Hiking up the steep, crumbly hills covered in cactii, wearing sandals may not have seemed like the best idea in hindsight, but it was all I had on this cloudy February morning. I paused to pick some cactus needles out of my sandals as I proceeded up the incline. We were following Don Manuel, a member of the Comcaac community of Desomboque, where we visited for our staff camping retreat. He was taking us on a journey to find the Boojum tree, which only grows in Baja California and this part of the mountain range in Sonora.
This rare tree looks like something out of a Dr. Seuss novel. They have large upright trunks with small branches popping out all over like a real-life lollipop tree. They are named “Cirios” in Spanish, for they resemble the shape of church bells. At last, we encounter several of these individuals.
Superstition follows that touching a Boojum tree will cause a storm, and sure enough we got rained on hiking into a valley covered with quartz. Though I collected my fair share of clear crystals, I got soaked while waiting for the boat to take us back to Kino Bay.
The main purpose of our journey was to facilitate a screening of the documentary, Patrimonio (Heritage), for the community in Desemboque. The movie tells the story of a community of fishermen who fight for the rights to their beaches against a large development firm. The director and one of the protagonists visited us in Kino the weekend prior, where they shared their experiences and discussed social justice issues. We took them on a tour of the islands around the Gulf, seeing dolphins and many blue-footed boobies flying about.
A large sea turtle lets out a deep sigh as she moves her flippers frantically about, trying to slide back off the boat into the ocean. She is caught as a part of a sea turtle monitoring program run by Grupo Tortuguero, one of the community groups here in the Gulf focused on sea turtle conservation. Our boats collide just as they take the turtle out of the large net and into the boat, where I have the chance to see her up close. Her face is covered with barnacles, of which this kind are only found on sea turtles.
We take the sea turtle to the shore of Laguna la Crusz where Comcaac community youth are waiting for the demonstration. The boat captain weighs and takes measurements of the turtle and conducts an overall health assessment. Finally, she is released back into the ocean, where she quickly swims off after struggling about on land for so long.
Afterwards, we walk along the mangroves of Laguna la Cruz to a restaurant, where oysters are caught fresh from the water. I enjoy them with several other kinds of seafood in a kind of cocktail with tomatoes and cucumbers. Then we shuck cayo, a kind of clam, for a bit and I slurp down the smooth insides with hotsauce and lime. The seafood is fresh from the lagoon and the minimal pollution makes it safe to eat. As long as pollution and coastal development is minimized and oysters are harvested sustainably, these delicacies can be enjoyed long into the future.