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Posts Tagged ‘mexico’

monarch-on-tropical-milkwee

Photo: Rose Franklin’s Perennials
A Monarch alights on Butterfly Weed. It also loves milkweed.

Sometimes I find the background for a post in a roundabout way. I heard about Mexico’s Monarch butterfly hero, Jose Luis Alvarez, recently on Public Radio International, which had borrowed his story from the BBC. But because I like to have text to work with, not just audio, I searched online for additional information.

I’m glad I did because practically in my own backyard there’s an organization that’s partnering with Alvarez and helping folks far from Mexico to plant the Butterfly Weed that Monarchs love. Here’s what I learned at Vermont Woods Studio.

According to Peggy Farabaugh, “Jose Luis Alvarez  … is a silviculturist in Mexico who has devoted his life to restoring the forested winter habitat of the Monarch.  [In March 2016] I traveled to Michoacan, Mexico, to meet Jose Luis & see his work. I love Monarchs & we’ve been conserving their summer habit here in Vermont for many years, so I thought maybe we should collaborate and get some Vermont-Mexico synergy going!

“In 1997, Jose Luis created a non-profit called ‘Forests For Monarchs,’ which came to be known as the La Cruz Habitat Protection Program (in the USA) and the Michoacan Restoration Fund (in Mexico).  With donations from people all across the USA, Canada and Mexico, ‘Forests for Monarchs’ has been able to plant nearly 6 million trees.  …

“During the winter Michoacan, Mexico, is home to the entire species of the Eastern Monarch Butterfly (which summers in Vermont). [Illegal] deforestation has devastated the area. … [Jose Luis has] made great progress, but much re-planting still needs to be done.

“Here in rural Vernon, Vermont, a number of friends, neighbors, customers, gardeners and Vernon Elementary School children have been planting milkweed. … We’ve been growing milkweed from seed and giving the seedlings away to fellow Monarch lovers.

“Monarchs summering in Vermont are programmed to migrate to Michoacan, Mexico, in the fall.  There they join the entire population of their species, huddled together in the shelter of the last few remaining acres of their wooded winter habitat.  Mind-boggling, right?  How can an insect (that only weighs as much as a raisin) fly 3,000 miles, to the exact same location its ancestor came from –- when it’s never even been there before? I had to see it to believe it.  So …

“I traveled to Mexico (with my now grown up sons) to meet Jose Luis and we took his Spirit of Butterflies Tour last month. It was amazing.  But we were alarmed to see the extent of deforestation in the area.  Without help reforesting their habitat, the Monarch will soon go the way of the passenger pigeon & that would be just too sad.  So we brainstormed about developing a Vermont-Mexico partnership to help save the butterfly.

“Besides being a forester, Jose Luis is an internationally renowned speaker. He’s been featured in numerous documentary films by the BBC, National Geographic, the Canadian Broadcasting Channel and others. He’s been an advisor and guide to researchers, scientists, photographers & videographers from all over the world as they seek to save the Monarch. His work has been written about in newspapers including the Wall Street Journal & The New York Times.

“So we thought we should bring Jose Luis up to Vermont and New England for a speaking tour to raise awareness about the Monarch’s plight. I guess I got a little carried away and volunteered to help Jose Luis Alvarez plant a million trees in the Monarch’s over-wintering area of Mexico.” More here.

The Vermont Studios post was written originally in 2016 and updated last August.

Photo: Fernando Laposse/BBC
Jose Luis Alvarez is protecting Monarch butterflies by planting deforested areas with the trees they need when they winter-over in Mexico.

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https://butterflywebsite.com/foundats/lacruz/project.cfm

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MEXICO-VATICAN-SISTINE CHAPEL-REPRODUCTIONS

Photo: Yuri Cortez/AFP/Getty Images
Miguel Francisco Macias was inspired to replicate Michelangelo’s frescoes not just because it is a stunning work of art, but because he realized the Sistine Chapel ceiling has almost the same dimensions as his church in Mexico. It took 18 years.

Don’t you admire people with big ambitions who see an implausible project through to its conclusion? This designer sought to replicate the Sistine Chapel frescoes on the ceiling of his church in Mexico. He thought it might take six years.

Sarah Stocking writes at Lonely Planet, “For the last 18 years, a retired graphic designer has been quietly painting a replica of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel at his local church in Mexico City. Miguel Francisco Macias began his opus in an attempt to offer people who cannot travel a glimpse at one of the most shining examples of European art, Macias told Aljazeera.

“The project, which is now displayed on the ceiling at Perpetuo Socorro Church in Colonia Moctezuma, was largely self-funded with small donations from parishioners. Macias worked on the weekends with two assistants. The work was divided into 14 canvases each of which is 45-feet wide. Macias knew from the beginning that he would not be able to paint facing up, the way Michelangelo did, so he painted the canvases first and then affixed them to the ceiling afterwards.

“Macias said he was inspired to replicate Michelangelo’s frescoes not just because it is a stunning work of art, but because he realised the Sistine Chapel ceiling has almost the same dimensions as his local church, reported Splinter.

“The realisation came to Macias on a trip to Rome with a friend in 1999. The artist spent hours in the chapel admiring the frescos. ‘I stayed until the guard made me leave,’ Macias remembers. He also measured the length and width of the Sistine Chapel with footsteps. He wrote the dimensions on a small sheet of paper and presented his idea to the pastor on his return. …

“Macias didn’t think the project would take him nearly as long as it did. ‘I said it would be a maximum of six years,’ he told Newsbeezer. While the project suffered many setbacks, including falls, floods and robberies, none was so potentially insulting as when the Mexico City government used taxpayer money to temporarily recreate the Sistine Chapel in the Zocolo in 2016 ahead of a visit from the Pope.

“Although the community rallied behind Macias and wrote letters requesting that the Pope visit Macias’ work in progress in addition to the government’s pop-up, they didn’t get the holy visit they were hoping for. Macias didn’t let it bother him and kept a sign in his make-shift studio that read, ‘do not give up Miguelito.’ ”

More at Lonely Planet, here.

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122117-candle-in-darkness

Among the many gifts our country has received from Mexico is the luminaria, which some of us put outside our homes on Christmas Eve. This gift originated back when Mexico was called New Spain and still included Texas.

I first learned about the custom in upstate New York years ago when, exhausted from wrapping presents, I took a walk around the neighborhood in the snowy darkness. “What’s that?” I wondered at one neighbor’s house. “How lovely!”

Since that year, I have put candles out every Christmas Eve in rain or snow, fair weather or foul. Sometimes the candles are in paper bags weighted with kitty litter. Sometimes they are in glass vases collected from florists.

This year my husband and I are cutting back a bit on the festivities at our house as we’re going to John’s church Christmas Eve and then to Vermont so that most of the family can ski (my husband, our kids, their spouses, our grandkids). I myself have three very fat library books that I hope to read in front of a nice fire.

Back to luminaria. I just looked it up on Wikipedia. Here is the entry, edited.

A luminaria is a small paper lantern (commonly a candle set in some sand inside a paper bag) which is of significance in the U.S. state of New Mexico at Christmas time, especially on Christmas Eve.

Traditional Christmas Eve luminarias are said to originate from Spaniard merchants impressed with Chinese paper lanterns. The paper bags are typically arranged in rows to create large and elaborate displays. The hope among Roman Catholics is that the lights will guide the spirit of the Christ child to one’s home.

More.

Whatever holidays you celebrate, I hope you take delight in the oldest customs you know.

Photo: camerafiend/English Wikipedia
Christmas Eve luminaria (sometimes called farolito) are on display in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

800px-luminarias

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Photo: Señor Codo/Flickr
Mariachi singer in Chicago, 2006.

Oh, the Internet! Last night, my husband was able to track down a ton of information on a 19th Century Norwegian church in the town where we have lived for 35 years that no one ever mentioned to us. For all the scary things the Internet is responsible for, who could do without it today? There are so many great links we share with one another.

How else would I have learned, for example, that Mariachi bands were extremely popular in the former Yugoslavia. Mexican Mariachi? Crazy.

Jonny Wrate at the website Roads and Kingdoms has a report.

“Marina de Ita had dreamed of travelling Europe for years. Her band, Polka Madre, was heavily influenced by Balkan and Roma folk music and, back in the late nineties in Mexico City, she’d fallen in love with the music of Goran Bregović.

‘ ‘I used to have parties in a clandestine bar in my house in 1998 and people went crazy for those tunes,’ she says. ‘It came as a relief for many of us who were tired of rock and the music offered by Western countries.’

“In 2015, her band was invited to play at the International Circus Festival in Mardin, Turkey, and de Ita seized the chance for a quick trip to the region she’d long wished to visit.

“Once she arrived in Belgrade, she decided to make some money busking. ‘At first, I played some Finnish polkas and some from our Balkan-influenced repertoire, but nobody paid much attention,’ she says. ‘They just threw a few coins.’

“Yet when she played ‘Bésame Mucho,’ a seventy-year-old Mexican bolero, a small crowd gathered around her. Some sang along. ‘An old man became very emotional and even shed a few tears,’ de Ita says.

“The warm reception took her by surprise, but half a century ago, such songs dominated Yugoslav airwaves. As a Croatian friend’s mother recalls, ‘It was always Mexican songs and Bollywood films.’ …

“Explore the many shelves in Belgrade’s Yugovinyl store today and you can quickly amass a pile of ‘Yu-Mex’ records. The faded photographs on their sleeves depict men with names like Ljubomir Milić and Đorđe Masalović, proudly wearing sombreros and glittering charro suits. On the turntable, these records sound straight out of Guadalajara, except that the lyrics are in Serbo-Croat. For the Mexicans that ruled the radios here were, in fact, Yugoslav.”

More at Roads and Kingdoms.

I do love this kind of unexpected cultural cross-fertilization. Who knew?

 

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Today there are increasing numbers of opportunities for people with disabilities to enjoy the benefits of activities that others take for granted.

Eva Clifford writes at Women & Girls Hub about one intriguing example: ballet for the blind.

“In a third-floor dance studio, Lorena Nieva begins teaching her ballet class. Every weekend Nieva, the international coordinator of Psicoballet, travels 80 miles (130km) from her home in Puebla to give lessons to a group of girls from Casa Rosa de la Torre, a home for blind children run by nuns. Aged between nine and 22, all of the girls in Nieva’s class are completely blind or partially sighted.

“As the music plays, Nieva guides the girls, steering their movements with the sound of her voice and a gentle push with her hand. While the first half of the lesson is spent rehearsing a dance routine, the second half is devoted to improvisation. Breaking from the rigidity and strictness of conventional ballet training, Nieva brings in objects to inspire movement and games, such as fabric sheets, elastic ribbons and chairs.

“ ‘Dance cannot be reduced to a single sense,’ says Nieva. ‘It has to come from the whole body – from its limitations, too.’

“Founded on the belief that dance is ingrained in our biological roots, Psicoballet was created in 1973 by Cuban psychologist Georgina Fariñas Garcia … Teachers and advocates say Psicoballet, like most forms of dance, improves balance, posture and mobility, while also boosting self-esteem and reducing anxiety and depression. …

“ ‘I really enjoy discovering new ways of teaching, as it forces me to get out of my comfort zone,’ says Nieva, who has instructed people of all ages and various disabilities, but says teaching the blind girls has so far been the most rewarding. ‘I am keen to see that the girls have fun in the lessons, and that what is learned does not just stay in class, but it also enriches their everyday lives.’

“For many of the girls, that’s exactly what Nieva’s teaching does. ‘It has helped me a lot,’ says Itary, 15. ‘I feel I have improved my way of coexisting. Before, I was very aggressive, I walked a little weirdly and crashed up against everything, and this is not the way to be. Everything has to be done in a smooth way. To dance is to express with my movements what is within me.’ ” More here.

I found the article at the Huffington Post, which had reposted it.

Photo: Eva Clifford
Four girls who suffer from blindness wait to be called out for their first dance in Chiapas southern Mexico.

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An unassuming Indian American scientist, a former commuter-rail acquaintance of mine, led the teams behind the dengue-fever vaccine approved in December for use in Mexico.

Rogerio Jelmayer at the Wall Street Journal reports the vaccine was next approved for the Philippines and Brazil. “Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccine division of France’s SanofiSA, [has] secured approval from Brazilian authorities to market its dengue fever vaccine amid an explosion of cases across Latin America’s largest nation. …

“The approval of Dengvaxia comes as Brazil is battling two other serious mosquito-borne diseases for which there are no vaccines. In addition to dengue, Brazil also has seen a rise in the number of cases of chikungunya, [but] the most worrisome epidemic is the spread of the Zika virus.” The Wall Street Journal article is behind the firewall, so read more at the NY Times, here.

I’m hoping that my train buddy’s vaccine will come to the rescue for zika, too, as a blog I just visited suggests: “France’s Sanofi SA, which won endorsement toward the end of last year for the principal dengue immunization, has said it is inspecting the likelihood of applying its innovation for Zika.”

For all the negative press about drug companies, they do have teams quietly laboring for years on vitally necessary vaccines and cures.

Photo: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
An Aedes aegypti, the mosquito that spreads dengue fever.

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I learn some really cool things from the Christian Science Monitor. (I’m on their listserv for stories about people helping people, the CMS Change Agent newsletter.)

A recent newsletter highlighted an initiative by successful Mexicans living in New York who have decided to offer practical support to poor immigrants from their homeland.

Tyler J. Kelly writes, “The view from Carlos Valverde’s 38th-floor office tells a story by itself – New York stretching below, the mighty skyscrapers of the World Trade Center rising all around.

“Mr. Valverde is the construction manager of the World Trade Center’s Tower Three, responsible for 2 million square feet of real estate, and the vista from his office is, in many ways, the realized vision of many immigrants’ dreams.

“From Brooklyn’s workaday Sunset Park, however, the view is quite different. There, at classes put on by a nonprofit, the Mixteca Organization, six to eight immigrants sit in folding chairs around plastic tables struggling to spell tarea, Spanish for ‘homework,’ or trying to understand the concept of the hundreds’ place in math. …

“In Mexican culture – both in Mexico and here in New York – there’s little tradition of people bridging these two worlds. But that is changing. Valverde is part of a slowly growing effort to bring the resources of New York’s Mexican-American 1 percent to bear on the problems of the 99 percent.

“The benefits for the immigrant community here are plain. Edgar Morales, for one, has gone from being a construction worker to getting a college education paid for by a Mexican philanthropist. He’s now a computer science major with dreams of interning at Google or Microsoft.

“But it has also changed Valverde, who volunteers at Mixteca in Sunset Park, and others like him. In Mexico, the wealthy travel with bodyguards and live in houses surrounded by electrified wire; in the US, some are reaching and gaining a new perspective.

“After spending hours talking with clients about every conceivable detail of an elevator’s interior, Valverde says, ‘I go to Sunset Park and talk to a graduate [at Mixteca] who just finished English 3 and is a baker.’

“Compared with the baker’s reality, he says, the elevator issues seem ‘minute, minuscule.’ ”

More here.

Photo: Ann Hermes/Christian Science Monitor
Carlos Valverde (standing outside 3 World Trade Center in New York) helps new, less affluent Mexican immigrants go to school and find work.

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