Growing up in Mexico, weed was a general overarching topic of discussion. Some hated it, others feared it, I just simply did not understand it. Honestly, at the young age of 15 I was simply curious. So, I did what I do best, I convinced my parents that it was a good idea and, together with three friends from school, went to explore the misty mountains of Oaxaca.
Some days later, in the late summer of 2005, we reached Oaxaca city at the base of the Sierra Madre mountain range. In that moment, the city was undergoing an aggressive overtake by the state’s teacher union, which meant our stay would be brief and interesting. We bought mezcal and left the tent-covered city on a van speeding through the windy and guard-rail-free road to the Pacific. And through a benevolent act of God, we arrived safely in San Jose del Pacifico.
We checked into some wooden cabins, up the hill from where the van left us. The owner was very friendly and offered us grass and some food. “Just 50 dollars worth of mota,” we naively said. He came back with more pot than I had ever seen in my life (and likely ever will see again). It grew naturally in his lands and he had simply cultivated a few branches for us. It wasn’t very strong, but we must have smoked quite bit as we ended up looking for traces of Maria Sabina.
We were told to go further up the hill to meet a local healer, Doña Cata, a 70-something year old woman living in a hippie mountain community. Upon arriving we were greeted with joints and some home cooked mushrooms – which we initially did not want, thinking that they could be magical. Her French helper told us of Doña Cata and how she had left her native Spain to travel through Mexico. Upon reaching Oaxaca, she realized there was nowhere else for her and never went back. She told us our fortunes and in her presence, we sang to the tunes of a guitar and some bongos and listened to stories from the mouths of seasoned travellers.
After a few hours, we decided to get back to the cabin and spend the night admiring the stars and our strange existential thoughts. The next day we left to the beach…towards beautiful Mazunte.
And the rest is history.
Now, I dedicate this playlist to those moments of confused bliss 🙂 and welcome recommendations
Riding our city bikes, or Ecobicis as they are known in Mexico City, on our way to our favorite movie theater (a run-down theater on the grandious Reforma avenue), we noticed monsters standing around majestically on the broad side-walks. Alebrijes, visiting us from another reality, in which man and woman are the most boring of creatures.
My wife was able to capture some of them before they vanished a week later. These monsters, birthed through hand and paper, glue and magic, are testaments to the artistic vigor that lives and thrives from the highlands of Oaxaca to the deserts of Sonora.
Beware not to stare too long; it is said that staring too long into the eyes of Alebrijes will summon them at night.
Alebrije (Deep Space Fish) – Nastia Baila, 2015
Alebrije (Jaguar Lizard Dragon) – Nastia Baila, 2015
Alebrije (Alien Unicorn Deer ) – Nastia Baila, 2015
Alebrije (Selfie Lizard Woman) – Nastia Baila, 2015
Sunset Lover- Petit Biscuit
Here’s another artist that you’ll be glad you know. This 16-year old kid, if I may call him that, comes to us from the rain-ridden, magical land of northern France. Mehdi Benjelloun, AKA Petit Biscuit, has been blessing us with singles since 2014, and this one here is part of his latest collection of creations, also called Petit Biscuit.
No doubt the title and the sound will remind many of their own summer nights, staring out at the horizon, as our unquenchable sun leaves us in a moment of wonder and awe. It reminds me of the powerful forces lurking all around us, both above and beneath our feet; forces that neither sleep nor stay awake, but are more alive than any of us will ever be.
A perfect prelude for the following two photographs.
Tochimilco, Mexico – Nastia Baila, 2014
Taken at the foot of the Popocatéptl volcano, on a three-day trip, visiting rural communities during their Day of the Dead celebrations.
Sunwapta Lake, Canada – Nastia Baila, 2016
Taken at the foot of the Athabasca Glacier, on a five-day road trip through the Canadian Rocky Mountains.
The geologists in the crowd will notice that these photographs are instant captures of processes that given enough time (be it millions of years or a few decades) can alter the world as we know it. Can you spot these traces of history, these authors of our destiny?