How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?


To answer the question in the title, you don’t: there is nothing wrong with Maria.  She is awesome as is.  The Maria in question is one Maria Garcia: our tiny, feisty host during our time in Magdalena, Sonora.  We rendezvoused with her and her husband Joe at a Home Depot in Tucson on Sunday where we loaded up supplies and then headed down to Mexico.  We proceeded to spend several days undertaking construction work on what will one day be a health clinic for the community.  While the work was ultimately fruitful, oftentimes, it felt like the metaphor of a room full of monkeys supplied with typewriters eventually leading to the writing of the works of Shakespeare…except this was with construction…  Anyway, we tackled insulating the roof, framing out the ceiling, laying Sheetrock as the ceiling, and more.  And all this while being fed tons of homemade authentic Mexican cuisine by Maria.  Given the fact that many of these meals contained refried beans (ultimately, beans multiple times a day for 5 days…), I’m amazed in retrospect that we did not have any reenactments of the campfire scene from “Blazing Saddles.”  But, the food was delicious and we often ate while listening to Maria and Joe telling stories of their individual histories and the histories of their peoples.  In a nutshell, Maria and Joe have been fighters their entire lives both coming from backgrounds of proud, stubborn tribes (Joe is O’Odham while Maria descends from a tribe in southern Mexico the name of which escapes me but one which was never conquered).  This zeal and passion are what has led them to continue working on and promoting development of the clinic despite a lack of resources, financially and otherwise.  I will here make note of their request that they need volunteer support at the clinic more than they need money for the project so if anyone reading this is willing to go to work on something as noble as what the clinic is proposed to be, Joe, Maria, and their group, Gente de I’toi, would be very grateful for the help.

I also want to discuss Thanksgiving in Mexico, an experience which I believe most people do not get the chance to partake in.  While it is not a holiday in Mexico, Maria was kind and generous enough to cook for us, as well as ~30 other people, a meal of turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, bread, and more.  Before we began eating, she explained to the group in Spanish our (the gringos) background and what we were doing for the community by being there.  Though most of us could not understand much of what she said, the nods of approval from the group were good signs that our presence was appreciated.  This was especially good given that the brother of the mayor of Magdalena as well as the chief of police were present among other important community figures which means that we, as well as the project, were well spoken of in front of those who have the power to make or break projects like the clinic.  The food itself was delicious and we were grateful for the hospitality shown by the community.  While the language barrier remains an issue for the majority of us, the general feeling at dinner was one of unity and it made the experience much more comfortable.   We are now sitting in a yurt in Tucson taking a day off before we head out to Havasupai as we wind down this journey.   Only one week more and then, for many of us, back to the frigid lands of the north.

Your Bearded Scribe,



Angie: “Shout out to the Road Whale for crossing the ocean of the back country of Mexico.”

Benji: “Thank you to Emmanuel the basket maker as well as Blake our awesome host and Anna Maria as well!”

Conner: “Benji!! Benjiiiii!!!”

Erich: “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”

Jane: “Maria, Anna Maria, my Mom”


More info on the organization Gente de I’Itoi:



After a weeks worth of hard but satisfying hours on the Gente de I’itoi project in Magdalena, Mexico


Thanksgiving meal under the ramada we helped put up.
Maria guiding us in building her new clay cooking station.
Hilltop panorama of Magdalena and San Isidro, just outside our camp site.
Left to Right: Erich, Joe, Joe’s mother, Blake, Maria, Benjamin, Jane, Tom, Conner, Angie.
Creator tof the IAM program Amanda (right) watching the sunset together on the hilltop.
The Road Whale glistens from the sky of a setting sun.
Happy Thanksgiving!