Buffalo Mozzarella, Giant Milk Cans, and Broccoli…..
We never know what adventures each day of painting holds….about 40 minutes north of San Miguel are vast farms of broccoli, other food crops, and industrial size dairy farms. Always we are searching for the next best capilla to paint…but traveling along the bumpy back roads this Friday we spotted a huge (at least 3 or 4 stories tall) replica of an old-fashioned galvanized milk can and then enclosures with hundreds of Holstein cows. In Mexico, the predominant breeds used for dairy production are Holstein, Friesian and American Brown Swiss.
But wait….the calves in one pen looked odd??? A very strange color…sort of a metallic black without any white. (Adults were more brown-black but without white markings….not Holsteins.) We turned around and looked more closely…hundreds of buffalo. Buffalo mozzarella on the hoof! And the giant replicas of the old-fashioned galvanized milk can, we think, are silos.
When the Spaniards began to settle in this region in the mid to late-1500’s cattle ranching was the most successful business endeavor after mining. Much of the state of Guanajuato has a very long history of cattle ranching (dairy and beef) and currently ranks 5th in milk production in Mexico.
WARNING: More than you ever wanted to know about broccoli farming in Guanajuato in the next two paragraphs.
In addition to the impressively large dairy farms, there were huge fields of food crops stretching as far as we could see. A lot of crops can be grown in this region….corn, sorghum, wheat, beans, barley, and broccoli. Mostly we saw fields of broccoli….many of them being harvested. Guanajuato state has become the leading exporter of broccoli in Mexico. It was responsible for over 70% of shipments from Mexico to the United States in 2014. Broccoli harvesting in Guanajuato is different than the practices typically seen in California and Arizona. The broccoli is harvested by hand and carried using special backpacks because during the rainy season, which is now, the ground can get muddy, making it hard for equipment to be used in the fields.
Agriculture is the biggest productive activity in the state of Guanajuato and is responsible for most of the water consumption…up to 87% by some estimates. I ran across an intriguing master’s thesis on the internet titled: “Drip-irrigation use in Northern Guanajuato, Mexico: An evaluation in the broccoli production sector.” ¹ The farms included in this research project were very close (almost adjacent) to where we were this week. The rationale for drip irrigation has always been to save water, but the researcher found that all the farmers considered fertigation ( the injection of fertilizers, soil amendments, water amendments and other water-soluble products into an irrigation system) and a reduction in manual labor the most important benefits of drip irrigation. All used more than their legally allotted amount of water, frequently over-watered and stated that if they didn’t use the water their neighbors would.
I guess the land use in this area is interesting to me because most of our painting excursions have been to the small rural communities that are ejidos where land use is very different. But I digress….back to the focus on capillas.
Because of the ongoing rains which can make the backroads impassable, I had plotted for us an exploration of three small communities north of Los Rodriguez which would take us on mostly paved roads. As we passed through Los Rodriguez we admired the two large churches next to the main road and remarked that we could always paint one of them if the capillas in the three small communities proved uninteresting.
As it turned out, the dairy farms and huge fields of workers harvesting broccoli were more interesting to us than the three capillas we found, so we did in fact return to Los Rodriguez and situated ourselves across the busy highway from the two churches.
The church used by the community of Los Rodriguez is actually a Parroquia which, in Mexico, usually means there is a resident priest. A plaque identifies it as the Parroquia de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe finished on July 26, 1874.
The smaller church which we both painted not more than a few yards away from the much larger Parroquia has been abandoned. People who walked by and chatted with us as we painted suggested that the smaller church was at least 300 years old. The owner apparently cannot find anyone interested in restoring this lovely old church known as Oratorio de Nuestra Señora del Refugio and its only visitors are innumerable birds. Only the entry door is visible through locked gates hiding the remarkable paintings on the interior walls mentioned by several passersby.
As you can tell we painted from different places along the highway…but, yes, it is the same Oratorio and, yes, there is a giant inflatable doctor in front of one of the arches. I didn’t make it up. I particularly liked the difference between the two towers. Even the bricks used were different.
¹“Drip-irrigation use in Northern Guanajuato, Mexico: An evaluation in the broccoli production sector.” Master thesis Water Resources Management submitted in partial fulfillment of the degree of Master of Science in International Land and Water Management at Wageningen University, the Netherlands. 2017 Ludwig Maria Löffler-Dauth.
Los Rodriguez: Population, 2773; Elevation, 2003 meters; Dwellings, 889.
La Medina: Population, 257; Elevation, 1991; Dwellings, 64
La Perla de Chipilo: Population, 60; Elevation, 1994 meters; Dwellings, 20; Founded 1963. Thumbnail of capilla.
San Martin del Paredón: Population, 733; Elevation , 1997; Dwellings, 189. Thumbnail of capilla.
© Lorie Topinka 2018 All Rights Reserved