Getting to know the Seri People

I clearly remember when I was a kid that my parents were always into indigenous spiritual ceremonies. Their way of connecting with a higher power and with their inner selves was by doing sweat lodges (temazcales), by fasting for days alone on a mountain, by attending sun dances in the middle of forests, and other similar activities. Being a kid, it was fun to get out into Nature so frequently and watch my parents blissfully enjoy these experiences. Later on, as a teenager, it stopped being as fun due to the fact that my schoolmates and friends would pick on me saying that my parents were hippies who were pulling off some sort of weird wizardry or black magic. Still, these experiences became the core of my upbringing and of very valuable personal lessons for me as I grew up (allegedly) into an adult.

One of the most representative personifications of these indigenous and spiritual experiences in my life is don Francisco Barnett, more commonly known as El Chapito. El Chapito is the medicine man of Punta Chueca, one of the two main settlements of the Seri People on the coast of the Sonoran Desert in northwestern Mexico. Punta Chueca is a very small town with a privileged location on the edge of the strait of sea water that lies between la Isla del Tiburón (the largest island in all of the country) and the Mexican mainland. The stunning views and sunsets, along with the deep blue waters and the maritime saline scents, make this tiny place a particularly beautiful and magical one.

El Chapito with my Mom.

El Chapito with my Mom.

Back to the subject of don Chapo, this wise sage formed a special bond with my Mother and became a sort of fatherly spiritual mentor for her. Because of this, Chapito would regularly visit my family in our house and would even spend nights with us when he was in transit or when he was to travel to other places. This happened quite frequently because Chapito is a guardian of the spiritual traditions and culture of his people, and thus he was constantly invited to events and conferences in Europe and all over the world that had to do with these matters. Chapito is also very well-known for his musical chants in his native language Comca’ac.

Francisco Barnett, “el Chapito”. Photo credit: Wikipedia.

Francisco Barnett, “el Chapito”. Photo credit: Wikipedia.

As a boy I was afraid of Chapito, with his solemn face and the timeless wrinkles on his dark skin. As a teenager, I was annoyed that this peculiar man was sleeping under my same roof. As an adult, I now feel privileged of knowing this man, of having had the opportunity to be close to him and thus learn from him, and also of being able to now tell the world about who he is and of the enchanting culture of his people, the Seris.

This is why I know the Seri People well and the reason why I’m close to them. With my Mom I visited Punta Chueca on numerous occasions, and I was also a witness of how she would regularly try to gather donations of food, used clothes and money from people in her social circles, so that she could then take these resources to the Seris and thus help alleviate their notorious poverty. Punta Chueca is a place that has been forgotten by the urban society of Hermosillo, the state capital. For income, they depend on fishing, the sale of their crafts and tourists (many of them Americans and Europeans) who visit Bahía de Kino and the Sea of Cortés. These economic activities fluctuate sometimes violently along the course of the year, leaving the Seris at the mercy of frequent downturns.

Punta Chueca, a beautiful place forgotten by modern man.

Punta Chueca, a beautiful place forgotten by modern man.

All of this does not take away the great value present in Comca’ac (their original name) culture. Their crafts are made with unique style and a high level of artistic complexity. Their music and their language are ancestral treasures that should be preserved for future generations to witness. Their knowledge in herbalism and their ability to see the desert as their own gigantic pharmacy and to use the endemic plants to treat all sorts of sickness and human ills is an impressive art that we could all use more. The harmonious ties they have crafted between themselves the natural ecosystem around them should be a case study and should be replicated more by other modern civilizations around the world. The problem is that the world is unaware of the existence and magic of the Seri People and for this reason they remain oblivious to the fact that they could potentially get to know this special group of people and help support them.

Seri crafts. Photo credit: Sonora Turismo.

Seri crafts. Photo credit: Sonora Turismo.

This is why it makes total sense that the first big adventure we will be putting together for Aire Libre will be undertaken in close proximity with the Seri People. The first prototype, Proyecto Sonora (AL-01), as we have called it, is a 90 kilometer run through the heart of Seri territories. It is a path lined with breathtaking desert and ocean views, but not only will we seek to run through a beautiful location, but also to generate awareness of the Seri People’s situation of marginalization and abject poverty. We do this because we want to help support the Seris and their communities in any way we can. We want more people around the world to get to know this unique culture and for more people to be willing to support them.

Seri women among giant sahuaro cactus. Photo credit: josedelrio.com

Seri women among giant sahuaro cactus. Photo credit: josedelrio.com

We now present you with the opportunity to help the Seris directly through our Aire Libre initiatives. We will be sure to take these much needed resources to the Seri People when we go on our ultra-run this upcoming Monday, December 21st. We have already put together a decent amount of donations, but they aren’t nearly enough. Here’s how you can contribute to this cause:

  • Donations of used clothes in good condition are always welcome. If you can ship the clothes to Ignacio Romero 29-A, colonia Valle Hermoso, Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico 83209, that would be ideal.
  • Seris could also use food. It’s difficult for you to ship food to us, so our recommendation is that you transfer or deposit money for food in the bank account we share below. We will be sure to use the money to buy food in Hermosillo and then take it by car to the Seris.
  • Seris would also appreciate cash donations for physical improvements in their settlements and houses, for buying fishing equipment or any other tools for more income generation, for buying medicines and for paying for doctors for the sick, etc. Here’s the bank account information for cash donations (it is very important that you label the money transfer as “DONATION” when you do so):
  • Name: Colectivo Glaciar SA de CV
    Bank: Santander
    Account number: 6550382851–8
    Transfer number (Mexican format): 014180655038285187
    If more information is needed for international transfers, please send us an email to airelibre.run@gmail.com
  • You can also transfer money to us using PayPal (click on this link).

The Seris are a people who should be preserved for the treasures present in their heritage and culture. Proyecto Sonora (AL-01) was conceived to be an intense and powerful feat in physical endurance, but at the same time it should also aim to become a channel that more people can use to support communities in need like the Seris. It is a simple and direct way of supporting people who genuinely need it in these upcoming Holiday celebrations. The satisfaction that comes to us from helping others in need will end up being priceless and unmatched.

The desert landscape of the Sonoran Coast. This is where the Seri People live. Photo credit: Virginia Morato.

The desert landscape of the Sonoran Coast. This is where the Seri People live. Photo credit: Virginia Morato.