This was right up the street from my hotel. It is indicative of the more relaxed regulatory climate in Mexico. This vine would never be allowed to grow across the street on a power line in the US.
It was about a week before I saw a guy hanging out at the entrance to the parking lot where the vine originated. I asked him what it was. He said it was something for washing yourself. I assumed he meant you could make soap from it. It wasn’t until later that I discovered that it was a loofah plant. The dried fruit of this plant, properly cleaned, becomes an exfoliating sponge sold in salons around the world for ridiculous prices.
I never saw anyone harvesting from the vine, although I’m sure they must. I don’t know what happens to the loofahs if they do. I didn’t see any for sale in any stores I went into. I’m sure they didn’t get the $10-$15 prices I found on Amazon just now. Maybe they never harvest from it at all.
So many of the things we value in the US come from the tropics, from medicines to fruits, to fine hardwoods, to coffee, to loofahs. Often these plants are so commonplace in their native climes as to be ignored. Then we demand them, and forests are cut down, fields are burned, food crops are replaced by coffee and sugar cane. It is not so much our demand and appreciation of these things, but rather the huge scale of that demand. When 20 million Americans want illegal drugs, you get powerful cartels throughout the regions that produce those drugs. When the whole world is addicted to coffee, it covers the mountainsides and uses all the farm labor. When McDonalds and Burger King are international beef consumers, the Amazon rainforest is replaced by pasture land.
There are too many humans.