Our mission is to increase empathy across cultures and strengthen communities through responsible travel experiences.
Bucerias, Nayarit – On a recent Mexican sojourn, we found inspiration and beauty by getting off the highways. Although our van bucked and bounced, tossing the six of us like salad, the people we met, their stories, and what they’ve accomplished reminded us why we like to find the roads least travelled.
Our guides on this excursion were from Human Connections, a tiny nonprofit begun in 2014 that introduces sojourners to indigenous people doing remarkable things using the skills they learned from their ancestors. At each stop the artists, craftspeople, and entrepreneurs told their stories, offering a glimpse into their lives, their motivations, their aspirations. They also attempted to teach us the handcrafts they made look effortless.
We six intrepid travelers, including one paraplegic, started the day in Bucerias, the charming seaside town about an hour north of Puerto Vallarta. Within moments we were past the world of street signs and traffic lights. Twenty minutes later, after passing acres of farm land interrupted by microscopic villages, our driver parked in front of an adobe house attached to a shed with three walls. Walking toward it, we passed what looked like piles of discarded machine parts.
Francisco Villalobos’s broad smile welcomed us. A self-taught potter, his elegant creations are given as presentation gifts to dignitaries visiting the nearby county seat. Francisco does it all. He digs mud from the nearby Ameca River, repeatedly running it through a home-made slurry made from old washing machine parts, and a mesh sieve until the clay is freed from the soil and stones. He then he puts it through several more home-made stages before he feels it is pure enough to be worked on.
Francisco loves what he does. A gracious and welcoming host, he did his best to help us attempt to make something recognizable from the balls of clay he handed out. But our best efforts only proved the poverty of our efforts.
Once he placed the moistened material on the wheel, he was completely absorbed by what it could become. Francisco said he draws inspiration from his surroundings. Many of his magnificently detailed vases and bowls feature intricately detailed iguanas, an animal he finds fascinating. His wife and son, two dogs, and one small puppy were in his shed along with us. But he was in his own world. We had the joy of seeing a master in his element.
Next we traveled past another small village to meet Segis, who years earlier bought and cleared 2.5 acres of jungle in the foothills. A large man with a barrel chest and full-throated laugh, his dream was to build a self-sustaining ranch that would have a restaurant open to local families on Sundays, their only day off.
Read the rest at Yucatan Times.
Human Connections is a social enterprise that connects our local partners with travelers through cultural tours and student programs. These experiences channel resources into local communities while giving visitors a deeper understanding of Mexico.
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