Burying the Umbilicus

Leslie Korn on Mexico, medicine and more..

Archive for the ‘Yelapa’ Category

Stories, Photos and Research

New website at drlesliekorn.com

Posted by lekorn on July 6, 2010

I have posted a lot of new photos and research pertaining to my work in Yelapa , Cabo Corrientes and west Mexico on my new website. Check it out!


Posted in Culinary Delights, Mexico Life, Traditional Medicine, Yelapa | Leave a Comment »

Shopping for food in Mexico

Posted by lekorn on December 9, 2009

I love shopping in Mexico. Yesterday I went to the Mercado Aramara, the last great open air market in PV that sits on historical grounds of the Wixáritari . I bought 3 kilos of Pargo (Lutjanus novemfasciatus) fish heads to make a gelatinous broth for the dogs. Its also known as dog snapper so I think its perfect for the dogs.  a 1/4 kilo of Dorado (aka Mahi Mahi or Coryphaena hippurus) cubed for ceviche Acapulco, a kilo of brown beans, a kilo of bananas, guavas, limes, avocados, a puño of cilantro, a bag of fresh wild strawberries, chiles tomatoes, onions, beets and carrots and finally squash flower blossoms which I immediately went home and sauteed in butter and ate. All this for for 250 pesos (20.00usd).

The fish heads go into a pot for an hour and then are separated from the broth and cooled. Carefully, I cleaned the meat off the head, making sure to catch any small bones, I saved the eyes for Flip whose eyes are starting to get that bluish tinge common in 11 year olds. Once in the fridge, the broth turns into a thick gelatin-pure protein which the dogs love. This dish is especially well-suited for dogs with allergies or digestive issues and is a good  supplement to kibble.Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,

Posted in Culinary Delights, Dogs, Mexico Life, Traditional Medicine, Uncategorized, Yelapa | 1 Comment »


Posted by lekorn on November 12, 2009


His virtue

No lover between gates

Settled with the rain

An old score.

On Sunday, Domingo’s vision

Obscured amidst the fecal steam

Of bulls and pigs and bird berries

Saw the spirit of heaven

Betray the gift of his life

And rode his machete readily

Through the action of his artery.

He curled as her beans turned cold,

Awaiting his return.

They watched him lizardly,

Not knowing his sacrifice was their

Collective boomerang traveling

His blood to the dirt.

Ancient appeasement to

An insatiable grunting god.

©1982 Leslie Korn, Yelapa

Posted in Yelapa | Leave a Comment »

Rosolio and Andrea, Yelapa, 1981

Posted by lekorn on November 12, 2009

In 1980 I began conducting oral histories with several of the elders in the village. Below are two brief excerpts from interviews with two of the Yelapa’s eldest.

There was a special gathering of the men to decide the development of Yelapa  The government had  proposed to “develop” Yelapa over a period of years by putting in agua potable, electricity and perhaps even a high rise hotel, though no one could imagine where it would sit, only that it would sink into the sandy soil.   

After hearing all the arguments, the men voted to accept the government proposal to spend millions of pesos and bring about a radical change, but not before Rosolio was heard.  He stood up to begin his story.  He said he had been ten years old when his family helped found the village in 1910 and now he was the oldest villager present.  He spoke of greed, saying: “Those of you who vote for these changes are not from here.  You have moved here in the last five years to take the wealth that Yelapa has in her bay and the mountains.  Already you have cut too many palms and the turtles are gone and you want more money and bigger motors for your boats.” Rosolio spoke passionately and his words were soft and round as words will be when spoken by men with no teeth.  Though he was listened to with respect accorded the elders, when the vote came and he voted alone.

Though I knew most of the people in Yelapa, I had never met Rosolio Lorenzo Garcia.  My friend Martina was married to his son Felix who had lost an eye when a piece of wood he was macheteing splintered.  Two or three times a year Martina brought brooms that Rosolio made over to my house.  But perhaps because he was an elderly man, he did not approach foreigners easily or when he walked past my house to the beach, he kepts his shoulders erect, eyes straight ahead. The most we had ever exchanged was buenas dias or muy buenas tardes.

A few days after the village meeting, I approached Rosolio and said I wanted to talk with him about his life. He invited me to his house the next day and when I arrived he was just returning from work for his afternoon siesta.  Seven days a week he rowed huge two-man canoes which carried people and cargo from the boats to the beach.  It was rigorous work that required precision timing as there are often thirty people or hundreds of kilos of cargo easing through rough ocean swells.  When I arrived, Rosolio was in a twine hammock that he had made and Andrea was making tortillas for their lunch.


Rosolio:            In that village out there that you see there were but sixty-five inhabitants altogether.  It was in 1910 that we peopled this place.  No one but absolutely no one else was here.  I was then ten.

Korn:                How old are you now?

Rosolio:            80 or 82.  It’s been 72 years since that happened.  Our living was made from fishing and a little bit of (coconut) oil.  That was the source of income for our parents and as their children we continued to work on the same thing.  Everything was so cheap.  Oil was five centavos a kilo and men were paid twenty-five centavos for a days wage.  Maiz was a peso for sixty kilos.  It was unbelievable.  We went to San Blas in sailboats when the wind was favorable, if not, just sheer oars.  Life was indeed tough at that time and this was our way of life until the agrarian world came in. When that happened a wealthy landholder snatched a rich piece of land from us.  There was a war from 1914 to 1918 and after the war there was peace for ten years.  But it was difficult because people would not buy our products and livelihood was even tougher.  In 1928 the government took the land away from the landholders and gave it back to the campesinos, and all of that was my lot.

                         There were ten family heads who lived here and of those ten only three knew how to read.  I lost my father and became an orphan at the age of fourteen and I lost my mother when I was seventeen.  I had no more schooling than two years when I was ten years old.  From eight to ten I had a cousin who used to go to Puerto Vallarta and he helped me a little bit more.  He used to like to buy books and stories.  He used to like to buy these books in order to find out more about the forebears and about history.  We used to work together and he would help me.  Often times I talk to the kids about these times.  They didn’t suffer because by the time they were born they would pay over one peso for a person’s wages.  We had only a meager twenty-five centavos per day and with that amount we had to clothe and feed ourselves.  If there were three of us that made seventy-five centavos, it was something so sad.  But at that time, we didn’t have temptations like there are today.  There were no drinks, no alcoholic beverages at the time.

Korn:                        When you traveled to Puerto Vallarta, how did you go there?

Andrea:                     In a canoe with oars.  We would go in the morning and return in the evening for the night.  When the wind was favorable we would set out around 8 o’clock and arrive by one in the afternoon.  We would do a little shopping and then toward the evening the wind would again be favorable and we would return.  If we didn’t have favorable wind we would simply row.  There was no other way to bring food and provisions.  We had to be tough.

Rosolio:            When I was twenty-one I went to live in San Blas.  I worked on the sea and life became easier because there was a market where one could sell what one produced and people bought from those whom offered better prices.  In San Blas there was a small factory that made soap from the coconut oil.  This has been my life, a tough life and I remember all of it because I was part of it.  We lived from fishing and cocito.

Korn:               Where were you born?

Rosolio:            I was born in Chacala, but by the time I opened my eyes, that is when I got to the age of reason, I was here.  My parents came from Chacala.  My mother from Marijuampo.  Gradually the town had emptied itself and they moved to Chacala and then here to Yelapa.

Korn:               When did you marry?

Rosolio:            In 1932….

Andrea:            1933!!!

Rosolio:            1933!

Korn:                Andrea, do you have La Grippe?

Andrea:            Yes, I just got sick yesterday.

Rosolio:            The grippe doesn’t hit her very hard, colds don’t come to her very easily.

Korn:                How old are you Andrea?

Andrea:            Really, I don’t know my age, the files were burned. 

Rosolio:            It was the revolutionaries who did that.

Andrea:            They burned my Jefes house.  I was very young.  In 1918, the last year that we had a revolution here.  It was dying down but there were many revolutionaries who occupied their time doing all kinds of wrong things like stealing.  They came down from Chimo on horseback or mules.  A government squad got a hold of them and took them to Puerto Vallarta and there they executed them.  When my father died we came to Yelapa.  When I got married they wrote twenty years on my certificate.

Korn:                What was the wedding ceremony like? What was the tradition of the time?

Andrea:             Our parents did not have many possessions, also there were no priests for this kind of service because it was around the time of the revolution and they were the ones that were the most sought after by the government.  We had a civil marriage because these fathers were being persecuted.  They wanted to eradicate Christianity or I should say the Catholic religion but it is written in the bible that it will be persecuted but never conquered.

Korn:               Well, did the priests come later on?

Rosolio:            Yes, it’s not like before.  Now according to the bishop it’s up to us if we want to mind our religion, if we want to observe the duties of our religion, if we fulfill these duties then he will send if not one then another.  The women are much more religious than the men.  They are the most religious of all, then as the men, we follow them.  It must be that way because in our religion from the moment they baptized us we contracted some obligations.

 Feliz:              There are many changes.  Before it was like a fraternity, now so many people have come.  The big river is now like a puddle… when a pig was slaughtered people didn’t sell its meat: “Here’s for you, here’s for you.” It was portioned out among the neighbors, and now it’s sold.

Leslie:             How old are you?

Feliz:              Eighty-nine.. My brother died at ninety-six. Here come the tortillas!  (granddaughter enters with tortillas) I’m sweating, am I not?

Posted in Yelapa | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Plantas Medicinales de La Selva

Posted by lekorn on November 6, 2009

Posted in Traditional Medicine, Yelapa | Leave a Comment »

Turtle, Aaron and Sergio in front of the Zalate, aprox. 1979

Posted by lekorn on November 6, 2009

8202_TUR 2Turtle climbed onto the little beach in front of the house to lay her eggs.

Posted in Yelapa | Leave a Comment »

Plantas Medicinales de la Selva

Posted by lekorn on November 6, 2009

We are getting ready to do a reprint of our book Planta Medicinales de la Selva which a book about traditional plant medicine use in Yelapa that was done during our community trauma project between 98-2001. It is in English and Spanish. I love the plant drawings the school children did for the book. It was a community effort. The women and their daughters wrote the dialogue, the younger school kids did the art and the teenagers did the scanning and book design. Stay tuned.

Posted in Traditional Medicine, Yelapa | Leave a Comment »

Kathryn Hill (background) and me, at Betts and Byron’s, 1976

Posted by lekorn on November 6, 2009

Posted in Yelapa | Leave a Comment »

He who makes an enemy of the earth makes an enemy of his own body. The Popol Vuh: The Mayan Book of the Dawn of Life

Posted by lekorn on November 6, 2009


I began touching people therapeutically in Mexico, where I have lived in the jungle since 1973. The first people who came to my palapa, which overlooked the Pacific, did so because they were in pain or hoped to   relax their mental strain.

Palapas get their name from the coconut palm fronds, which the men cut, and measure, and then drag down the mountain by burro. They weave and tie the fronds to handcrafted ironwood frames, forming a huge straw hat over open space. The roof sways and lifts with the wind, breathing and absorbing moisture like nostrils, mediating the inside and the outside, which often merge during the wet months in the jungle.

I first worked with the Mexican-Indian women, whose childbirths I had attended and who because of the burden of multiple births and relentless work under the sun often looked more like the mothers of their husbands than their wives.

They brought their widely flattened sore feet and muscular shoulders, indented by the iron- like bras that cut deep grooves across the top of the trapezius muscle. We shared village gossip and they were both honored and amused at my interest in traditional ways of healing. They told me that dried cow dung rubbed on the head cured baldness, and then offered to demonstrate on me. They told me stories they had themselves been told about snakes that lived near the cascadas and were known to be so dexterous that they could unzip your dress, get inside your pants, and get you pregnant. As we got to know each other better, they shared the trauma of their lives and loss of family members to the hardships of the jungle and sea: drowning, tetanus, amoebae exploding the liver, rape, and incest. 

The women brought their little ones in when they fell off horses and hit their heads or fell out of hammocks or over the bow of the 40-horse-powered pangas as they hit the beach on an off wave, bruising the ever so tender sacral bone at the base of the spine. The men came in for treatment accompanied by their wives for the first session, just to make sure nothing untoward would take place. They sought relief for a variety of problems that usually had to do with occupational accidents: diving and the residual effects of too much nitrogen in the blood.  Some of the men did not survive. Those who did rarely went diving again, nor did they ever walk the same way again. 

One night Ezekiel, an ever-grinning, gold-toothed carpenter, whose wife Ophelia made the best coconut pies in the village, was brought ashore. I was asked to his house where he lay in bed, inert and unable to urinate. I arrived amidst the crowd of neighbors ritually dropping emergency money onto his bed, body, and clothes. No one needed to mention that the delay in reaching the charter medical flight to Acapulco, still an hour’s boat ride away over rough, full moon seas, was due to lack of money. And while Zeke’s pockets were stuffed, his pants half on, belly exposed and scarred from previous battles unknown to me, I placed needles in his abdomen according to Chinese tradition to help him relax while he waited.

They said it was a miracle that Zeke survived. When he returned from the decompression chamber in Acapulco, 800 miles down the coast, he came for treatments and I worked on the firmly muscled legs, which betrayed him only when he walked. As I pressed hard into the core of his calves and the fascia lata on the outside of his thighs, he talked of the terror when he and his cousin Ruben were diving deep in search of sleeping lobsters and the hundred-foot hose choked off the air at the moment the panga stopped vibrating because the generator in the hull faltered too long.

 A few years later, after my thatched-roof house had burned to ashes, Ezekiel had fully recovered. I asked him to take a buzz saw and climb the 200-foot Coconut palm, which grew out of the center of the zalate, the dying strangler fig tree that had given my house its name years before I arrived. Invariably, when passersby saw this symbiotic site for the first time, they would cry out with an astonishment that reflected their confusion about which tree came first, the zalate or the coconut. It was difficult without knowing their history, or nature itself, to tell by looking. The coconut tree appeared to rise straight up out of the middle of the fig; or was it the other way around? Like other parasitic intertwinings, the exact nature of their relationship was not evident upon first glance. However, the Strangler Fig, whose shape and skin was like elephant bark, got its name because its seed popped down into the coconut, which was already quite old when it ineluctably became host. The fig then proceeded to wrap its way around the palm and the landscape, its roots ruling the hectare of hillside like huge thighs and forearms elbowing their way through all my attempts to make steps from rocks on the path to my door. Twice yearly, the zalate bore fruit, dropping a hailstorm of green fig balls as quickly as they popped open. They tapped upon my roof around the clock, appreciated only by the bats, which, as they made their nightly pass through my house to see if the raicimo of bananas were perchance left uncovered, left their sticky, fig-filled droppings on my floor.

  The zalate died a slow giant’s death after the fire in 1982 and I missed cleaning up the thousand-figged parade that signaled another half year gone by. However, with the shade veil from the zalate gone, along with the garden, which now served as a burial ground for the shards of my grandmother’s heat-burst china, there was sunlight all day long. This prompted Ophelia to bring me several flowering bushes from her garden, some of them sweet, red, and pink cabbage roses to plant near my gate, which needed some color and a stubborn hold on its steep, eroding side.

  The last of the zalate’s roots did not dry and merge with the earth it had faithfully served until six years after the fire. By then, the roses were strong and in full bloom and Ezekiel was able to climb the Coco to amputate the remaining limbs of the zalate. Then, sadly, as he shimmied down the smooth gray skin, he had to cut the still-live Coco herself, who now without the support she had grown accustomed to, threatened to topple over onto my new roof whose dried fronds, barring another unthinkable fire, would not need replacing for another four years.

 The majestic Coconut is never willingly toppled, being the source of roof, oil, milk, and soap. But when she comes down her bounty is as rich in death as in life. My neighbor Alicia asked for two -dozen thick-sliced rippled rajas whose scratchy center resembles the scruff of the nut, and when faced inside the house and tied side by side form walls against the sea air. The zalate then proffered her base as a table, and six three-foot stools for my kitchen, with four more going to Ophelia and Zeke. Finally, we had her heart of palm, to which we added oil and lemon and gave thanks as we ate.


Posted in Yelapa | Leave a Comment »

Casa Zalate, 1980

Posted by lekorn on November 6, 2009

Posted in Yelapa | Leave a Comment »