Cancun Dispatch 8/27

CANCUN CITY, MEXICO–‘And I still have to write a daily update,’
I say mournfully at about 11:30 at night. Tim, bless his heart,
doesn’t say a word, but just walks over and starts rubbing my back.
Already in a day we’ve learned each others’ sore spots.

There are seven of us crowded around the table, deep in design
work for our proposal to the city, clarifying the details of our
conception of gray-water systems for sinks and showers, water flow
and plumbing details, then drawing careful diagrams. Some of us are
drawing and some are looking up words in the Spanish/English
dictionary. ‘How do you say pipe? Tubo or
Ca?o?’ ‘What’s the best way to say Ecovillage?’
It’s like being transported back to junior high school, working on
some hellish homework project — design your entry for the science
fair and translate it into Spanish. Spelling counts. Neatness
counts. Or the Gryffindor common room at Hogworts Cancun, ‘Is it
SEH-milla?’ ‘No, Se MEE yah‘; if the
proununciation is off the spell won’t work.

But we’re making progress. We met this morning with a
representative of the municipality, after a scramble to get our
proposal printed in Spanish, which involved one of those hellish
complications of computers with no printers and e-mail connections
that could only be made from phone lines to send things to other
computers. And we’re all exhausted: Mike trying to translate while
he shaved and while Juniper drew up schematic diagrams. Erik and I
taking off for the Puente house to try to get on line and getting
stuck, unable to find a taxi. Just as I was about to have a frantic
meltdown, a man drove up and offered us a ride downtown. He seemed
to know why we were here and began talking about how the world is
deeply out of balance. Thousands of people have died in France
because of the heat wave and he believes the U.S. is manipulating
the weather in revenge for France not supporting the war in

Just in time, we arrive at the Palacio Municipal and dash off to
the meeting. Juniper is already there with the printed proposal.
Cesar has come with us, but there is no one to translate. I take a
deep breath, jump in, and start speaking Spanish. It’s a bit like
riding a bicycle — if you go as fast as possible you don’t fall
off. But what seems like fast to me is slow to everyone else.

Halfway through, Maria Elena arrives. She is a beautiful,
dark-haired Mexican woman who lives in California and is working
with the campesinos. Dolores, a photographer with UNORCA, the
campesino organization, is with her and they are both dressed in
traditional shirts and embroidered blouses and bright woven sashes.
I pull out my photos of permaculture projects and compost toilets
and beautiful mosaic rubble cob constructions and gardens. All the
women in the room seem deeply interested, especially as I explain
the rationale for the compost toilet, which is essentially a barrel
with screening and seating. After each person makes their deposit
you add some dry material with a lot of carbon, and when it is
full, let it sit for a year or so and then use it for fertilizer.
The woman from the city thinks it’s a great solution for the
countryside but wants us to talk to the minister of ecology and go
do a program in an outlying community somewhere. But we explain
that it is important for us to do this project at the camp.

‘It’s political,’ I say. ‘We want to show what we are for, not
just what we are protesting against. And we need to do it in the
center of the city, where it will be seen.’

‘Campesinos will be here from all over the country,’ Maria Elena
chimes in. ‘It will be like a school. Educational.’

‘And for the students and the internationals who will come,
too.’ I add. ‘We want them to see the solutions.’

In the end we have a tentative agreement — that they will set
up their infrastructure of porta-potties and city water, etc., and
we will set up a demonstration unit catching rainwater and re-using
it for dishes and showers. We can set up a model compost toilet —
as long as we don’t actually use it. And we will get her a map and
a complete description of what we want to do and a materials list
immediately. Hence the homework project.

We’re making progress on other fronts as well. We have a
convergence center and a media center, all on Margaritas street
within a block of the Parque de Palapas. The landlord is still
clearing out the convergence space, but we hope to get in on
Thursday. It’s a three-story building that should provide spaces
for meetings and trainings and art making. The puppetistas are
already deep into a massive and impressive replica of an ancient
Mayan God and will move over tomorrow. The media center is right
next door.

At the end of the night, our household gathers in the front room
for a short ritual. It’s the new moon, and Mars is as close as he’s
been in 60,000 years. We trance together, trying to look at the
situation from below. The energies are powerful but really jangled
— but they seem to smooth out as we share visions. We read the
Tarot cards. The reading begins with the Devil — but the outcome
is Justice.

Starhawk, committed global justice activist and organizer,
will be reporting for
Utne each day during the WTO
Ministerial in Cancun City, Mexico. She is the author or co-author
of nine books, including
The Spiral Dance, The Fifth Sacred
Thing, and Webs of Power: Notes from the Global Uprising.
She is a veteran of progressive movements, from anti-war to
anti-nukes, is a highly influential voice in the revival of Goddess
religion, and has brought many innovative techniques of
spirituality and magic to her political work. She works with the
RANT collective, which offers training and organizing support for
peace and global justice movements, with Reclaiming, offering
training in earth-based ritual, healing, and community building,
and teaches Earth Activist Trainings in combining permaculture
design and organizing skills.

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