A Brief History of Continental Bioregional Meetings by Joyce Marshall (from North Texas Bioregional Newsletter) a Context given for the final plenary at the meeting in Mexico, 1996.
In 1984, the first North American Bioregional Congress was held in Missouri (congress meaning “true governance.) At that meeting we decided to use consensus decision-making and began to identify ourselves relative to our human relationship to the earth and to one another. These decisions have been documented in printed proceedings from each gathering. We have met every two years (up to 1996). 1984 Missouri USA 1986 Michigan USA 1988 British Columbia, Canada 1990 Maine USA 1992 Texas USA 1994 Kentucky USA 1996 Morelos Mexico.
We changed our name to Turtle Island Bioregional Congress in 1990 then to Turtle Island Bioregional Gathering in 1992.
Bioregionalism was introduced to Mexico along the way by Peter Berg and David Haenke, and in 1988, Mexican bioregionalists began to attend these gatherings. In 1992 we began translating everything into Spanish.
In 1994, the Turtle Island Bioregional Gathering accepted the invitation to come to Mexico for the VII gathering in combination with the Mexico Consejo de Visiones, creating as well the First Bioregional Council of the Americas.
In between gatherings the volunteer staffed Turtle Island Office and a self-selected vision council keep needed connections going. This office and this group have administered decisons of the Gathering. Whoever shows up at the Gathering are the ones who discuss and make the decisions. Our agreement is that those decisions are honored until the whole gathering makes a new decision.
Bioregional Gathering of the Americas by Mark Larson (from Konza, News of Kansas Area Watershed Council, 1996)
Several Kaw members made their ways to central Mexico for the mid-November First Biogregional Gathering of the Americas. We were Michael Almon, Mark Larson, LaVetta and Micah Rolfs, and Gary Tucker. Two of us, Michael and Mark, attended Spanish language classes before the gathering. The innovative teaching, including tareas (homework) in town, began to familiarize us with the culture and language. We became friends with other bioregionalists during the classes. The twenty of us hired a small pickup and a VW van to transport all of us, our luggage and camping equipment, plus the drivers, of course. We had become a close group.
The bioregional gathering was held in the Mextitla scout camp on the edge of Tepoztlan. At the edge of Tepoztlan the highway had been blockaded by local citizens the previous year to keep the national police out. It is the first free, self-directed municipality in the hemisphere. Local citizens had become angry over environmental issues relating to ejido lands (communal lands) and a golf course, approved by the state and local R.R.I.
Our drivers detoured though narrow alleys. On some building were spray painted slogans such as “No al club de golf!”
We were early arrivals of a group that eventually swelled to 600 to 700 people. We were of diverse backgrounds, many from Mexico and fewer from the US and Canada. South America contributed 10 to 12 Argentines, and a handful from other countries. There were a Guatemalan Indian couple, and two Canadian Indian elders there. Australian and German youth kept coming during the week. Mexican Rainbow people had a camp and separate kitchen on the grounds. The rainbow Gypsy tribe was there and we gathered in plenary under their large conical tent, there were some of the constitutes of our ceremonial village.
Sunday afternoon the gathering began under and around the gypsy tent with many of our Mexican hosts in breech-cloths, ankle rattles and body paint, or long dress and many of both sexes with elaborate feather head-dresses. After the initial fast, noisy, strenuous dancing around a central offering of flowers and lighted candles the dancers slowed their pace. Dances were interspersed with what I took to be prayers. Finally several women dancers handed out kernels of red, white, black and yellow corn. More prayers.
The week’s events left some of us with mixed feelings. Although a schedule of workshops was arranged during plenary Monday, few if any convened on time. Most were rescheduled two or three times. The meals weren‘t on time, which threw the workshop schedule off, right away. It appeared that the meals weren’t’ on time because the cooks were left to do much of the prep work as well as the cooking Most of the small support and work groups didn’t function. After a short meeting to introduce ourselves, I never saw my group in a support or work situation after that. It seemed that many Northerners (US and Canada) were expecting the schedule to function. Sometime toward the middle of the week as we began giving up on that, and depending on spontaneous choice, the gathering was a better experience. Many people did make it to workshops, even after the second or third rescheduling—others did not. Some people volunteered to help in the kitchen, or carry wood for the seat—others did no work at all.
All the same time we were in a beautiful setting with cliffs 300 or 400 feet high just behind the camp. The food was good and generally plentiful. Many people worked a lot, especially Beatrice, Davey and others in the office. New friends were a great treat. I had a good companion for a tent mate. We found a way to climb up the cliff. Someone was singing in Spanish above us as we climbed. The valley lay in a panorama before us.
The Thursday work day in the town went ahead well. One group spaded soil for a garden at a grad school. Another large group went to work on the erosion by the steps up to the local pyramid. That group divided into those working to dam the erosive run-off and prepare a seed-bed, and others who spread out to gather seeds to plat in the prepared soil. This was a tangible expression of our appreciator of the local community.
Every morning a group gathered to pray and sing the sun into the sky. I joined in this ceremony Friday morning. We circled a small fire, and continued our prayer and chants until the sun was fully over the rim of the cliffs.
There was much that was wonderful in this gathering; there was much that was frustrating. It depended on your focus and expectations. I’d do it again (somewhat differently).