Yesterday we had the pleasure of meeting Senor Onofre, better known as El Vaquero. At 70 years old, El Vaquero stands 5’4″, walks as if he has ridden his horse since birth, and flashes his brilliant smile as quickly as a rich bachelor pulls out his wallet, trying to impress a pretty girl.
We we first introduced to El Vaquero on Sunday by a local policeman while we were visiting El Cedral, the very first town built on the island in 1874. Actually, it is quite a funny story. We had originally planned on meeting Martin, a 4th generation Mayan gardener, in El Cedral to learn about the local Mayan plants, how they grow and their various uses. (Our goal was to take back this knowledge and local plants and plant them in the community gardens that we are building in Las Fincas.) Martin, ended up having to go to Belize a few days prior because he had, “heard that his mother-in-law had died and wanted to make sure it was true.” While we were waiting to get the full story, Eric started talking to one of the policeman on duty and before we knew it, without telling anyone what he was doing, hopped on the back of the policeman’s motorcycle and took off down the dirt road. Now, you do understand that this is still Mexico, so several scenarios were playing out in my mind, the worse being that they kidnapped him and wanted money. I was thinking, I would tell them, go ahead and keep him. He eats too much anyway. Well as God would have it, Eric came back – still canoodling the cop from behind on the motorcycle- all in one piece proudly telling me about a man I needed to meet.
So, yesterday, we found ourselves back on the road to El Cedral , this time with our new friends and awesome interpreter Karin and Chris Harmening. El Vaquero met us in the square and, with his 4 dogs in tow, led us to his home garden. There we learned about Nopal, Chaya, Jamiaca, Malanga, Choch, Frijol Pelon and Pitea to name just a few. He not only taught us what they looked like, how to grow them, and how to prepare them, but he also gave us clippings and seeds of everything he had. This is what I love about this island. The beauty isn’t found in the turquoise sea and glorious weather, but in the hearts of the people. He, without hesitation, gave generously of whatever he had, with no expectation for anything in return.
This last week in Las Fincas we continued burning debris, removing stumps and built a rock wall. The most exciting news however is that we planted our first plants – Maracuya (passion fruit, Lilikoi) and a kind of Mayan spinach. Our goal with the maracuya is to provide a new commodity for the people to sell to tourists, much like Hawaii. Lilikoi is an exotic species yet Hawaii thrives on this vine as well as other exotics such as guava, coconut and pineapple. We hope to teach folks here how to make jam, jelly, marinades etc. and then market them to the cruise shippers, shipperites? shippeans? whatever, rich gringos.
This week we will make a path down the center so we are not tromping in mud during the rain. To assist in this rock bashing Eric bought an 8 kilo sledgehammer. He is only good for a few whacks, but what it whacks stays wacked. (I’m sure there is Sermon in there somewhere) We will also start digging the well..this is where is gets fun. The water is there, we just need to dig 8 meters down. yea. Luckily it is not all rock, there are pockets of dirt between the roots. right? So God bless. It is hard work here but we love this place and these people. Thank you for keeping us in your prayers. Please pray that God will continue to open doors, that the people in the church and in Las Fincas will be touched by The Holy Spirit and seek Him first and that God will continue to direct our path.
If you would like to make donations towards the building of the raised garden beds in Las Fincas, please visit 7dayhero.org and type in Mexico Mission in the memo.