"Pulvo de Agua', an association of Mixteca artisans began in 1999 initiated
by Jose Luis Garcia, a Mixteca Indian himself and a well-known muralist. I
met all eight members of the association living in San Miguel Tequixtepec
and 35 more in Suctrixlahuaca, located 30 minutes away. All are palm straw
weavers, the great majority women. Some members are carpenters and potters,
but I did not get to meet them. The artisans I met used to weave straw hats,
made from palm and plastic fiber which paid very, very little -- about .25
cents per hat !
Jose Luis encouraged them to try new designs. He helped them work out how to
make straw mats that could be used for interior decoration and sold to the
more affluent living in Oaxaca city. He organized an exhibit for them inside
the historic museum 'Casa de la Cuidad' which opened the day of my arrival.
It was quite by accident how Jose Luis discovered solar cooking. Lorena, our
HotPotTM Initiative coordinator in Oaxaca gave HotPot demonstration inside a
café-bookstore where Jose Luis was completing a mural. She invited him to
come taste some of the food. He was impressed and quickly saw the benefits
of this technology. He arranged for Lorena to give a demonstration to
members of the artisan association and I was fortunate enough to be there to
The sun shines abundantly in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico's most densely
populated area, where the largest number of indigenous people live. There is
a continuing drought due to the uncontrolled deforestation that has taken
place during the last 50 years. A prior government sold large parts of the
forest off which caused most of the problem, but the fact that the rural and
peri-urban populations prefer to cook beans and tortillas with firewood
Bottled gas (LPG)is available and many use it too, but there are constant
price increases. Firewood used to be free, provided you would cut it down
and carry it home, but in most towns around Oaxaca city, it's no longer free
and the price is increases every few months. Sunshine is the fuel used to
power solar ovens -- it is FREE !
Lorena and I set up two HotPots in Tequixtepec and two in Suctrixlahuaca and
showed the artisans how they work. One contained chicken stew, the other
rice. Once the food was in the pots and the reflectors were oriented to
catch the sun's rays, the artisans could go weave because solar cooked food
does not need to be attended to, it will not burn. The HotPot works a lot
like a slow cooker and can be used to bake, stew and braze, but it cannot be
used to fry or to make tortillas. It's not necessary to add water or oil
when cooking meats and vegetables or hard-baking eggs; it can be used to
Jose Luis joined us when the food was done. He encouraged the artisans to
consider buying a HotPot and to stop cutting down trees; explaining that no
longer finding palm fiber nearby is due to the lack of rain. The artisans
were swayed by his word, more than ours, being the founder of their
When we left he said he would return next week with payment from the sales
of their palm straw rugs that had all sold at the exhibit; then he added
that each artisans should invest in buying a HotPot, that he'd add a
percentage from the association as a subsidy.
We returned a week later with a HotPot for every artisan, each paid $20!
Lorena followed up with a training workshop.