Giving Back to Chiapas

Jose Herrera ’13-

          We prepared for our day for what seemed to some of us as an ungodly hour of 8:15 A.M. After shaking off the drowsiness and being reborn through the wonder of breakfast, our group departed to go visit the Orquídeas Moxviquil – a plant reservation – in the outskirts of San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas. Once we arrived, we were met by a cheerful crew of native Mexicans and an expatriate from the U.S. named Cisco. Having lived through the sixties in the U.S., Cisco was definitely a product of peace, love and friendship. Cisco invited us to his amphitheater where he told us how he first became interested in flora. He visited Chiapas during the citizens’ rebellion in 1994 and saw that much of the virgin forest and large plant diversity in the highland region of Chiapas was being desecrated. To help combat this, he created a private plant reservation to preserve and hopefully reverse the trend, with special interest in the more delicate orchids. But upkeep of the reservation required constant manual labor, leading to our volunteered presence.

                Our task was simple: due to the creation of a small lagoon, we had to dig up plants and root systems of plants from existing lagoons to fill this new one. We split up into small teams to handle this project for maximum efficiency. Some of us went to dig up the Horsetails, others had the task of digging up the papyrus plants from the lagoons and another group prepared the bed of the empty lagoon by planting the horsetails and papyrus. After about three hours, fifteen shirtless and sunburned Wabash men, and twenty beers later, what was once an empty lagoon bed was sprang to life with newly planted flora. Cisco stressed the importance of teamwork and the achievement of our work. A plaque commemorating Wabash College for their work was happily installed in Moxviquil’s ‘Walk of Fame’ by an ever euphoric Cisco.

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