Tuesday, October 19, 2010

End of Week 10 - Puebla, Puebla

Arcade around the central Zocalo.
Puebla, Puebla - yes, the city of Puebla in the state of Puebla. Everyone that asks me where Ana and I will be working for the next two years in Mexico asks for clarification after my simple response of "Puebla", so I went ahead here and clarified preemptively.

Puebla is a large city, with beautiful architecture, a dense historic center, one central zocalo or square, museums, restaurants, and many, many churches. It lies 7,000 feet above sea level in a high valley between some of Mexico's tallest volcanoes, some still active, that separate it from Mexico City. The mountains have pine and oak forests, while the valleys have desert scrub vegetation, like acacia and cactus. Puebla is known for its food; mole poblano (the chocolate kind of mole), chiles en nogado (not sure) and chalupas (ala Taco Bell). We are told that earthquakes are common occurances, but the buildings seem to be pretty old, so that's a good sign!

The tallest church in Mexico is in Puebla.
We will be working for SEMARNAT - Secretario de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales - a federal environmental agency, in their state office in the city. Acronyms in Mexico are usually a little bit long like this. In the US, we would probably shorten the name to SMARN; in Mexico, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would be know as ENVPROTAGE, the National Park Service (NPS) would be called NATPARSER, and the National Football League (NFL) would be called An Exciting Version of Soccer In Which Points Are Actually Scored, or ANEXCVEROFSOCINWHIPOIAREACTSCOR. Just kidding Mexico!

The SEMARNAT office in Puebla. I'm not sure
why we advertise.

Ana will be working on environmental education projects related to climate change - they take it very seriously down here. I will be working on PET (Programa Empleo Temporal - Temporary Employment Porgram) projects in rural communities like reforestation, erosion control, and organic gardens. PET funding always increases during an election year for some reason, and elections are coming up so I will be busy. I will also be giving ecotecnias workshops in rural communities. Ecotecnias don't have an English translation, but they include things like solar stoves, rainwater harvesting like rain barrels, and greywater treatment systems like reed beds.

I will also be helping with some watershed planning in Valsequillo, a rural community outside of Puebla (soon to be well-within the sprawling monster) around a large man-made lake. Part of this project will include proposals for a new natural protected area, and all of the PET and ecotecnias projects are related to water because there 'just aint none no more.' The lake and its rivers are polluted, the water table is dropping, and although there is enough water in Puebla and Valsequillo for approximately 30,000 new homes, there are proposals to build 500,000 new homes.
Modern Puebla.

But the people at the office are nice. They seem to want us there and need our help. We will be working with two biologists, an architect, and an engineer. In Mexico, professionals are called by their degree title, like doctors are in the US. For example, biologists are called Biologo, architects are called Arcitecto, and Engineers are called Ingeniero. If you have a bachelors degree, you are called Licenciaturo, and with a masters you are called Maestro. I would like to be called Maestro Planificador Urbano Jajean, or "Master Urban Planner with an Interest in the Conservation of Nature" -MUPINTCONNAT Jajean for short.

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