On the coast of Baja California in Mexico, a festival of the birds erupted alongside the valley of the volcanoes. Where the ocean crashes into rocky coasts, children sang in unison for the land and the animals, teenagers dance traditional cultural expressions for the migrating coastal birds, and adults collaborated to harmonize with nature at el Festival de las Aves (Festival of the Birds).
We entered Mexico for our first time through Tecate, welcomed with warm smiles and friendly greetings. We just finished days of driving down the west coast of the United States, migrating south through California. We watched as wildfires destroying the Earth throughout the hills of CA, we experienced the winds in Yosemite with trees crashing down on all sides, and we saw the dust that was forced to grow rows upon rows of trees. We watched the land being used against her will; water pumped into places of drought. Humans manipulating what isn’t theirs for what we want and need. We passed through all of this with the goal of arriving on the rocky coast of the Valley of the Volcanoes in La Chorera at the house of Don Alvaro. We had planned on staying a few days to rest and enjoy the hiking that surrounded the volcanoes. We spent the next few days hiking among the volcanoes, walking the coast, observing the wildlife. Time was abundant to steep in the ocean rich air and walk the lands that were going to be celebrated shortly. Without knowing, we had arrived at the location where an annual festival was about to take place, a festival that brought together local communities and travelers from abroad to express their gratitude for the birds that migrate along these coasts. We were told that on Sunday, tents would tower above tables that were going to be filled with local food, music, and dancing for an entire day.
We looked at each other and decided immediately after hearing about this celebration that we would stay. Extending our stay here would end up being one of the best decisions that we had made on our journey thus far. After being drained from seeing how people treat the land and animals throughout the States, it was much needed to see people assembling for the celebration of life. Sunday morning arrived, we enjoyed coffee and breakfast, and we set off to hike. We walked among the dunes and saw cars arriving in the distance. We felt the black sand flecked with gold softening our feet on the Earth. After hiking, we arrived back at the campsites to see tents being set up in preparation for the festivities – an excitement began to fill the air.
As if it were growing from the area itself, the festival blossomed to life. There were dances performed by local children wearing colorful attire that mirrored the richness of celebration that was unfolding in front of our very eyes. The happiness, the smiles, the life that erupted from the festival rippled through the tent and out into the surrounding environment. A richness that comes from seeing what nature has to offer and offering up gratitude. Here, that was in the form of music, dance, and education. Mixed in between dances and singing were demonstrations from a local bird rescue foundation from Ensanada. The team arrived with a host of rescued birds of prey, teaching the community the importance of their roles in the ecosystem. They talked about how important it was to not set out poison for rats, to clean up the beaches of plastic, and to protect their natural world. Children and adults were able to marvel at the birds, who were truly exquisite.
The festival began to wrap up in one of the most moving acts that I have ever seen. The bird rescue team brought out a box, a box contained a hawk that had been injured. Now healed, he was ready to enter his natural habitat once again. The door was opened and he was offered a second chance, a new beginning. Very few times are any of us offered a second chance at life, but here on the coast of La Chorera, he was. He took it with full force, soaring off across the coast with unquestioned passion. The pull that I felt from the day there will linger long past the tents being disassembled and packing up our van. The pull that I feel to be more aware of the world around us, to see what we close our eyes to, and to do what needs to be done. We are being given a second chance to care for our world, one that can take flight if we give back what we take.