The “New Normal” and Oaxaca’s Perfect Summer Weather 

Mary Jane birdwatching at Lago Leveche – with water!

Dear Friends and Family,

 

From Oaxaca, this is the 4th of my “pandemic” updates.
The “New Normal” and Oaxaca’s Perfect Summer Weather
 
August 13, 2020
The New Normal
Oaxaca is proving it can bend the curve of infection significantly downwards and what supports this success is massive adhering to protocol. Everyone has masks on in public places. People even wear masks when they don’t need to: farmers driving their horse carts, cyclists on quiet back roads, I’ve had to tell Gregorio to take it off when he’s working alone at the ranch. Hand-washing stations are common outside of restaurants and entry is denied if not wearing a mask. Seating is complying with safe distance measures.
It’s common to have your temperature taken on the wrist before entering stores, banks and, of course, buses and airports. Still, only one person per family or group is allowed in big stores like Home Depot and Soriana. Safe distance, sanitizing and small gatherings are becoming readily accepted, even welcomed.
American ex-pat Bobby O’Malley, escaped to Oaxaca from the humid heat of Puerto Vallarta and rented a bungalow at Casa Murguia. “I saw a policewoman today stop two women not wearing masks. She then gave them each a mask”. “I am really impressed at the vast amount of people wearing masks here. So much better than Vallarta.” “Oaxaca is so clean! No trash anywhere”
To date, there are still no cases in Rojas de Cuauhtemoc, the small village that is home to Rancho  Pitaya.
There has been a gradual influx of guests to both Casa Murguia and Rancho Pitaya – mostly expats: Americans retirees, French coffee exporter and, most recently, a lovely German – Colombian family living in CDMX who spent a week at the ranch: riding, relaxing and uncrowded sightseeing.
Mexico is among Air Canada’s authorized destinations as of last week. That’s gotta say something about the situation here. Click for more info.
New Video
Horseback Mexico is very excited to present our first riding video featuring drone footage of  Mary Jane, Gabriel and Tess Plein riding in the spectacular lands surrounding Rancho Pitaya.  Filmed by Pedro Gonzalez Montezuma. Photos by Diego Aquino Edited by Gabriel Mendoza Gagnier.The horses are Newest Style, Midnight and Piquin.
La Mano Magica Reopens
Gabriel reopened Galería La Mano Magica to the public on August 3rd after four months. In that time he renovated the interior with clean lines and crisp color. His team at La Mano Magíca has become expert packers and ship through reliable Fed Ex all over the world. Here’s a look at the great art available for purchase.August Art Catalogue  Contact Gabriel via WhatsApp 52-951-199-7026 or  galeriamanomagica@gmail.com
Great Weather
I can’t brag enough about summer weather in Oaxaca – such an under-appreciated attraction. High’s this week of 24 – 27 Cº, nights 14 – 16 Cº  with occasional chance of rain in the late afternoon.  Stunning sunsets a given and rainbows are common.
Travel and Travelers 
In mid-July, avid horsewoman, Cathy Molloy braved flying and took the Volaris non-stop Tijuana – Oaxaca flight. “It was a piece cake”, I paraphrase her comments. The San Diego – Tijuana airport walkway is a brilliant, streamlined means of crossing the border. It seems the airlines and airports have fine-turned travel protocol.
At the end of July,  I picked up, at the Oaxaca airport, the recently-graduated landscape architect, Iris Van Der Driel of the Netherlands. Iris had bounced around several continents since the outbreak of the pandemic. In March she found herself in an Amazonian catch-22 between Brazil, Peru and Colombia but managed to secure flights to San Francisco where her brother lives. She spent the spring volunteering at a riding stable in Santa Rosa.  Iris, after self-quarantining at Casa Murguia, moved to the ranch where she helps me with horse training. This week she’s been “bomb-proofing” the younger horses to umbrellas and crunchy dog food sacks; this is a process of desensitizing horses to potentially scary objects and sounds.
Local Adventure
My biggest adventure in the last month was revisiting the mesa to the northeast of the Zapotec ruins of Yagul. Cathy Molloy, of the Volaris flight, took advantage of the Summer Riding Week Super Special, and I decided to make this the destination on her last day of riding.
We parked the horse trailer at the Hacienda of San Jose Soriano, nestled for centuries in the shade of the Yagul escapement. She mounted my Arab stallion Fernandez and I rode my senior dandy Centurion, now 24 and peeling back the years. The hacienda is AKA San Jose Park having recently added a professional Quarter Horse Racing facility. As my horses passed the opening gates and picked up a trot, I reminded Cathy she was riding a former racehorse. Of course, my “Cary Grant” was nothing but a gentleman!
On the valley floor we cantered past countless plantations of Espadín and Aroqueño agaves.  Whole slopes were planted with the small, lacy Tobalá and for the first time I saw a plantation of the gigantic, slow-maturing Tepextate species. There is no question – the global explosion of mezcal has not in the least slowed down.
After several years of hiatus, it was my instinct that led us to the head of the old, once-cobbled camino that snakes upwards to the mesa proper. Barrel and bearded Viejo cacti, Tepextate and Coyote agaves, and native oaks all speak of the conservation practices of the participating communities. Fernandez was the first to notice the two white-tailed deer bounding up the undisturbed hills on the edge of the mesa. We flushed a pair a hefty jackrabbits that tore across the grassy plains.
The terrain changed abruptly to chiseled gullies – eons of erosion, and a stream-crossing lay ahead blanketed in magical milky waters. Here the Rio Salado is born and it was on this mesa that archeologists found squash seeds in cave dwellings. This was were nascent civilization emerged in Meso-America about 8,000 B.C. and squash, not corn, was the first seed ever planted.
Accompanied by the babbling white waters of the Rio Salado, we rode a once-broad trail that oozed with age. The feeling was bucolic, the vegetation neatly groomed and to no wonder, as ahead a small herd of cattle grazed under their shepherd’s watch. Signage invited visitors to engage in eco-tourism activities like birdwatching and hiking but strictly prohibited removing the native flora or making loud noises. From arrival at the hacienda to our final canter past a reservoir, the day spoke of sustainability and responsible land management.
I am reading “Lost Woods”, the discovered writings of Rachel Carson, author of “Silent Spring”, 1962. What a visionary! What an ecological maverick! In these times of contemplation, her evocative and lyrical prose resonate with me at soulful place within. Carson would have approved of the sustainable agriculture practiced by the dairy farmers of Rojas – riding their horse-drawn carts and cutting fresh alfalfa for their cows. I hope her spirit can see Oaxaca’s great tracks of communal lands: whole, preserved, collectively owned. I am consciously grateful to BE HERE NOW.
I hope to see you before too long. Don’t despair, embrace the New Normal and get out and live.
As the hummingbirds sip sweet nectar from their feeders and the setting sun illuminates the view to the east, I send you all the good vibes I’m feeling. 
 
Mary Jane
For national and state updates on the COVID-19 situation in Mexico.