The Mazatec people are unique and personal people, strong yet peaceful, secretive yet hospitable, when treated with respect , we find them delightful and their customs rich, personal, and flavorful.  The traditions we have seen and been a part of, are sometimes based in catholic tradition, but always based with family and food in mind.  We have learned about their culture the last 15 years, and as we spend more time there, we learn even more.  The subtle behaviors of hospitality that are now part of our world, too.  The rich food filled with natural ingredients, slow-cooked with a variety of known herbs.  The ceremonies, unique to the Sierra, are mysterious yet familiar once the participants are known.  The natural remedies and plants used for medicine and food are common and each year we learn about another herb they use for ailments.  The Mazatec dress is unique and shown above.  Each village, has its own style of embroidery.  The language is tonal, and very beautiful to hear.  Both Spanish and Mazatec is still being taught in the elementary level in the more rural areas of the Sierra, but in the bigger cities, such as Huautla de Jimenez, it is now only learned at home and Spanish is the dominant language in the schools there.  The photos above show the typical dress and  customs of Mazatec people at a cultural presentation in San Bartolome Ayautla in 2012 (photos thanks to George Cesnik - excellent!). 

Check out the video below to hear some examples of the Mazatec language!

We have had the pleasure of getting to know a large variety of people throughout the Sierra Mazateca and are slowly becoming exposed to more traditional ways of life as we spend more time here.  Although we can't begin to define them as a people, we will attempt to describe their culture.  

The Mazatec people are an indigenous culture of Mexico, with approximately 150,000 inhabitants, living in the northern part of Oaxaca, and also in small areas of Puebla and Veracruz. The Mazatec people have their own language and traditions, unique in Mexico, and these vary even within this mountain range. They are protective of their culture and traditions, but some traditional ways, manners of dress, etc, are being discarded as the roads bring in change.  Being primarily an agriculture group, many still lead a subsistence life.  The past century was dominated by coffee and sugar cane production.  The past 30 years have seen a drop in international coffee prices and resulted in many economic problems for the people, more deforestation pressure, and larger cattle farms.  In the past 5 years, coffee prices have risen again, allowing more opportunity again in the Sierra.  The coffee is grown in the valleys along existing roads in the lower regions of the mountains, as are many crops – beans, sugar cane, corn, and other fruits and vegetables.  Balancing the needs of the people with protection of the pristine cloud forests is a huge challenge.  The two are interconnected, because protection of the upper regions of the cloud forests will ensure that their water supply will remain clean and flowing for many more generations.

This video shows how organic sugar is made from organic sugar cane in La Carlota in the Sierra Mazateca, in Oaxaca, Mexico. 

This video shows the small scale processing of coffee beans into roasted coffee.  The photos and video were from January 2012, involving us and all of our caving friends who helped make coffee!!

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Photos taken and videos designed by project members. 

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Making tortillas in the Sierra Mazateca is labor-intensive, but these tortillas are some of the best in Mexico!!  We think so, anyway!!

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