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.
On my last day in Oaxaca, I went to the goverment/police building in the zocalo, hoping to see the murals inside.
By way of background, I need to tell you that Oaxaca has a history of indigenous unrest, and brutal suppression thereof. In 2006, a teacher’s strike devolved into violent conflict and the eventual takeover of the capital city by the Popular Assembly Of The People Of Oaxaca. While this was temporary, the group maintains a permanent presence n the zocalo, and has covered the front of the police building with both booths selling handicrafts to tourists, and political banners. On a fairly regular basis, busloads come in from the surrounding towns for rallies and protests.
The first time I went to see the murals, it was Saturday and a rally was in full swing. Thew APPO had strung a large banner right across the entrance to the police station. Sheepishly peeking out around the end of it, two policemen told me to come back during the week. I did so my last day, and although the banner was down, the police refused to let me in “for security reasons.”
It’s an interesting situation, as most of the police are also indigenous. I don’t know enough to have a strong opinion yet, but I tend to lean towards the indigenous people in any such situation (although not necessarily their leaders, who have been notoriously dictatorial.) The people I spoke to in Oaxaca who have money are terrified of the new president, who is a socialist. They believe that he will turn Mexico into Cuba overnight. I suspect that the people he voted in believe he will turn Mexico into a worker’s paradise overnight. Both sides believing their own propaganda. Not dissimilar to the United States.
One of my first goals upon moving to Oaxaca is to learn at least one of the indigenous languages, probably Zapotec, as they are the largest group. Maybe that will facilitate understanding on my part of the situation beyond what I can read on wikipedia or a banner on the police station.
The Rolando Beattie Ensamble performing on Alcala in Cd. Oaxaca, Nov. 12, 2019