Friday, November 30, 2012

Jipijapas- Panama Hats

                                       Hey Dude, nice hat.  Where did you get it?

                                                Looks nice on a gal too.

True Panama Hats come from Equador, not Panama, but are also made in the Yucatan of Mexico.

Street vendors sell them in the cities of Merida and Campeche, but we came here to the small village of Becal to get one from the craftsman himself.

This is the center of hat making in the Yucatan, and nearly everyone in town works in the hat industry.

Almost every family has a workshop cave in their back yard.

The damp air in these caves keeps the fibers moist and pliant, essential for the tight weave needed in a top quality hat.

                      There are almost 2,000 of these family caves in the village of Becal.

Leaves from the jipijapa palm tree are fashioned into Toquilla Straw for making the hats.

The finer the weave, the more supple and softer the feel, and the better looking it is.

Small towns like this are found all over Mexico, waiting for the adventurer to arrive.  The craftsmanship is often excellent, the people are warm and friendly and they are often so impressed and feel honored that we have come to their small village to see them. The best way to do this is to take your time and explore slowly in a small RV.  To learn more about Panama Hats, go to:

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Mexican Homes And Kitchens We've Been In

Homes in Mexico can be anything from extremely beautiful to just barely there.

One of the benefits of these remote charity trips is the opportunity to interact with the people we meet.

                                     We are occasionally invited into their homes.

This woman was excited to make corn tortillas for us.

Stuffed with warm, fresh mushrooms in her "secret" garlic sauce, they were unbeatable.

                               This is the real Mexican cooking we've come to see.

                                       Outdoor kitchens are not unusual to find.

These women are often outstanding cooks and love to make things for us.

This cave is vacant now, but was once the home of a Tarahumara family in the Copper Canyon.
The ceiling is blackened with the soot of many cooking and heating fires.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Charity Committee

One of the major goals of our group is to seek out the special needs of the areas we travel to and do our best to help where we can.  This can be hospital and medical supplies, school supplies, wheelchairs, computers, beds for orphanages, clothes and often several thousand dollars in cash.

The supplies above were loaded on the Chepe, the train to the Copper Canyon, and taken to the Tarahumara Indians in remote areas of the canyon that we were to visit.

Some were left at this girls school in the village of Cerocahui.

The Tarahumara make their shoes from rubber taken from old tire treads.

We left sports equipment, school supplies, warm clothes and a computer at this remote school on the way to the village of Urique at the bottom of one of the world's deepest canyons.

The teacher later traveled to Mexico City to learn how to use the computer.

It's a nice, clean school with electricity and a wood burning stove.

 All students here are learning three languages: Spanish, English and their native Tarahumara.

  In the year preceding each trip, volunteers gather information that is used by the charity committee to best distribute the items we have been able to obtain.

As you can see, these are often really remote areas that tourists never care to see.

Our local contact for this trip is explaining who we are and why we came here to help them.

    The village above is in remote mountains near the East Coast.
                          The one below is near El Fuerte near the West coast.

The happy teacher surrounded by her students.  

These pictures were taken at a facility for disabled children near the large city of Zacatecas.

One of our members, a physical therapist, was able to teach some new techniques to them.

     We were able to leave much needed medical supplies and some money.

Judy and I have both served on this committee and have found it to be one of the most moving parts of any rally.  We not only go to remote areas, but get to meet the people there and interact with them.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Spreading Goodwill

One of the goals of the Mexican Connection is to give back to the communities that we travel to.

For this trip, someone was able to bring a large supply of stuffed animals and several large bags of MardiGras beads.

What might seem trivial to us is very important to them, as these are very likely the only stuffed animals they will ever own.

Their happy faces and smiles bring great rewards to us.

Mothers and grandmothers look on, sometimes with tears in their eyes, as chickens and pigs run around the school yard.

This school in the same village is for the older kids and has a leaking roof.

There are almost no books. Here we left a nice supply of pencils, paper, calculators and other supplies.

This girl was the first to come from her school on top of the hill.  She went home and brought back her mother before accepting any beads from us.

News spreads fast in these small villages.  It is very rare for outsiders to come here.

These people are neat and clean, even though their homes often have dirt floors and chickens (sometimes pigs) running in and out.