Sunday, February 22, 2009

Bikes for Tihosuco

My intrepid pal Elisabeth likes to pop in to visit us a few times a year. Sometimes we are honoured with a whole week of her company over our shortest of bike tours, but usually it is just a few days. This trip was a birthday visit and we had an entire weekend between tours to have a speedy adventure in the Yucatan. This season's adventure was a 70km bike ride to Tihosuco.

Two of our fellow cyclists decided to leave their bikes in Mexico with the hope that they might improve somebody's life. After some thinking, I came up with the "Caste War Museum" in a small town close to the border of Yucatan and Quintana Roo States. Three years ago Basil and I were more than pleasantly surprised by this little community museum and it's multi-faceted director Carlos. In our exploration we passed through this friendly town and were taken to its museum to learn the entire Mayan story of Mayan resistance to the European invasion from the beginning to the ultimate culmination of the Caste War which started in the mid 1850's and trickled on into the first two decades of the 20th century. This museum tells the story of it's people by it's people and it is a true treasure.

The exciting part is that it is so much more than a museum. It is a gift to the children of Tihosuco. Carlos focuses a great deal of his attention on maintaining a strong connection between the elders and the youth of his village. He has spearheaded a project with the elders to record their knowledge of medicinal properties and applications of the local plants. Out of this has arisen a small handicrafts shop with a large branch focused on the sale of locally produced medicinal teas, soaps, and oils. Another project brings the elders into the museum at least once a month to share stories and legends with the children of the village. Recently a UN project donated some radio equipment to them which allows them to broadcast these meetings for the whole village to enjoy and now plans are in the works to set up a small radio station. These monthly meetings have also evolved into a video project that has recorded the Caste War memories of each of the village elders.

These are just a few of the ambitions of this community, and along with all of these things, they are also prepared to host visitors on extensive day trips sharing traditional knowledge in a variety of ways including: guided trips through the forest, the corn fields, traditional music and dance, traditional meals, and even homestays sleeping in a hammock in a Mayan home.

On our more physically challenging 3 week tour around the Yucatan two years ago, we slept and ate in the homes of some of the families in Tihosuco. We were the second group to be hosted by this community and it was a remarkable experience. With this in mind, I knew Carlos would be the man to find an excellent future for our orphaned bikes. So, we pedalled them there to give them to him and to enjoy a day learning about the past, present, and future of Tihosuco. We were rewarded with a song about a flirtatious lady cyclist.

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