Naked Mexico: Landless and Landed

♪ ♪ “México, lindo y desnudo” ♪ ♪

I wrote a post last month on traditional aspects of nudity in ancient and modern Mexico. This post continues the Mexican theme with a focus on one of my favorite areas of that country: the lush and diverse Gulf Coast state of Veracruz. Veracruz figures prominently in recent stories relating to nudity as protest of the landless, and to nudity as incentive for a landed resort.

A group of indigenous peoples from Veracruz state has been making headlines over the past decade or so due to their nude and semi-nude protests in the state capital, Xalapa, as well as in Mexico City. The group is known as the “400 pueblos” and is protesting the loss of their land that they allege happened at the end of the governorship of Dante Delgado (1988-1992), whose face graces the signs that the protestors sometimes wear as loincloths. Some observers accuse the protestors of being paid by political parties to protest other politicians as well.

So the political motives behind the group’s twenty-year-old protests aren’t always easy to follow. And they may have switched allegiances – partly it was their frustration with being ignored for the first decade or so that led them to begin protesting nude in 2002. But their passion and dedication have been portrayed in at least one documentary and a photo gallery, and analyzed in a book in English published in 2009. The oft-quoted gist of their decision to protest naked is that they do so from the desperation of having nothing left, that the governor may as well have stolen the shirts off their backs. The communal lands they had used were known as ejidos, an ancient Mexican concept from before the time of the Aztecs. The Aztecs maintained a strict dress code, and only certain barbarous peoples would appear nude in public in their capital city of Tenochtitlan (now buried under Mexico City). Curiously, the best known of these “barbarous” peoples were the Huastecs, who hailed from the same region as the 400 pueblos today.

Further south in the luscious curve of Veracruz’s tropical topography, along a difficult-to-access and difficult-to-traverse road in the heart of the Los Tuxtlas biosphere, there is a new naturist ecotourism resort called Selva Desnuda (Nude Forest). Owner Miguel Vicente works with his family and seven other local families to provide the maintenance and service for the year-old site. It is designed as a more rustic and economical alternative to the well-known nudist sites along the Maya Riviera, which are luxurious in comparison. Selva Desnuda can host up to twelve people in the main cabin (three bedrooms, two bathrooms) with additional space for camping (tenting) on grounds, or lodging in the nearby community. Miguel and his staff offer packages including services such as the Olmec Bath, a photo safari, hikes to nearby caverns and waterfalls, and a workshop on the ancient and sacred practices of cornmeal preparation and tortilla-making. Instead of pools on site, there are two crystalline freshwater streams. Optional tours are available to nearby beaches, hot springs, and the mystical town of Catemaco with its lake of monkey-reserve islands.

En la Selva Desnuda

Miguel studied in France and was inspired to develop a naturist area in his home state. The sign in the photo above reads, “Come whenever you wish, just come with your soul unclothed”! A visit to Selva Desnuda would be a great addition to an itinerary including stops at the fabled port of Veracruz, the colonial colonnades of Tlacotalpan, the cultural capital of Xalapa with its outstanding Museum of Anthropology, the verdant beaches along the Costa Esmeralda, and the beautiful ruins site of El Tajín near Papantla.

You can find more information about Selva Desnuda on its Facebook page.

 ¡Sólo Veracruz es bello!

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