On April 29, the Himalayan Institute Mexico held its Gran Apertura—Grand Opening—event. The day was joyous, as the HIM team celebrated the unveiling of nine months of hard work and the community was first able to directly participate in HIM activities.
The day began in the auditorium of the Jonotla City Hall, where over 600 guests attended a breakfast sponsored by the Himalayan Institute. The breakfast was a way of thanking the local community for their support in helping HIM start its work in Jonotla, as well as a means of formally introducing the organization to a large audience.
Guests arriving to the breakfast.
Students from the local junior high and high school, gardening club, and university were present with their teachers, along with local farmers, women’s organizations, leaders of agricultural groups from surrounding towns, and members of the general public.
A Jonotla-based women’s cooperative, the Women of Tosepan, sat front and center. This year their cooperative received an award for entrepreneurship in the zone.
Everyone who attended enjoyed a delicious breakfast of black beans, spicy Mexican-style eggs with vegetables, red rice, fresh tortillas and coffee. The meal was prepared and served by a local restaurant.
Before being served breakfast, guests mingled with one another, read informational brochures about the Himalayan Institute Mexico and its mission in Jonotla, and met with HIM staff, while Huapango music (the folk music of the zone) played over loud speakers. The event officially began with a welcome from a member of the Jonotla City Council, followed by a speech from Jonotla Mayor Profesora Teresa Arriaga Mora.
In her speech, she reminded guests that organic agriculture is not a radical new method of farming, but rather consists of the very techniques used by our grandparents. HIM’s work in Jonotla is an opportunity for farmers to return to safer, more sustainable agricultural practices. She also asked that members of the community freely share their knowledge and experience with the HIM staff so that HIM may also benefit from learning the traditional methods, uses of local plants, and about the culture of the zone.
The mayor of Jonotla, known affectionately as La Maestra (the teacher), has been a huge supporter of Himalayan Institute Mexico from the first scouting visits to the Sierra Norte.
Next, HIM Deputy Managing Director John Daskovsky took the microphone to provide some information about the parent organization, the Himalayan Institute, and its work dedicated to holistic health and sustainable living. There was applause from the audience as he said, “We must work together, so that when you pass your land on to your children, you can say, ‘This land is even better than when I received it. It is some of the most healthy, fertile land in all of Mexico.’”
HIM General Manager, Geovanni Beristain, translated John's message into Spanish. However, to begin the speech John thanked the community for their support and introduced himself in Spanish, receiving cheers from the audience.
Geovanni describes the origins of Himalayan Institute Mexico and its goals for helping establish organic farming in Jonotla and surrounding communities.
Former mayor of Puebla city, co-founder of Earth Bio Energies, a biofuel development company, and friend to the Himalayan Institute Mexico, Gabriel Hinojosa provided closing remarks. He first introduced the town of Jonotla to Pandit Rajmani Tigunait during an early scouting trip by the Himalayan Institute. Gabriel praised the open-mindedness of the people of Jonotla for learning about new opportunities, which is why he recommended Jonotla as the site for HIM’s first project.
After the breakfast and speeches, over 150 people walked down to the Himalayan Institute Mexico community center for further information and a tour of the Demonstration Farm.
Geovanni details further information about the work that HIM will be doing in Jonotla to the first wave of visitors.
Large color posters on the walls in the Community Center introduce visitors to the Himalayan Institute’s global humanitarian projects.
The posters not only give a better picture of the Himalayan Institute and its work, but provide a sense of connection between the local work in Jonotla with communities and projects around the world.
School children examine a map of the HIM Demonstration Farm.
After exploring the community center, visitors walked the short distance to the Demonstration Farm where Energy Farming Program Leader Ariszandy Calderon Diaz described the long-term vision for the land.
Ariszandy explains how the organic Demonstration Farm will incorporate many different techniques for use in teaching the community about composting, terracing, intercropping, and other methods to improve their own farms and gardens.
The entire Demonstration Farm is intended to model and explain sustainable concepts. The meeting shelter has gutters made from PVC pipes that will be used for directing rainwater into a storage tank for irrigation on the farm.
After Ariszandy’s introduction, visitors walked around the Demonstration Farm to examine the first structures in place on the land, the shadehouse and compost bin.
The mayor (far right) came for the tour.
While Ariszandy describes what types of composting will be used here…
…a group of farmers investigate the compost bin for themselves.
In the shadehouse, Ariszandy talked about what types of plants—medicinal, vegetables, biofuels, and local cash crops like coffee—will be nursed here.
After the official tour was complete, many visitors stuck around to chat with one another and ask more questions about the Himalayan Institute Mexico.
Liz Hinojosa, friend and supporter of HIM, admires the Demonstration Farm entrance gate, the work of a local craftsman.
The Himalayan Institute Mexico team at the end of a long and satisfying Grand Opening day. John Daskovsky, Amanda Masters, Geovanni Beristain and Ariszandy Calderon Diaz.