Skip to main content

In the dry tropical forest of the reserve of Tehuacán in the Oaxaca State, Mexico, amongst ancient cactuses that stretch to the sky and play with the clouds, two herders, a couple, herd their pastoreña goats, while fulfilling their love for nature, remoteness, and calmness. They migrate with the changing seasons through evolving paths of grass, leaves, wild fruit and seasonal rivers.

At the foot of the mountains, when the hot sun strikes and rain hides. There, where a thicker vegetation is armed with thorns and fights to reclaim possession of land. Higher up in the mountains when rains finally wet the soil and pasture grows. There, where larger shades can be found for the expecting kids to play and run after their mothers. There, which is closer to the road and people can go to the kraal and buy some goats for the incoming Fiesta de la Matanza, when thousands and thousands of goats are sacrificed; heads of goats perform traditional daces to remember the time when the slaves to the Spanish could only eat the remaining skull after the feast. The two herders pray their simple life, while admitting harshness, hunger, and isolation. There are not many herders remaining in the mountains of Tehuacán, and those who do are single man, facing the loneliness left by their spouses who moved to the villages popping up along the road to cater for the schooling children. But the two herders enjoy a strong family network, one in which brothers, brothers in law, cousins, form a spider web of assistance and companionship. They are assisted with their food and their clothes, “because everything breaks up here”. And when they are tired, they are replaced to enjoy a few days of rest, because “it is good to know what is happening in the world…sometimes”.

Indeed, “here we can forget the world”. We are looking at the herd climbing up the hills after we watered them at the river and gave them salt. It is sunset, and a magnificent light plays with the cactuses. Loenel opens up, and tells me that he loves it here because they are far from the evil world, where there is violence, and wars. We lock the goats in the kraal, while the dogs patrol the area for the coyote. Eat frijoles and tortillas and after a shot of aguardiente to warm up the cold night, I fall asleep with the engine sound of tireless vehicles tunning through the road.