• 05/04/22
  • WORDS BY Matt Costa
  • PHOTOS BY Dylan Gordon

Donde Los Terremotos

Excerpts from our newest film

It is said that the earth quakes in the metropolis of Oaxaca because the gods are trying to take back what nature owns. A Spanish mission rests in the evening center of the city. Red, green, and white flags are strung from buildings across avenues. Bats fly under street lamps as the stone walls rise into the Mexican night. The large wooden doors of the mission begin to rattle like thunder in the distance, it is a tremor. People slowly enter the street from businesses and restaurants; they wait patiently in the road for the Earth to settle. After one minute the ground is still, street lamps are swaying but the rattling doors of the mission are silent. After twenty minutes people casually and gradually re-enter the buildings. No one speaks of the disturbance. Waiters are now rushing between tables. Store clerks are back behind their registers. A woman files through textiles in a dress shop. The gods have spared Oaxaca this evening.

In the marketplace during the day aisles are crowded shoulder to shoulder.

Vendors selling machetes, pottery, and elaborate woven garments fill the tents. Further into the labyrinth there are endless leather shoes and sandals, followed by rows of butchers, and tucked in a back corner an herbal pharmacy. Bags of roots, leaves, and stems, claim a cure for every ailment possible. Candles are lit below altars of saints and serpents. An incense for all occasions mingle together in a deities delight of scent, but one must know how to use these properly and always with the upmost respect.

The city is a place for social sounds, walls speak in Oaxaca. Murals and pasted political posters call out social injustices as paint mix with blood. A guitarist sounding from a mezcaleria belts out countryside songs as an evening storm encroaches. Move closer and peer in the doorway to see single church pews along each side wall. Step inside and notice behind the bar jars of mezcal with rattlesnakes and flora to fortify the classic fluid. As the rain falls harder people talk louder, the music gets louder, and the dancing starts. Finding a few fiending patrons, a young boy sits in the corner waiting out the storm with his tray of cigarettes and gum.

If one ventures to the north of the state the urban sprawl dwindles quickly.

Buzzards rest by the dozen on cactus, their ominous wingspread where the countryside opens up. Three hours of driving the roads wind and ascend into one lane highways overlooking steep cliffs . Landslides of giant fallen rock clutter the road every 10 miles. After six hours you may reach Huautla; the home of deceased shamaness Maria Sabina. Maria’s home is now inhabited by her surviving son and grandson. These shamans are the gatekeepers to the Sacred Mountain.

The prayers of Maria Sabina, to be accompanied by mushroom ceremony, are prayers of healing. They are a mixture of Mother Goddess Earth and the Christian Saints. Sabina’s Spirit takes the form of an eagle; it’s high viewpoint can see all. On the Sacred Mountain one does not need Hongos (Psilocybin Mushrooms) to know the power of the earth, feel it in the trees, or see it in the wind. Here, the soil is dark and rich and the night sky is expansive. There is a portal of healing to open; if one has respect for themselves they will heal.

It is the connection between consciousness and earth that Oaxaca keeps. In a time of ephemeral pleasures and escapism, one could visit with the intention of escaping temporarily. But if one wishes to climb their own Sacred Mountain, one may if only for an instant, have the eyes of an eagle, see life and death weave patterns in the night sky, or be reborn from Mother Earth and know whatever burden we carry is only another mountain to climb.