathers, older brothers etc.), who will teach them how to travel through the wilderness, locate trails, identify medicinal plants and so forth. Once at the ranch, they will spend several days documenting and sharing experiences with the elder generation.

This program has been made possible with a grant from the John & Mildred Holmes Family Foundation in conjunction with PACMYC, a Mexican Institution that supports cultural activities.

Fighting Fire – Fragile Ecosystem and Perilous Conditions

An ancient olive tree ravaged by fire

An ancient olive tree previously ravaged by fire

Monday, our plans rapidly changed when, just as I was finishing an outdoor bucket shower, a call of alarm came that a house next to the mission in San Javier was on fire. Living Roots’ founder, McKenzie Campbell and I rushed to the scene, stopping to grab buckets from the school yard along the way. Dense smoke billowed in noxious clouds as we arrived and the visible flames threw off intense heat. We joined everyone in town (about 50 people) in fighting the fire, bucket by bucket, trying to control and contain it before it spread. Luckily, the wind died down at just the right moment and we had it almost out before the closest fire truck could arrive from Loreto (1 hour away).

The family of eight, who lived in the complex that burned, lost everything and Living Roots

Fire truck from Loreto after the fire was out (San Javier has no fire fighting resources)

Fire truck from Loreto after the fire was out (San Javier has no fire fighting resources)

has put the word out locally to get them some much needed basic necessities.  On the positive side, it was amazing to see, and be part of, a community banding together to overcome adversity and helping to keep the rest of town, including the newly inaugurated Cultural Center, from going up in flames!

More to Come – Stay tuned for more updates from the field!

Irrigation canal with olive tree in the background

Irrigation canal with olive tree in the background

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Onward and Upward

With 2013 well underway, Living Roots is still harvesting the fruits of last year’s labor while keeping our sights set on an equally exciting and bountiful Spring.  Balancing celebration with strategic planning, we feel it’s the perfect time to share a few highlights, updates, and upcoming projects with our friends, family and followers.

The Living Roots team stands in front of the newly built San Javier Cultural Center

The Living Roots team stands in front of the newly built San Javier Cultural Center

San Javier Cultural Center

As many of you know, Living Roots is excited to kick off the New Year with the Grand Opening of the San Javier Cultural Center – designed, hand built, and soon to be fully operated by the community. This marks the culmination of several years of planning and community organizing. Living Roots members are proud and excited to promote their lifestyle, sell traditional products and offer services through this community hub, which will serve as a much-needed focal point for local tourism activities. Living Roots staff is thrilled to see the tangible results of so much effort and dedication to the ranchero culture.

  • Inauguration ceremony will be held on March 2nd in celebration of Día de la Candelaria. In the spirit of sharing and coming together as a community, members are providing tamales, tortillas, coffee etc. for the feast. All are welcome!

Lights, Camera, Action! 


As part of our focus on youth empowerment and education, Living Roots Youth Coordinator, Hugo Sanchez, is launching a project next week called, “Jóvenes Documentalistas” or Young Documentarians. San Javier’s secondary school students will learn from professional photographers and communications specialists about how to use multi-media techniques to capture the stories and know-how of the older generation.

Youth will embark on a several-day long expedition to outlaying ranches to interview and learn from their elder relatives and grandparents.  Local guides will accompany youth to teach important skills of route finding and survival, as well as share the value and importance of local wilderness.  Such skills and appreciation are quickly being forgotten as the younger generation heads to cities for education and employment.


Youth will create an interactive, multi-media display for exhibition in the Cultural Center and various venues throughout the state beginning in May. The Young Documentarians program helps rancheros value and pass on traditional skills while engaging youth in technologies that translate these traditions to the modern world. This new generation of cultural stewards will help keep ranchero culture vibrant.

Staff Updates (we love our team!)

This spring, Living Roots is excited to welcome founding member, Mila Birnbaum, back to Baja. Mila has been selected by Vail Resorts’ Epic Volunteers program to dedicate a week to the nonprofit of her choice.  In her time here, she will help us lay the foundation for an interpretive/medicinal plant guided-walk which will be offered through the Cultural Center.  The design and implementation of the trail will be aided by the secondary school students and the Autonomous University of Baja California Sur Loreto and La Paz campuses. We are glad that Mila and Vail have chosen Living Roots!

Also this spring, our Artisan Program Coordinator, Martha Drew, will work with Loreto University students to improve the quality and commercial viability of sierra artisan foods such as dulce de leche (milk caramel) and fruit jams.


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As always, thanks for your continued interest and support.  For more information about Living Roots’ programs or to make a contribution please visit: www.livingrootsbaja.org or check us out on Facebook.

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Living Roots in Bloom

Spring has arrived in the sierra.  Ranches are flowering brightly and buzzing with bees.   Living Roots and the community of San Javier are busy preparing for Semana Santa (Easter Week) activities, which this year include pilot agritourism including mule rides and an interpretive medicinal plant walk, as well as an artisan and produce stand.


Chica with her Spring roses

Vaquero Tony Dimas

The Living Roots team would like to send a huge thank you to Tony Dimas, former cowboy himself, who accompanied us during our initial field work in the summer of 2010. Tony recently helped Living Roots acquire three laptop computers and two printers through the Hewlett Packard Employee Giving Program. Generosity and commitment like Tony’s are what make it possible for us to help the Baja Vaquero culture live on for the next generation!

In Feburary we launched the first Local Master Artisan Workshop in the secondary school.  Dario Higuera and his son Memo, who both appear in “Corazon Vaquero” and “Los Otros Californios,” made the trek all the way around the sierra to introduce the workshop with a two day course in the San Javier school.  They motivated and excited students not only about tanning and working leather, but also about their life on Rancho El Jarillal.  Dario commented on how proud he was to have once gone to school in San Javier, and to now be a teacher there.


Dario Higuera helping student put on a cuera (traditional leather jacket)

Taking over where Dario left off, Negro from Rancho El Aguaje, and father of Ruben, who is a student at the school, came to teach the next step in the tanning processes which was to remove the hides from the lime, clean them and place them in the Palo Blanco bark bath.


Father and Son teaching how to remove hair from hide

Horacio Cabrera, Director of Eco-Alianza, also accompanied us that day to help students understand the effects of tanning in the watershed.  Students left understanding the impact tanning has on the fish, frogs and other life forms when they come into contact with salt, lime and organic waste.

After Semana Santa vacation, we will wrap up the leather workshop by inviting several master artisans from around the sierra to work with small groups of students to turn their now-ready leather into belts and bracelets.  We are working to use images from this workshop to create an educational video for the schools so that the next generation of students can also learn this important sierra trade.

Creating Connections 

This Spring, Living Roots has fostered several connections between local communities.  Last month we invited a group from Loreto and Loreto Bay up to Rancho Los Dolores to help rancheros understand their tastes and interests in terms of artisan craft and food as well as regional produce.  This also gave rancheros the opportunity to voice some of the questions they have had about what their “market” is looking for. Participants enjoyed having a personal experience with ranches and ranching families, and left as fans of avocado leaf tea.


Focus group examaining embroidery in Los Dolores

Helping us compile the results of this exchange is a group of 5 students studying Alternative Tourism at the University in Loreto.  University students are expected to provide 600 hours of community service and these five chose Living Roots.  Two have family in the mountains, two are focusing on culinary arts, and all are enthusiastic and motivated.

Living Roots is also busy strengthening institutional connections.  In May, Living Roots will join long-time conservation organization, Niparaja, as well as the state Oasis Program, in the facilitation of a Social, Environmental and Ecological Community Organization  exercise that will help the Ejido of San Javier determine what their priority issues are, and help provide expertise once the ejido has determined what help they would like to receive.

The Boulder, Colorado based operating foundation, Philanthropiece, also recently spent a day with Living Roots in San Javier meeting families and exploring the mountains by mule.  Philanthropiece will begin a training in May on Community Banks for residents interested in learning about the communally run savings and loan program.


Philanthropiece Team with Bule, Angelina & McKenzie

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Autumnal Happenings in Baja

While the weather is beautiful this time of year in Baja California Sur, Living Roots has taken Autumn by storm! As perfect temperatures and cultural festivities draw tourists and Baja residents to the region, members of the Raíces Vivas marketing association have been selling sierra products and increasing awareness of Living Roots’ mission at events including the Celebration of the Foundation of Loreto; Loreto’s first culinary expo where we offered samples of mission wine and sierra sweets; and a regional artisan competition in which a Raíces Vivas leather worker won first place for a traditionally tanned belt.

Mission of San Javier : appearing lush and green in the midst of the season's exceptionally dry weather

On the funding front, Living Roots secured a grant from Fondo Acción Solidaria (Solidarity Action Fund, FASOL) to fund sierra education and training programs. We are also excited to announce that Living Roots just secured fiscal sponsorship with Village Earth, a like-minded community development organization based in Fort Collins, Colorado — this means that we are now able to receive tax-exempt donations!

On the strategic planning front, Living Roots facilitated another community meeting with the residents of San Javier and its surrounding ranches, to reflect on the past year’s successes and envision future plans for the Marketing Association and soon-to-be constructed regional marketplace and cultural center.

Raising the Roof! The San Javier Marketplace/Cultural Center.  At the community meeting held last week, which included representatives of the Secretaries of Development for the state and the municipality, support for the construction of the San Javier Marketplace and Cultural Center was unanimous; we’ll be breaking ground December 5th!  Building materials such as stone, thatch, and adobe will be sourced from local ranches and the municipality is helping with the donation of the space and construction.  The Marketplace and Cultural Center will be a “community hub” that provides a direct connection for people who live in and around San Javier to sell their products, organize tourism and exhibit their unique history and life-style.

Adobe blocks : getting ready for construction scheduled to begin on December 5th

Photographer Richard Jackson will accompany Living Roots this week into the sierra to start documenting ranchero lifestyle, so that visitors to the Cultural Center can visually experience what life is like on a sierra ranch.  Ranchero families are gathering traditional tools, artifacts, and historical tales to contribute to the exhibit.  There is a buzz of excitement and pride throughout the sierra about community members coming together to create something from which everyone can benefit, which is also a celebration of their skill and culture.

Feeling the Effects of Climate Change.  Baja California Sur is experiencing its second continuous year of draught.  The isolated spattering of rain in the late summer greened things up enough to look promising, but not enough to sustain livestock or refill the aquifers.  Coupled with a bad onion production year, families are feeling rather desperate and searching for alternatives.

Cattle sale : ranchers sell off their cows, which are no longer good business, and look for alternatives

The Goat Alternative : Miguel Angel from El Peloteado selling goat meet in San Javier.

One potential buffer is Living Roots’ collaboration with Raíces de Fondo to offer organic gardening workshops, which will introduce rancheros to water-conserving drip irrigation systems, composting, seed saving (including creation of a seed bank) and other techniques for sustainable food production. These gardens will provide fresh food for families, and generate income through produce sales during the Sunday morning farmer’s market in Loreto.

 * Upcoming Events *

 “Meet and Greet” with Living Roots

  • Saturday November 19th  
  • 5:00 – 7:00 PM 
  • Museum Courtyard in Loreto

As Living Roots is getting ready to kick off its first annual fundraising campaign, we’re hosting a “get to know us” event in Loreto for those interested in learning more about our programs and services. We will have samples of sierra made foods, music, hand-made Christmas presents and hopefully demonstrations by master artisans.  Everyone is welcome.

Wine, Food and Music Festival

  • Sunday, November 20th
  • 12:00 PM – sunset
  • Mil Palmas (15 minutes north on Calle Davis)
  • $80 pesos in advance; $100 pesos at the door (includes entrance + one drink)

Living Roots will be participating in the first ever Loreto Wine and Music Festival featuring wine from five Guadalupe Valley vineyards (and of course from our own local mountains) food from various restaurants, artisan crafts, a sunset concert and more – a wonderful way to spend a Sunday! You can contact andrea_rubio@hotmail.com for more information and tickets.

Holiday Gift Basket : Trini (Raices Vivas Tresurer) & Valentina (Raices Vivas Secretary) explain holiday fundraising campaign to the rest of the marketing association

Educating public officials : Trini explains to the Secretaries of Development (State and Municipal) the Raices Vivas community-run marketing association









Tis’ the Season of Gratitude. Living Roots thanks you for your continued interest in and support for our mission to help Baja ranching families adapt and thrive in the modern world.  We are especially grateful for the relationships, partnerships and trust we’ve built at the community, municipal, and state level — all of which are essential as Living Roots continues to provide services that fill gaps in community needs.  During this critical stage of growth and social impact, Living Roots welcomes financial contributions; the good news is that you can now make a tax-exempt donation directly online, thanks to Village Earth’s extension of fiscal sponsorship.

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Growth Spurt!

It’s hard to believe that this time last year, Living Roots’ three founding members were just beginning their field research in the sierras of Baja California Sur. One year later, there is much to be said for good news travelling fast, as word of Living Roots’ success is quickly spreading throughout the state of Baja California Sur. Enjoy this update with a few significant highlights that have put Living Roots “on the map.”

Events demonstrate financial viability.  For nine days during the holiday of Semana Santa, Living Roots initiated an inaugural sierra cultural festival in San Javier, featuring a trial marketplace of regional products and traditional skills demonstrations, which drew impressive crowds of both local American residents and Mexican nationals. Living Roots’ regional representatives from area ranches learned how to handle money, keep track of inventory, and “pitch” their products.

Living Roots' representative, Trini, gains confidence with an inventory tracking system.

Memo demonstrates the process of hand-pressing olive oil.










Marketing Association (Raices Vivas) gains structure.  Following the Semana Santa event, Living Roots hosted a meeting attended by the 9 representatives of each Rancheria (cluster of ranches) and other interested artisan producers; the meeting allowed for the following accomplishments:

Exchange of key learning. Participants shared with each other strategies for improving customer service and evaluated customer preferences to collectively manage price points (e.g. while roasted green coffee sold in bags embroidered with designs of local cacti were well received, it was decided that quilt prices should be lowered.

Elections. Present Marketing Association members elected a president, treasurer and secretary, assuring that each of the three geographic regions surrounding San Javier were represented (see Living Roots’ website for photos and bios of representatives.)

Bank Account. Due to the success of the Semana Santa festival, the newly elected Comité Raíces Vivas San Javier was able to open a bank account to be used for future events. This is the first bank account any of the individuals had ever opened; with the help of a very patient banker, the committee left the bank feeling empowered and proud.

Living Roots' elected officials opening their first bank account.

Living Roots draws support from government officials.  At a market held on May 11 during a celebration of the 312th Anniversary of San Javier, Living Roots presented itself to Jorge Aviles, the new municipal president of Loreto, to discuss our project and solicit help from the municipality in the construction of a San Javier Cultural and Tourist Information Center. Living Roots demonstrated to the President that its community-driven model for cultural protection and economic development model directly aligns with Aviles’ priorities for San Javier (i.e. recognizing the value of local assets and the importance of engaging young people to slow the rural/urban migration).

The municipal president facilitated the presentation of Living Roots to the state’s new governor, Marcos Covarrubias, and the Oasis Sustainable Development Team, opening the door for a follow-up meeting later next month.

Sierra Cultural Center becomes a reality.  Further demonstrating the municipality’s commitment to the project, Aviles is overseeing the donation of a piece of property in the middle of the single cobblestone street in San Javier for the construction of a Sierra Cultural Center.

The Cultural Center is meant to be a regional marketplace and direct sales outlet for sierra products, an exposition of ranchero culture and history of San Javier, as well as a central informational hub for coordinating tourism services, product distribution, and other marketing association communication.

Living Roots is collaborating with Rafael Routson, a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Arizona who is studying agro-diversity of sierra orchards in 15 oasis communities in Baja California Sur. Here she teaches secondary students in San Javier about the heritage of heirloom species such as olive trees, grape vines, dates and figs.

Support for the Cultural Center is wide reaching – Sierra families have offered construction materials (e.g. adobe, wood, and palm thatch); Ruben de Los Santos, a second year architecture student from rancho Santa Isabel is volunteering his services with the design of the center; and INAH, the federal Institute for Anthropology and History is helping to ensure the building is built in traditional ways. Construction is planned to begin in October, once the (knock on wood) seasonal rains subside and palm wood can be harvested – just in time for the onset of tourist season, which picks up in November.

Sierra Youth see value of their culture.  As sierra families increase their income through the products sales and the community begins to recognize the value of the ranchero culture, sierra youth are also recognizing the potential of a cultural revival.

One such example of this is Sergio Antonio Martinez. Sergio is 22 years old and grew up on Rancho La Higuera, in the foothills of the high sierras. Sergio is gregarious, motivated, and always cheerful. Not being able to afford high school, Sergio studied until he was fifteen, when he began working with his cousins to build palapas (thatch roofs) from the palm that grows in the canon above his ranch. Until recently, Sergio had always planned to leave the ranch to find work in the coastal city of Loreto. After having attended several Living Roots events, Sergio is beginning to see the value of staying on he ranch, helping his family benefit from their centuries old huerta (orchard), as well as from developing local tourism opportunities. To see a video of Sergio, please visit Living Roots’ Facebook page.

“Powering Economic Opportunity” competition.  The Living Roots team is currently entered in a competition held by Ashoka and eBay for innovative economic development solutions for resource-poor communities, and a similar competition called Iniciativa Mexico. To vote for us and/or provide comments and feedback please check out our Ashoka online profile.

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Many thanks to our growing number of followers and supporters. Together we can ensure the vibrant and sustainable transition of this unique and fragile culture into the modern world. There is a lot of momentum behind Living Roots, so stay tuned as this adventure continues to unfold this summer!

Living Roots' representatives gaining support from the municipal president of Loreto.

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