Hidden behind old stone walls, on the outskirts of the stunning colonial city of Campeche, lies a unique ecological refuge called Xaman Ek. Its multi-species inhabitants enjoy a chemical and plastic-free experience in a stunning setting, far removed from the aggressive hustle and bustle of contemporary urban life.
Whilst beautiful, the land is in constant use, albeit in a manner which provides for a wide range of purpose as well as care. Parts of the unique garden give off a wild feeling but it has been cultivated according to its own vagaries as well with organic produce in mind – in other words, aggressive monoculture is far from the norm and gardeners watch to see what the land and the compost generate for themselves, and then plant around what has emerged of its own devices.
Notwithstanding, the towering palm trees and rouge bananas create a serene place to learn about nature and – simply – stop, breathe and think. Perhaps not so remarkably, people travel from all over the world to visit. Spending time in the unruly garden and participating in workshops catered to helping the environment is an easy way to learn – about the land; about plants; even about ourselves.
Taking this as read, an important lesson of the space is the notion of circular economies – meaning every aspect and use of the land intertwines with each other for a specific reason. The beauty of the practice is in the cyclic pattern of the process, and its efficiencies – everything feeds into everything else and each stage is just as important as the last.
In the wider community, for instance, participants go to local restaurants and collect their separated organic waste – these scraps are then taken back to the land and either selectively fed to a plethora of rescue animals or – where that is not possible or desirable – composted. This provides the animals an organic diet and then in the great big cycle of life the creatures digest and excrete the food, turning it to natural fertilizer – then used in the garden to propagate a variety of food, embodying waste reduction, system efficiency and – yes – circular economies, with everything having a place and a value.
Especially in today’s context of climate change, projects like the refuge at Xaman Ek have come to feel viscerally important, live spaces which people are willing to generate open and non-judgmental conversations about sustainability to anyone who stops by – or stays. It is argued that the fight against climate change is strongest at the grassroots level – projects like this prove that point; hour by hour; day by day.
With our ever-changing climate, and the never-ending fear brought on by the news cycle, it is important to take note of spaces that are making an actual difference, even if it is in a small town in the tropical south-west of Mexico, off the beaten track – because, finally, everywhere is a real place, and real places are where real changes happen.
For Times Media Mexico
Text and photos
Deanna Newman in Campeche