By Jane Bauer
“Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”
Antoine de Saint-Exupery
One of my favorite things is to rearrange a room and I have found that many spaces benefit from having things removed rather than added. The trouble is we get so attached to having stuff and having things the way they are.
Even if you don’t consider yourself as someone who concerns themselves with design, most of us add our own signature to a space. Think for a moment about your living room, picture it in your mind if you aren’t there. Visualize each item that you have chosen and ask yourself why? Is it for its sentimental tie to a past event – a display of photographs perhaps? Maybe the object has a practical use – a candy dish, or a foot roller you keep tucked under the couch. Why have you arranged the furniture the way it is – to maximize light or seating faced towards the television set?
What about the colors? Were you intentional as you filled this space or did it become layered over itself with time? What might be taken away? How does the room reflect who you are and your habits?
In this issue our writers explore design. We didn’t limit the topic to home design or architecture or clothing and it was fascinating to see what people came up with. From papel picado, to the clothes we wear to the buildings we spend our lives in, what is clear is that no corner of our lives is untouched by design. Unknowingly, we have each curated our lives, piece by piece over time.
You may not consider yourself a symbol of design but the truth is that we all are. Our style is reflected in our clothes, our haircut, our living room, even the plates we choose to eat our dinner off.
As we approach this commercial season what if instead of adding more stuff to our ever-growing piles, we became intentional about the spaces and objects we already have? Decluttering your space has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, and lead to greater creativity.
Let’s lighten our load as we vault into 2024!
By Kary Vannice
Mexico’s rich textile heritage is a colorful historical narrative interwoven with indigenous traditions and the imprints of European influence. From the earliest known fibers (1400 BCE) to the contemporary fusion of craftsmanship and innovation, textile weavers and designers have left their mark on the Mexican culture.
Mexican Textiles – Indigenous and Colonial Roots
The genesis of Mexican textiles can be traced to 1800 BCE, when fibers of the chichicaste plant (much like stinging nettle) were skillfully woven into fabric fragments. The pre-Hispanic era brought about the artful integration of native fibers like yucca, palm, willow and maguey. Cotton, which is not native to Mexico, made its first appearance much earlier, around 3000 BCE. Obtained through conquest and trade among ancient societies, cotton assumed a revered status and its use was restricted to the elite.
In pre-Spanish culture, textile making was not merely a technique, but a sacred gift bestowed upon women by the gods. The backstrap loom, a lightweight, mobile loom made of wood and a strap that is wrapped around the back, was exclusively operated by women, and played a central role in weaving fabrics. In those times, the intricate process of weaving, spinning, and embroidering held more than cultural significance – some fabrics were also used as currency.
The Spanish conquest ushered in a transformative era for Mexican textiles. New fibers arriving from Europe, like silk and wool, reshaped the industry. The imported foot treadle loom, often seen in Mexico today, mechanized weaving and lead to an explosion of production and a pivotal shift in the textile trade.
Mexican Textiles Travel the World
Wool and silk imports, coupled with the introduction of sheep and silkworms, catapulted Mexico into the global textile scene by the late 1500s. This period marked a significant exchange of textile knowledge and resources between Europe and the Americas.
Over time, European textile techniques became assimilated into the rich tapestry of Mexican craftsmanship. This influx of new materials spurred innovation among native weavers and resulted in a fusion of styles and patterns. Mexican textiles became sought-after commodities and unique fashion statements throughout Europe.
Native weavers began exporting their diverse range of handcrafted garments and homemade items to international markets. Their designs showcased the distinctive aesthetic of Mexican culture, characterized by vibrant colors, intricate patterns, and the use of naturally dyed fibers.
During the 19th century, the introduction of steam-powered machines opened new horizons for the textile industry in Mexico. By the late 19th century, textile production and distribution emerged as a dominant force in the country’s manufacturing sector and Mexico’s textiles became known the world over.
When industrial sewing machines became available in the early 20th century it brought about another chapter in textile production and catalyzed a new phase in the industry – the production of finished clothing.
Despite the transition to modern textile production, the influence of ancient techniques endures. Weaving has become a cultural narrative and the artisans committed to preserving traditional methods not only sustain the authenticity of Mexican textiles but also foster a sense of continuity between generations.
Mexican textiles have emerged as international representatives of cultural craftsmanship. Their global recognition reflects the adaptability of Mexico’s textile industry, which today honors its heritage while at the same time embracing contemporary trends (see Brooke O’Connor’s article elsewhere in this issue).
Sustainable Tradition, Environmentally Ethical
Mexico’s long-standing traditional approach to textile production, rooted in sustainable and ethical practices, aligns with the growing global emphasis on environmentally conscious fashion. Mexican designers and industry leaders continue to push the boundaries of sustainable textile innovation. In 2019, the Mexico-based company Adriano di Marti, went to the Milan (Italy) Leather Fair and presented a vegan leather made from nopal cactus called Desserto. The company has developed a version of the leather called Desertex for use in automobiles; they are now working on using agave fiber, a waste byproduct of the tequila-making process, to produce a third vegan leather, Desserto Agave, for use in the fashion industry. Adriana di Marti also produces cactus yarns for woven fabrics.
The enduring history of naturally derived textiles in Mexico is a testament to the cultural richness that transcends time. Mexican textiles narrate a saga of centuries, embodying a cultural legacy that continues to flourish in the tapestry of modern life.
By Jan Chaiken and Marcia Chaiken
One of our shared characteristics is flat feet. As children, we were among the very few who, while running around a pool, left footprints that displayed a complete foot with no open arch space. But the similarity in our feet ends there; one of us wears a US men’s size 13 shoe and the other a US women’s 5.5 (Mexico, size 22.5). For the latter, looking for smaller than average dress shoes that provide comfortable support was always a challenge in the U.S. – but not in Mexico.
Shopping for Mexican Shoes
For anyone in the United States or Canada whose feet are smaller than the shoes that local footwear brands bother to sell, traveling and shopping in Mexico provides them with a welcome opportunity to explore footwear in a great variety of styles, colors, materials and price ranges. That’s because Mexico has a long history of designing and creating footwear for a population whose mix of foot sizes differs from what is found in the US and Canada.
Production of footwear in Mexico developed gradually out of traditional work of artisans using locally available materials. Now it is one of Latin America’s major industries and collectively aspires to export to the entire world. But that is a comparatively recent development, as the first exports of footwear from Mexico to the United States occurred in 1951.
Before the Spanish conquest of Mexico (16th century), shoe making was already a creative endeavor. As throughout the world, once homo sapiens decided to stand on their own two feet and roam, there was a recognized need to protect soft soles from thorns and other sharp objects. Sandal-type foot coverings were made from bark, animal skins, plant fibers and, in Mesoamerica, from rubber. The nations indigenous to Mexico were creators of prototypes of the earliest artisan shoes – huaraches, an iconic Mexican style of sandals that continues to be popular today. Huaraches were traditionally made from woven leather strips but now are also of synthetic materials, with a distinctive, open-toed design. They come in various styles, from simple everyday versions to more ornate, decorative options. These shoes are not only comfortable and suitable for Mexico’s warm climate but are also a symbol of Mexican craftsmanship.
The conquistadores (and later their families) brought European design expectations with them and created a demand for footwear that was far more elaborate than simple huaraches.
Charro boots, or botas vaqueras, are also a distinctive style of Mexico. Charros are skilled horsemen who participate in rodeo events, and their attire, including the boots, has been widely adopted by Mexicanos. The boots typically feature pointed toes and high heels, have intricate designs and embroidery, and are acceptable at even formal events.
The Mexican Shoe Industry
Although Europeans who flocked to Mexico included shoemakers who started cottage industries to supply locals with footwear, Mexican shoemaking became centralized as the world shifted to mass production. Consider León, a city in the state of Guanajuato that is unofficially considered to be the footwear capital of all of North America – it produces more shoes annually than any other city on the continent. Nearly every major footwear company in Mexico has its headquarters or outlets in León. How did that happen? Well, León is surrounded by cattle ranches, which provide a large supply of hides for tanning, not to mention numerous cowboys needing boots. León also has a ready supply of water for tanneries. Talented shoemakers established factories in León initially to make rugged cowboy boots but gradually expanded to a wide variety of footwear.
While most shoe stores sell shoes for both men and women, the patterns of shopping and purchase differ greatly between them. In Mexico approximately 70% of all footwear purchases are for women’s shoes. Sometimes you may spy a husband or boyfriend just sitting placidly in a shoe store awaiting the woman’s decisions, and perhaps completing the final purchase. Studies show that approximately half of women’s purchases arise out of desire for style or variety rather than for need. A typical average is four pairs of shoes for work, three for exercise, five pairs of walking shoes, and three more for special occasions. Men, by contrast, generally consider only comfort, durability, and cost when buying shoes. Their wardrobe contains on average one pair for casual outings, one for sports or exercise, and two pairs of dress shoes.
The Story of Grupo Flexi
When we first travelled extensively within Mexico (over 25 years ago), quality shoes were readily available only in major cities, notably Guadalajara and Mexico City. Now they are plentiful even in Huatulco, and shoes can be purchased in other outlets such as Coppel or sections attached to supermarkets. Flexi is our go-to store in Mexico and is a typical mid-range store competing against brands such as DSW, Zappos, and ASICS.
Founded in 1935 under the name CESAR, Flexi is now a multi-national company with stores throughout North America, and exports to Europe and Asia. In 1998, Flexi had 30 stores in Mexico; by 2014, it was 300. By 2015, it was producing 16 million pairs of shoes a year; today it produces 22.6 million pairs a year. With $56.4 million in revenues, Flexi is the leading shoe manufacturer in Mexico.
Grupo Flexi now has over 400 physical stores in Mexico, perhaps 4,000 shops within other stores, and stores in a half-dozen other countries; it also runs a strong online business built on the latest SAP technology for e-commerce. Originally focused on outdoor boots, especially worker boots for men, Flexi now has designers who try to keep ahead of the latest styles and materials for women’s shoes.
Therein lies the rub. Finding comfortable dress shoes in size 22.5 for flat feet is not really easy even in Mexico’s Flexi shops. Once found and worn literally to shreds, they cannot be replaced with exactly the same style since designers have moved on to later fashions and models. The only solution is to buy several pairs of exactly the same shoes and hope that customs inspectors do not jump to the conclusion that they are being imported for resale and therefore are not duty-free. But the good news is that the need to shop for shoes in Mexico may prevent us from even considering giving up our annual winters in our home away from home.
By Jane Bauer
“Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for a kindness.”
—Lucius Annaeus Seneca
If you have not ventured to the highway around Huatulco lately you may not have noticed the number of migrants on their walk towards a better life. Many months ago on the south side of Copalita an immigration kiosk was erected and manned by immigration and army personnel. They pull over buses and vans and have a tented area where I occasionally see people who have been pulled off buses and vans, for not having the proper documentation, waiting. When I happened to be standing next to a man in an immigration uniform at the bank, I asked him what they did with the people and he told me they sent them back to their country or at least to the border of Mexico.
In the last month the number of migrants has steadily grown and some days I have seen at least a couple of hundred people walking on my fifteen-minute drive home. A path just before the immigration kiosk has been forged through the brush so that they can avoid it altogether.
One day in early November I stopped and asked a group where they were from just before they got on the avoid-immigration kiosk path through the bushes.
“Haiti” one man responded.
“Où allez vous?” I asked
“Les Etats-Unis” he said.
One Sunday morning while driving in to work, moving in the same direction as the walkers, I stopped for two women. They climbed into my car with a small baby and a few meters later we picked up a young man. I asked if they were from Haiti and they said they were from Guinea.
The immigration kiosk was just up ahead but we weren’t stopped, to be fair the two soldiers standing in front of it looked resigned to their inability to do anything.
We stopped just off the highway in Copalita and had breakfast. Guinea is 9345 km from Huatulco. Over breakfast we talked about their journey.
Mari Assi, a robust young woman, with a burn scar covering one hand and forearm, was wearing sandals and carrying her 19 month-old daughter Fati. Her traveling companion was Aminata who had left her 13-year old daughter back in Guinea and the young man was Osmane. While French is the primary language in Guinea, due to its colonization by the French, their speech was also peppered with words of a language I didn’t know. They flew from Guinea to Nicaragua and had been walking/taking buses/ hitchhiking for 12 days. Their final destination goal: New York.
Since then I have met people from Senegal, Ghana, Venezuela, Guatemala and even a family from Afghanistan with three young girls. I keep my car stacked with bottles of water and non-perishable snacks and gently used footwear.
I know there are many differing opinions when it comes to immigration policies and migrants. However, when it comes to being face to face with a person in need, politics cannot be the discussion, humanity needs to be the discussion. Helping people in our path, if we can, is the bare minimum of what we should offer- regardless of religious credo or political affiliations.
If you watch the news it will tell you about the atrocities happening in other parts of the world- military coups, crime, instability, places where women being raped is a regular occurrence. I don’t need look at the news to understand the why of what brought Mari Assi, Aminata, Fati and Osmane to be on the same road as me. I only need to look at their inadequate footwear, their clothes that have leaves sticking to them from sleeping in the bushes, to know they deserve more… more help… more humanity… and more compassion.
If you would like to contribute water/ juice and non-perishable snacks such as granola bars I will hand them out on my daily commute. If you have any new or gently used proper footwear I will distribute that as well. Items can be dropped off at Café Juanita.
By Deborah Van Hoewyk
On Thursday, October 20, 2022, author and Mexican First Lady Beatriz Gutiérrez Müller Instagrammed American designer Ralph Lauren:
Hey, Ralph, we already knew that you’re a big fan of Mexican designs, above all those that work with our ancestral cultures to preserve textile traditions. However, by copying these designs you commit plagiarism, and as you know, plagiarism is illegal and immoral. At least acknowledge it. And I hope you compensate the damage to the native communities that do this work with love and not for million-dollar profits.
Gutiérrez was calling out Lauren for his use of Mexican serape fabric in a cardigan-style jacket in his current line of clothing; she mentioned specifically the weavers from Contla de Juan Cuamatzi in Jalisco and Saltillo in Coahuila as the “authors” of the textile design of the cardigan.
This was not the first time, either. Ralph Lauren has made a mint by refining the looks of the New England preppie, early-Hollywood glamour, and the rough-and-rustic American West. It was hardly a skip or a jump when his collection for Spring/Summer 2013 was described, by The New York Times, as showing there was “no doubt Ralph Lauren was down Mexico way.” Lauren again showed serapes in his Fall 2014 collection, when he added a Polo Ralph Lauren collection for women that included a Mexican-patterned maxi dress and a serape-fabric jacket.
Gutiérrez clearly sees Lauren’s use of the serape fabric as cultural appropriation. She identifies his work as plagiarism, i.e., an exact copy, and asserts that it has damaged the indigenous communities, whose work is a labor of love that preserves ancient traditions, because Lauren did not acknowledge or compensate them. Lauren no doubt considered it cultural appreciation – if he considered it at all.
A repeat offender like Lauren, Marant included a cape clearly taken from the Purépecha of Michoacán in her 2020-21 Etoile collection. Alejandra Frausto Guerrero, the Mexican Minister of Culture, sought an explanation:
Some symbols [on the cape] that you took have a profound meaning for this culture. These symbols are very old and have been conserved thanks to the memory of the artisans. I ask you, Ms. Isabel Marant, to publicly explain on what grounds you privatize a collective property … and how its use benefits the creator communities.
In 2021, Frausto Guerrero accused several other fashion brands of wrongly appropriating designs from three Oaxacan towns. US-based Anthropologie took embroidery patterns representing the sun, the mountains, and the maguey cactus preserved by the Mixe of Santa María Tlahuitoltepec, and slapped them on fringe-edged shorts no Mexican woman would ever wear. The Spanish retailer Zara made a light green dress with dark green embroidery patterns unique to the Mixtec weaving cooperatives of San Juan Colorado. Internet-based retailer Patowl was selling blouses with elaborate embroidery characteristic of the Zapotec community in San Antonio Castilla Velasco.
Protecting All Cultural Expression
These events foregrounded the need for legal protection of Mexico’s indigenous cultural heritage from the “plagiarism” of appropriation. According to Andrea Bonifaz of the social justice organization Impacto Social Metropolitan Group, which defends the rights of traditional artisanal communities against cultural appropriation, the underlying problem is that “ancestral expressions, like the serape, are collective.” Laws protecting patrimony cover individuals, not communities. “Who or what the community is,” and therefore who can bring suit, is never defined.
However, some progress has been made. In 2020, following the Herrera resort-wear confrontation, Mexico changed the federal copyright law to specify that native communities – if the community has taken the steps to organize as a collective – own the intellectual property rights to craftwork that expresses cultural and local popular tradition. As owners of their work, they can oppose unauthorized use, even when that use altered the original design. In 2021, the Mexican senate passed a federal law that established penalties for taking – by reproducing, copying, imitating, or otherwise appropriating without prior and proper authorization – the designs that represent indigenous cultural heritage, including that of Afro-Mexicans.
These legislative changes set up a legal framework and a registry to recognize cultural expressions, identify the owners of those expressions, and establish the protocols for owners to authorize any permitted use. Mexico’s Institute of Industrial Property (IMPI, manages patents and trademarks) and the Copyright Office (INDAUTOR) give classes for indigenous communities and individual artisans on intellectual property, explaining how to protect their rights to their work. They also give discounts to the artisans or collectives for registering ownership of their work.
From Appropriation to Appreciation
Is it ever okay to use the cultural assets of another people? Vogue India, prompted by Sarah Jessica Parker’s costume in the “Diwali” episode of And Just Like That, asks “How do you know if you are co-opting cultural connotations or innocuously borrowing an aesthetic?”
It’s a longstanding debate, but the answer, actually, is yes, you can appreciate rather than appropriate (see Brooke O’Connor’s article on page 26). Vogue India came up with a rather narrow answer – you have to avoid “demeaning” the culture from which you have taken something. This is a backward way of saying you have to respect, to recognize, to acknowledge the culture that produced it. Vogue India quotes Kelvin Gonclaves, owner of Elkel, an “avante-garde” boutique in the Soho neighborhood in New York City:
If your action disrespects the original idea because of cultural, religious or other customs, then you’ve gone too far. If you claim it as yours without giving credit, you’ve definitely gone too far. There are a few things that should never be done like blackface or dreadlocks on a white person. With taste and acknowledgement, though, most things can be done.
Gonclaves thinks that all art, fashion included, “borrows inspiration from other cultures [to create] new and wonderful things.”
The Gray Area of Inspiration
The designers Mexico has accused of cultural appropriation have said their work is “inspired” by Mexican “ideas.” That may well be so, but it doesn’t determine whether or not they have created something “new and wonderful.”
Take a look at a sweatshirt recently stocked at both Nordstrom and Gonclaves’ boutique:
Billed as a “Gender Inclusive Keith Haring Witches Print Cotton Blend Sweatshirt,” it’s sold out at Nordstrom. According to Nordstrom, the sweatshirt and matching sweatpants were “produced in collaboration with the Keith Haring Foundation” and “creatively showcases the late artist’s iconic designs.” There is no mention that Haring produced the designs forty years ago, or that they were inspired by ancient Mexican hieroglyphic writings and low-relief sculptures.
Keith Haring (1958-90) was a New York “street artist” whose early work, inspired by the graffiti subculture of the early 1980s, was considered pop art, and Haring was very much a part of the pop art scene. In 1982, he was approached by Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood, who were very much a part of the same scene in England, to prepare designs on the theme of “Witches” for one of McLaren’s albums (Duck Rock) and McLaren/Westwood’s fashion line. By 1983, Haring had produced the Witches series of drawings, but never credited any specific Mexican sources.
Haring was diagnosed with AIDS in 1987; he set up the Keith Haring Foundation to preserve and promote his work, and to raise funds for those affected by AIDS. The Foundation licensed the sweatshirt and pants as a fundraising activity. It can easily be argued that the Witches sweatsuit is “inspired” by Mesoamerican designs, that Keith Haring did not “appropriate” any specific work, and that he created something “new and wonderful.” But a little mention of how he came to use his Mexican inspiration might have been nice.
By Jane Bauer
“By standing together in unity, solidarity and love, we will heal the wounds in the earth and in each other. We can make a positive difference through our actions.”
Julia Butterfly Hill
This month our writers explore political parties and revolutions. In my cooking classes I always say that the recipe for a revolution is a few very wealthy people controlling everything while poor people do all the work. This has been true during most of the large revolutions of the past that were a reflection of class struggle.
With technology and the decline of environmental quality, we are seeing a new kind of revolution and it doesn’t care how much stuff you have- in fact the less the better.
Back in 1997 Julia Butterfly Hill ascended Luna—a giant 1,500-year-old redwood tree near Stafford, California, and spent 738 days in a tree to protest the logging industry. Her act was seen as radical and perhaps crazy- there is no denying it was a huge commitment. However when examined through the lens of today, while an outrageous act, the philosophy behind it is being embraced more than ever.
People are fleeing urban areas for cleaner air, access to water and nature – planning for survival in an ever growing hostile world. Peasant life is the new rich. With carbon dioxide levels on our planet at the highest they have been in 4 million years, we have seen a rapid increase in temperature, which is leading to drought, forest fires, dying coral, melting permafrost, loss of biodiversity and decimated crops.
Where this will take us is anyone’s guess. As a species we are slow to make immediate changes for long-term gain- we are impatient and want what we want now.
Thanks for reading,
By Kary Vannice
When we hear the word “revolution,” most of us think of people clashing with other people, fighting for opposing rights or ideologies. However, in recent decades, a new kind of revolution has emerged, one that differs in its focus and purpose. The “Green Revolution” is not about people fighting one another, but about humans combatting a common and existential threat – climate change. This revolution transcends borders and beliefs and pits humanity against the fallout of its own environmentally destructive habits.
Traditional revolutions seek to overthrow existing political systems or religious ideologies. In contrast, the Green Revolution seeks to transform values and behaviors to ensure a sustainable future. It calls for a shift from consumerism to sustainability, from short-term thinking to long-term planning, and from environmental exploitation to conservation and preservation. The transformation it promotes is not political, social, or religious, but connected to our individual and collective values.
Just as different strata of Mexican society rallied together against foreign occupiers during the Mexican Revolution, millions of people across borders, cultures, and demographics have rallied together in the common goal of combating climate change.
All revolutions have their quiet rumblings that start long before they erupt onto the world stage. The Green Revolution’s rumblings started in the mid 20th-century when books like Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962) began raising concerns about the impact of pesticides on the environment. Within a decade, the state of the environment became a major part of the global political conversation; the first Earth Day was held in 1970 and the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment happened in 1972.
Climate change has been a major headline grabber for the last two decades, so most of us are familiar with the public figures like Greta Thunberg, Jane Goodall, Al Gore, and Leonardo DiCaprio, as well as the most talked about climate concerns like extreme weather events, renewable energy, deforestation, carbon emissions, and rising sea levels. But, as individuals, it’s difficult to take action against such monumental concepts and global threats.
However, we each have ways in which we can contribute to change for a more sustainable future.
Consumer choices have a significant impact on environmental sustainability. People are increasingly using their purchasing power to drive change, demanding eco-friendly and ethical products. Consumer activism and ethical purchasing are all about supporting sustainable businesses, reducing single-use plastics, and opting for renewable energy sources. By making informed choices and asking companies to adopt sustainable practices, individuals play a pivotal role in the Green Revolution.
Financial institutions and investors are recognizing the value of green finance and investments in driving this environmental revolution. Financing renewable energy projects, green infrastructure, and sustainable businesses is essential for transitioning to a low-carbon economy. Green bonds, sustainability-linked loans, and impact investments are key financial instruments that can be employed to support environmentally responsible initiatives.
Green funds typically invest in companies that follow sustainable practices such as renewable energy, clean technology, conservation, and other environmentally responsible activities. By investing in green funds, individuals or institutions can align their investments with their values, contributing to both environmental and financial goals.
Shifting thinking from a “buy-use-dispose” mindset to a more circular “reduce-reuse-recycle” mindset may seem like a small contribution to a mammoth problem, but every big revolution was won because of a series of small battles. In our communities here in Mexico, as well as back home in the US and Canada, it’s generally the low-income and vulnerable communities that bear the brunt of negative environmental impacts and extreme weather events. Before disposing of an unwanted item, consider whether or not it might still have some life left in it for someone else. Donating items rather than throwing them away can extend product lifecycles, minimize environmental impact, and create a more sustainable economic future.
Participating in local, grassroots community clean-up projects like “Playas Limpias,” supporting community-run farmer’s markets, and buying local, sustainably made products can put you on the front lines of the Green Revolution.
The Green Revolution is not just about averting environmental catastrophe; it’s about preserving the planet for future generations and, like many revolutions throughout our history, is a testament to the potential for positive, collective change. The Green Revolution represents a turning point in the way humanity confronts its most significant challenges.
By Debbie LaChance
When we think of life in Mexico, our minds often conjure idyllic images of beautiful beaches, glistening blue waters, and endless sunny skies. While this is undoubtedly true, there’s another, less idyllic aspect to Mexico: it is home to the largest population of stray dogs in Latin America, with an estimated 15 to 18 million dogs living without, or abandoned by, human owners. These animals are a tragic sight, with the majority in extremely poor condition. But amidst this challenging reality, one woman in Puerto Angel, a village just 30 kilometres from Huatulco, has made it her life’s mission to alleviate their suffering.
Claudia Mamet, who works full-time as an English professor at a university in Puerto Angel, has always had a strong relationship with animals. During the COVID-19 pandemic when she needed to work from home, she decided to invest any extra free time she had in helping the street animals in her community. Her journey began with her first Mexican rescue during the pandemic, whom she named Bowie. Bowie’s story would ultimately serve as the inspiration for her to establish her non-profit organization, Dogs of Puerto Angel.
Bowie, like countless others, was born into life on the streets with his siblings and mother. Claudia had them all sterilized and treated for ticks and fleas. She fed them daily, but her living situation prevented her from giving them a home. Bowie vanished one day, only for Claudia to learn that a local farmer had taken him in as a guard dog. After two months, while Claudia was out feeding the street dogs, she stumbled upon Bowie, curled up on the side of the road. The farmer had subjected him to starvation and abuse, ultimately discarding him when he was no longer useful.
Claudia decided to move to a pet-friendly home so she could nurse Bowie back to health. Over the course of two months, he made a remarkable recovery, regaining his cheerful and playful demeanor. However, Bowie had the habit of chasing motorcycles and chickens, which in Mexico is a death sentence for a dog. Recognizing this, Claudia resolved to find Bowie a loving home abroad. With the help of a dear friend, she successfully found a forever home for him with a family in the Netherlands, where he is now thriving. Since then, Claudia’s home has become a sanctuary for sick or dying dogs and cats that need a safe place to recover.
The core mission of Dogs of Puerto Angel is to alleviate the suffering of street dogs and cats through a multi-faceted approach. This includes mass sterilization campaigns, educational initiatives within local schools, and the introduction of new local laws that combat animal abuse and neglect.
Claudia fundraises for these sterilization campaigns, partnering with veterinarians who charge her $300 pesos per animal (about $16.40 USD, $22.50 CAD at current exchange rates). Her objective is always ambitious, aiming to sterilize up to 200 dogs and cats over a single weekend—an astounding achievement.
As a teacher, Claudia believes in the power of education to promote responsible pet ownership and create a more compassionate and conscientious society. She takes every opportunity to visit local schools and conduct workshops that raise children’s awareness about the importance of caring for animals.
Claudia’s advocacy extends to pushing for new local laws that protect animals from abuse. On September 8, 2023, her tireless efforts paid off when the municipality of San Pedro Pochutla accepted her proposals and passed the first-ever local regulation on the Oaxaca coast dedicated to the protection, care, and management of companion animals in the region.
Claudia has dedicated her life to making a difference in the lives of Mexico’s animals. Even though it takes an emotional toll on her to see so much suffering, she perseveres because of the animals she can save. The ones like Bowie.
Dogs of Puerto Angel operates solely on donations, with 100% of donations going directly toward helping the dogs and cats in the region. Please consider donating to this inspiring organization and help spread the word about their invaluable work, which is making a positive impact on the lives of animals here. Dogs of Puerto Angel is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in the United States, so Americans who donate can take a tax deduction.