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The Earth Shakes, the Dragonfruit Ripens and the Pandemic Holds its Own

The evening rains bring magical rainbows.

June 24, 2020

Rancho Pitaya, Rojas de Cuauhtemoc, Oaxaca

Dear Friends and Family, 

I started this update on the 22nd. Now the update needs an update after yesterday’s quake.

I feel like I’m on an extended riding vacation.

Thank you, all who inquired about my well-being. I was standing in my socks, in the kitchen of my casita at the ranch. I’d just come back from a ride and was getting some breakfast before my autistic equine therapy student arrived. The house moved back and forth, I ran out the back door into the patio; the earth continued to move back and forth, so I took off into the clearing beside the house. There was a gust of wind as the earth rolled like it was surfing a wave. This quake was not jolting. And then it was over. Today’s paper confirms six deaths and 23 injured in the 7.5 magnitude quake. It appears that there wasn’t anywhere close to the destruction of the September 2017 quake; a friend suggested that this could be contributed to its horizontally rolling not vertically jarring movement.

Nightblooming Dragonfruit ripens at the ranch.
My only equitation student, 7 yr. old Leonora riding (backwards) Lumina.

June 22, 2020

Today, as every Monday for months, the governor of Oaxaca, Alejandro Murat, gave his video message via Twitter to the people of Oaxaca. The country is using the traffic light system to manage the easing up of “quedate en casa” stay-at-home lockdown. While the state still has a red light with 4,200 accumulated cases to date, he said the Secretary of Health considered the situation “stable”. Stats show the state as flatlining with more or less 120 new cases per day for the last 10 days  Facemasks are mandatory, social distancing exhorted and frequent hand-washing an absolute. He asked Oaxacans, who don’t have to go out, to stay at home for one more week. Following these measures, according to his advisers, Oaxaca could move to amber light from red, bringing with this a gradual, cautious opening-up.

The Red Warbler is endemic to the highlands of Mexico.

The state of Oaxaca has gone through stricter “lockdown” in the last month. While some villages took Covid-19 serious from the outset, the Sierra Juarez region has just a spattering of isolated cases to date, other villages, like Teotitlan del Valle, threw caution to the wind and called it fake news, until some villagers died of the virus. 

During an equinetherapy class. Victor, severely autistic, rides Centurion. Dearest dog Dola died on June 22nd at age 13.

Last week, when I decided to spend the day birding and intended to begin at the dam in Teotitlan, I was turned back just after the turn-off from the 195  by a “filtro sanitario” an entry control commandeered by villagers. “No one from the outside is being allowed into the village” they told me, “The same applies of Benito Juarez.”, the hamlet 24 kms. above Teotitlan. I thanked the men, made a U-turn, and drove 10 kms. northeast recalculating my day. The paved road that ascends to Cuajimaloyas passes directly through no village. I spent a splendid day driving with breathtaking views of the valley and mountains, and stopping to bird a handful of times in several ecosystems: low acacia mixed with cacti and agave, oak and madrone, and finally pine and firs.  Highlights were the white-cheeked Red Warblers and an Elegant Euphonia who I sighted in its favorite hangout – a cluster of mistletoe.

I’m mostly at the ranch, enjoying immensely Oaxaca’s typically glorious summers. I guide private nature walks twice a week for several women, ride five days and usually go on a solo birding adventure one day. There are to date no cases in Rojas. 

El Tule has had a some cases, and in early June the town authorities called for all restaurants to close with only delivery service and that the town lock up tight from 6 p.m. to 7 a.m.. Today, the restaurants are allowed to do “take-out” and non-essential businesses are open again. Facemasks are the overwhelming norm and transparent visors quite common. Shops are very good about distancing for customers.

Gabriel is getting ever more efficient at internet art sales.  Here’s La Mano Magica’s June 2020 Art Catalogue. He and I ride together once a week and he helps me feed the horses on Sunday when Gregorio is off. 

Arugula-laced egg salad – gifts from the ranch.

Food is abundant and summer is the height of mango season. My hens are laying more than two dozen eggs weekly, wild arugula is all over the rock garden and the dragonfruit cacti are bearing gifts this season. With Gregorio, I’ve been planting: cacti cuttings, native acacia trees that came up as volunteers and the now two-year old agaves started from seeds I collected in the wild. The efforts are showing, and with a little imagination I can see how enriched the lands will be in just a couple of years.   

There is a trickle of national tourism beginning next week. French diplomats practicing social distancing in Mexico City are coming this weekend to stay at Rancho Pitaya; I’ll guide them on a full day horse ride. With the natural social distancing of the outdoor lifestyle at the ranch and our proper sanitation measures, this virus is going to have a tough time propagating. See super special summer rates.

Talk about a pretty picture – Arabian horse in Oaxaca’s lush mountains.

Casa Murguia has phenomenal summer rates. There is just one guest now, but just this last week several inquiries for the summer have come in via Airbnb.  The non-essential travel restriction between Canada, U.S. and Mexico has been extended to July 21. National flights are running into Oaxaca if on a more limited basis. Get this – direct non-stop flights with Volaris from Tijuana / San Diego, using the CBX border walkway, to Oaxaca are $200 and change roundtrip the last week in July. 

Keep well, get outside as much as you can. Send me a note, I love to know how and what you are doing. 

A big hug, even if it’s virtual. 

Mary Jane

Summer Riding Week Super Special