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Working with communities is one of the most rewarding and challenging jobs that exists. It is well known that every community has its charm and difficulties, and you will have a different dynamic with each one of them. I am currently working with 3 different communities in Calakmul: Conhuas, Castellot (Hormiguero) and Dos Naciones. In this occasion I will talk about Dos Naciones.

Dos Naciones is in the south of the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve close to the boarder with Guatemala. The population of Dos Naciones is mostly from Chiapas and their predominant language is Chol. Since the first time I went to DN I knew that it would be a challenge to work here. Opwall’ s camp is located 20 minutes walking up hill in the forest, all the equipment needs to be carried to set up the wildest camp of the 3 terrestrial sites in Mexico. We needed cooks who knew how to cater to dietary requirements unheard of in these villages, need to provide water in a place where water trucks don’t arrive, most importantly, I need to find the way to work in a community where traditionally many aren’t used to taking instructions from a woman. Dos Naciones is a poor community with almost zero help from the local government and where NGOs don’t go maybe because of how far it is from the main nearest town, the bad roads, or the fear of the unknown. I won’t lie and say that I knew how to tackle all those challenges at the beginning, but my previous experiences helped me to understand how hard the life is for these communities and why it takes time to build relationships with organizations from outside the community. Slowly but surely, I developed a relationship with them. I made sure each member of the community was always treated with respect, kindness, and fairness, by every single participant and Opwall staff member. We organized all those that wanted to work with us to make sure everyone will have the opportunity to get an extra income and to not leave all the opportunities in just one family.

We learn so much from these community members every day! No one knows their forest better than them, no one knows how to set up camps in the middle of the forest with only a machete, nails and a tarp like them. They tell the most entertaining stories and the most heartbreaking ones. Even if as a team we must still overcome a lot of challenges, there is nothing more rewarding for me than to have been accepted as part of their community, to be treated with respect, to feel protected and I can even dare to say, to feel loved.

Picture courtesy of Matthew Wallace

Through years of building this relationship with the Dos Naciones community I feel so lucky to have reached a point where we consider each other family. We support on each other during these times of the year and ultimately without the hard working and trusted members of the community, our field Camp at Dos Naciones would not be possible.

Main photo by Malachi Isome
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