Recently, Claudia, Domino (k-9 unit) & I spent a week in Oaxaca, Mexico treking the “Pueblos Mancomunados”. The PM’s are a group of like minded campesino villages located in the Sierra Azul Mountains just north of the town of Oaxaca in south central Mexico. Years ago, 7 communities got together and decided that instead of destroying their timber and exploiting the land for short term profit – like other nearby communities, they would develop a sustainable system of agro-forestry and develop eco-tourism. Today, these communities seem prosperous, clean and still maintain, in large part, a way of life that goes back centuries.
We spent 5 days walking trails between these rural villages with guides from a company called Sierra Norte. Sierra Norte (they are people from the communities) has an office in Oaxaca and provides a service that includes guides to take you from village to village, nice but simple cabins and good, simple meals by local kitchens. We chose to spend a couple of days in Oaxaca and then spend 5 days walking in the mountains with Sierra Norte.
The mountain communities have long carved a living out of the mountain forests. Local sawmills do harvest selectively and provide lumber for construction. We saw several brick factories that provide the material that most of the homes are built from. They grow crops such as corn and potatoes and graze cattle & sheep. Interestingly, one local farmer said that until fairly recently, it was too cold to farm corn and even now, it takes up to 9 months for the corn to mature to harvest.
Visiting the Pueblos Mancomunados was like taking a trip back in time to see how Mexican campesinos lived hundreds of years ago. Sure, they now have some modern conveniences and even have an office in Oaxaca with their own website to advertise their eco-tourism services. Just don’t expect anyone up in the hills to take your American Express or understand why you need wi-fi to get you through the day.