Back in July we embarked upon a learning journey to Suchitoto, El Salvador.
The first week was a hands on experiential permaculture workshop in the ecologically diverse community of Papaturro. I was the chef for this segment of our journey. We made everything from scratch by hand, using molcajetes, comales, metates and wood burning stoves using local ingredients sourced from neighbors and our hosts. Many of the participants were from the village of Papaturro and the guests all stayed in local homes with families in Papaturro. Papaturro was settled 14 years ago by refugees who had left El Salvador during the violent civil war. The regrouped and formed this farming community. Many Papaturro youth have looked to the north to earn money in the US and to live the American Dream. Many of the youth of Papaturro are part of the SERES network and are working to create regenerative systems in Central America to support thriving communities there.
The second week of the program, Foodscapes, was focused on following the route of ingredients as they pass through these unique communities that hosted us in Suchitoto. We milked cows, visited farms, learned from bee keepers, exchanged stories in fishing villages, harvested tropical fruit, processed local corn using the the Mayan technique of nixtamalization then ground the corn in the communal mill and dove deep into the food world of the region.
I would like to highlight the diverse group of participants on this learning journey. We were:
• Four UC Irvine students focused on sustainability
• Fernando, the program manager of the Global Sustainability Resource Center at UCI
• Two educators from IMAP (Instituto Mesoamericano de Permacultura) and SERES
• A few SERES youth from Guatemala, including Maria the chef
• A group of SERES El Salvador youth, including some very local Suchitoto folks and some from other Salvadorean regions
• and lastly, one eco chef, me, Rogelio
SERES is pretty special for a number of reasons. SERES is a youth led network of social change makers dedicated to environmental action planning and creating resilient communities in Central America.
IMAP is a very cool organization and permaculture demonstration center, based on Mayan traditions and permaculture practices. We were fortunate to have one of the founder members join us on this learning journey as an educational facilitator. Ramiro Tzunun (Tzunun means hummingbird) honors traditional Kachikel Mayan wisdom that has been passed down to him through generations and implements these sensibilities into his work. Please take a moment to learn about the story of our learning partner, Rony Lec, founder and coordinator of IMAP in this interesting article.
The GSRC is bringing together some very inspiring young people on campus at UC Irvine who are implementing sustainable practices into their work and studies. We are also creating some interesting programming via our Campus as a Living Lab Pathway (Fall and Winter programming to be announced next week) and Communiversity Pathway
One of our foodscapes participants Daniel Mejia took us to his home where his family makes homemade cheese to sell and trade in his community of Celinas Ramos near Lake Suchitlán.
Fresh, raw cows milk is coagulated to separate the curd and whey.
The curd is pressed to release all excess curd and moisture.
The curd is kneaded to create a distinct texture. Then the curd is molded by hand into torpedo shapes to be sold and traded in the community. We brought a few pounds back to our base in Papaturro to serve with hand made corn tamales.