I had the opportunity to begin and end my Mexico trip in the beauty and awe of the canyons and mountains of an area called El Potrero Chico. It is a place that feels out of a fiction novel or of another world, with massive limestone cliffs rising two thousand feet above you on all sides, reminding you of your smallness. The canyon is an international climbing destination where climbers come from dozens of countries every year and stay for months at a time. As I was there among the majesty of such a unique wilderness area, I was struck by the presence of international climbers enjoying the land and the contrast with the lack of local people or native climbers, though there were multiple, well-populated towns and cities within minutes and miles of the place. In the beginning, I began asking myself why this climbing area seemed so inaccessible to, and unattended by the local people? I wondered if it was the inaccessibility of the knowledge of climbing, the equipment, the interest in the recreation activity, or the free time to pursue it? It seemed out of place and unsettling to me.
Later in the week, I asked the woman, Lulu, who was hosting me, some of these wonderings of the barriers to such beauty for the people whose land and mountains they are. She reflected that among the adults there is a mentality of either working, studying, or being in the home and thus concluded that one of the barriers most prevalent was the resource of time. Alternatively, for the youth, she noted the high expense of the equipment and the lack of knowledge available to them on how to climb or enjoy the area. Not once, for the adult or youth populations, did she express an absence of desire to be in the awe-inspiring place, or the motivation and interest to take part in the activity.
It is sometimes overwhelming and sad the reaches to which power, privilege, and oppression can extend, into places you least expect, such as nature, beauty, wilderness, and recreation.
As my time in Mexico continued and I experienced and learned more about the culture of the community I was in, the sorrows they’ve seen, the systemic oppression they’ve experienced, and the possibilities of restoration that were present, I was challenged in what it is to approach injustices with creativity and change with hope. Lulu and I, together, discussed ideas of what it could be to bring the youth that she works with in the community into these beautiful and close canyons. We were excited in the possibilities to integrate resources and knowledge available from climbers, both local and international alike, and create spaces for the youth to be present in their resiliency and trauma; the possibility of developing more confidence in their identities, values, skills, and hope. Though only ideas and possibilities now, I was inspired and challenged to not let the hidden injustices remain in the shadows but instead, to come ready to collaborate together for creative hope that could lead to processes of healing.