UPDATE: I wrote this article last July, and I had good response on it. After I wrote the article I kind of got busy, and then high season came, so this project was kind of put on the back burner. We did not have enough time to do the fall planting last year, so we are shooting for this year. All the permits have been attained and a cooperative has been filed with the Mexican government. I am meeting with the Ejido people tomorrow to get more information and an update on the progress. I will have more on this project later…..
Since I have been writing this blog, I have a had lot of inquiries and requests, but yesterday I got one that I am going to have to look at very seriously. I got approached yesterday by a Maya friend of mine I have known since before I came to Mahahual, in fact he is the reason I am in Mahahual. Doridiana Hernadez Sanchez is his name, and he is from a small Maya village near Bacalar, David Gustavo is the village’s name. I met him in a casino in Chetumal one day, he was betting on the greyhounds, and I was watching NFL football.
We got to talking at the casino,and he told me he used to live in Virginia, and he spoke very good English. He then told me at the casino, that maybe I should go to Mahahual to look for a job, because they needed people in Mahahual who spoke English to help with all the tourists off of the cruise ships. So because of our chance meeting at a casino in Chetumal, I ended up living in Mahahual, but that is a whole another story.
We were sitting on the malecon yesterday and I was telling him how I can’t believe how popular my blog has gotten lately, and I was getting 700 or 800 readers a day now. I was also telling him about all the people and contacts I had made in Merida the month I was there. I was telling him just think if I had never met you none of this would have happened.
Just then out of the blue, he proceeds to tell me this story. He asked me if any of the contacts I have made in Merida, or maybe some of my blog readers would be interested in helping save a Maya village, and make some money. I thought for a minute and said maybe, he then goes and tells me his father’s story.
The village he comes from is David Gustavo, in Bacalar near Reforma. It is on Ejido land, (or as we would call it in the USA tribal or protected land). For more information of “Ejido land” go do a Google search and it will go more in-depth than I can get in describing it. The Ejido land is chartered by Gregorio Mendez Magana and is protected.
41 years ago Sebastian Hernadez Jimenez, Doriando Sanchez’s father, was granted the charter and the Ejido land that came with it, because they are ethnic full Maya. So at 21 years of age Sebastion Jimenez, who was the oldest son and member of his family, his father had died young, brought his mother and his 9 younger brothers to live there and farm the land.
He also brought cousins, nieces and nephews, and other relatives with him from an area near Tabasco. They settled the area, planted crops and the village now has 54 families living there, all related in some way. The village has excellent farmland with a lot of water, great for growing pineapples, habanero peppers, and many other cash crops. Everybody in the village farms, raise pigs, chickens, and all of them are expert farmers, and have been doing it their whole life.
The problem is there is not enough money for the families to live in this village. Every year one male member of each of the families in the village goes to the USA, gets a job farming, and sends money home back to his family, so they can survive. This has been going on for years, they don’t want to go to the USA to work, but they have to. Almost every male member in the Ejido has done this and some return time and time and time again. And as you may have figured out they do this illegally, and sneak back and forth across the border. It is the only way for them to survive in their village, and almost everybody in the village speaks English. Some of them will spend 5 to 10 years in the USA and send money home to their families the whole time.
Sebastion Jimenez, the leader of the Ejido, has spent over 20 years in the USA farming in North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, and at 64 has farmed his whole life and is an expert in all areas of farming. I was told by him that Mexicans that come to the USA do not come from the big cities, they come from the little farming villages in Mexico. He as leader of his Ejido wants to develop the land in the Ejido, so his people do not have to go to the USA to find work, but can farm their own land and come back to Mexico.
The land in the Ejido has never been developed or farmed on a large scale. The village has over 136 hectares sitting dormant. The land is excellent farmland with water and lots of hardwoods on the property, including mahogany. There is also an unexplored Mayan ruin on the land, that is registered with the Mexican government, but has never been excavated. There are jaguars, parrots, howler and spider monkeys, peacocks, iguanas, and lots of other wildlife and fauna throughout the Ejido. There is also enough water to raise livestock.
Right now the Mexican government is pushing to increase pineapple and habanero pepper production to meet the growing tourist market in Quintana Roo. Simply put, they need more pineapple production here, and are offering incentives to Ejido farmers to increase production. For instance if you plant $10,000 USD worth of pineapples, the government will give you $5,000 USD to plant more and help subsidize production. At today’s prices, if you harvest in a hectare $10,000 USD worth of planted pineapples the yield will be around $60,000-$70,000 USD per hectare. And the yield on habanero peppers is even higher.
The Ejido land there is perfect for pineapple production, but the start up costs are high for the seedlings. After the initial harvest the seedlings will be replanted, so the first time costs are high. Also what I find very interesting is the whole labor force is experienced and intact in the village, and they make about 200 pesos a day farming pineapple, so the labor costs are not too high.
So I have decided that I am going to see if I can help this Ejido land get some foreign investment from either some blog readers or contact some people I know myself. I think it would a very good investment and it would help a Maya village. If you are interested and would like some more information, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I have already talked to 3 or 4 people and they are very interested. I was thinking of starting out at $10,000 USD to plant one hectare, which with the Ejido subsidies will be enough to plant 2 hectares.
I also plan to get some help and excavate the Mayan ruin on the land. I thought it might be fun to play “Indiana Jones” for a while. I think I have stumbled on a very interesting and profitable venture. I always wanted to be a farmer also, I got me my own hectare put aside for me, trying to think up a name for it.
Thanks for reading,
Stewart Rogers USA-South Carolina
Editors note: I have since this blog came out been informed by my Maya expert frend in Merida, Odalis Castro, that my use of “Mayan” village was wrong, so I have corrected. It is Maya man, Maya art, and so forth. She must know because that is what she studied at the university, and I think is writing her thesis on Mayas.