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In 1991 Billy and Akaisha Kaderli retired at the age of 38. Now, into their 3rd decade of this financially independent lifestyle, they invite you to take advantage of their wisdom and experience.

Huautla de Jimenez, Oaxaca, Mexico
(Pronounced: WOWT-la   day   Hee-MEN-ess,  Wa-HAA-ka, MAY-hee-coh)

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Billy and Akaisha Kaderli

My first trip to Huautla was sometime in the early seventies, over thirty years ago. My traveling companions and I learned of this town from a placemat in a Oaxaca City restaurant. Logos of blankets, pottery, Monte Albán, mushrooms and other topics of interest were highlighted in their locations on this treasure map. The picture of the mushrooms on the mat piqued our interest and we inquired about it.

The more we asked about the mushrooms, the less information people wanted to give to us which made the hunt an intriguing challenge. Once we had an idea of where the road turned off and headed up into the mountainous area towards Huautla, we departed on this curious adventure with only the paper placemat as our guide.

After driving several hours high into the mountains of southern Mexico, the unpaved passage began turning into mud from the recent rains. This mud then turned into soup and my van - with real axle drive - started slipping and sliding on this single lane cutout alongside the mountain.

That is, until we got stuck.

Public transportation servicing Huautla were old school buses that had a much higher axle clearance than my van, and their tires cut deep trenches on either side of a bulge they formed in the middle of the road. My van could not clear that hump in the center of this soupy, muddy, mess-of-a-road. Stuck, blocking the passage for any other vehicles, we had nothing to do but wait, and no place to go on this journey to mushroom land.

Shortly a bus came by. Since they could not pass us, the riders got out and together, we all spun my van around in the slop. After pointing it down the hill my friends and I were able to get off the mountain. However, my amigos were not to be deterred from this adventure to Huautla and decided to continue the journey on this very same bus. Meanwhile, the plan was that I would get back to dry land and wait for their return the next day.

Fast forward to 2009. The road to Huautla is now fully paved and the town is serviced by air-conditioned vans running regularly from central Oaxaca taking only five hours. The route is still very winding and if you get motion sickness definitely be prepared. After the passing of a third of a century, I was finally able to satisfy a 3-decade curiosity about the town that my friends saw first hand.

Billy

A paved road! Air-conditioned minivans make the 5 hour trip from Oaxaca through the mountains to Huautla several times a day for 120 Pesos per passenger.

 

Of course, there are other modes of transport that work too. The trip by burro is less hectic, but your bum might be tired for a few days afterwards!

 

We found a hotel quick enough after arrival. This is Hotel Santa Julia, on Calle Cuauhtémoc. Price was 190 Pesos per night for our upstairs double room with ensuite bath, hot water and views of the mountains. The room was reasonably clean and the shower had good water pressure!
 

The view of appealing peaceful mountains from our room, with a bit of the town below.

In the hotel lobby was a photo of a group of people with the Dalai Llama. The picture caught our eye and we began a discussion with the man behind the desk about the local curandera. This native healer works with mushrooms in her rituals. The mushrooms themselves and the experience it brings are considered ’sacrado’ or holy, sacred.

This is serious stuff here in Huautla.

The curandera must be powerful, skilled or at least recognized for her work if the Dalai Lama consented to having a photo taken with her.... We assumed it was an endorsement of her healing path.

 

Before we knew it, our hotel concierge whisked us away to a humble stone and concrete home belonging to Doña Julia Julieta Casimiro, a curandera anciana just a few blocks away. This seemed like really quick action to all of us. We hadn't even settled in from the motion sickness of the long drive when we found ourselves face to face with a healing legend of international renown!

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We had no idea what we would encounter. Legend has it that for more than 40 years, people around the world have come to Julieta for ceremony, healing, and life guidance. She works with people who have AIDS, cancer, emotional diseases, and psychological imbalances, and she cures these diseases utilizing niños santos (the psilocybin mushrooms) to those ends.

Up on the wall of Doña Julieta's home was this poster of the International council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers. Doña Julieta is in this photo in the first row, 3rd from the right. We apologize for the reflection of the windows in this photo, but Billy snapped it quickly as Julieta entered the room.

 

Quietly and without fanfare a short indigenous woman with long hair walks in to where we were waiting. We began asking her questions about her life, and how she learned her healing skills. On the wall were many photos of her excursions taken all over the world, and she brought out scrapbooks of her journeys to Rome and the Vatican, as well as the photos of her and the Dalai Llama together. Just as things were becoming tantalizing, she immediately closed down, shut her scrapbooks and pointedly asked us what we wanted.

We didn't know!

We were interested to learn of her story and to find out what it is that she does in her healing ceremonies, but  we had no time to adjust at all to this new situation. We hadn't even discussed the matter fully between the four of us as to whether or not we - all, some or none of us - wanted to take a mushroom trip. What were the consequences? How long would the mushrooms last? Does she do groups? Who would 'stand watch' in case something went wrong or to watch our belongings? And how much does this cost?

Needless to say, we were unprepared for how quickly things were moving along.

Doña Julieta stated simply and firmly that there would be no more discussion of anything until we paid 800 Pesos each to do a velada, where all participants partake of the psilocybin mushroom as a sacrament to open the gates of the mind. The velada is seen as a purification and as a communion with the sacred.

Oh.

We blankly looked at each other closed mouthed and then turned to her to thank her profusely for her time. We would have to think about this a little bit more before we jumped head on into opening the gates of our mind and communing directly with God...

So we politely excused ourselves and left.

 

What just happened?

Was it a sign to go forward with this internal venture or a warning not to?

Dazed and slightly confused, we wandered around the town and up to a schoolyard. On the side of the school wall was this mural, portraying the potent significance and the total integration of the psilocybin mushrooms into the Huautla culture.

We found out later that Grandmother Julieta begins her healing sessions with prayers and the lighting of 13 candles that symbolize the ancient Aztec 13 realms of consciousness. She then guides her patients through their healing sessions which can take up to seven hours. We were told countless times by the locals that the mushrooms would show us the truth.

Our question was... the truth about what?!

And just as importantly, were we able to handle that truth?

 

María Sabina García, who was born here in Huautla in 1888 and died in 1985, was the first contemporary Mexican curandera. She was the one who, in the mid 1950's allowed Westerners to participate in the velada healing vigil, and this basically changed her world and our Western one as well.

American youth began seeking out Sabina and the "holy children" as early as 1962, and in the years that followed, thousands of counterculture mushroom seekers, scientists, and others arrived in the Sierra Mazateca, and many saw her. It is rumored that important 60s celebrities visited María Sabina, including music legends such as Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Mick Jagger, and Peter Townsend. They came to "trip out" on the local magical mushrooms in the 1970s.

This town school wall mural celebrates the indigenous culture of taking mushrooms for a direct experience of God.

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The mystery of "the little saints" that was a secret for 500 years under Spanish rule had been split wide open and taken to the world at large. The other local curanderas and tribes people were very upset about this "traitorous" act and as a result - giving the secrets of the "little saints" to outsiders - Maria Sabina's son was murdered and her house burned to the ground. The villagers then banished her to live up in the hills on the outskirts of the town.

No wonder Doña Julieta had been cautious as to how much she told us! 

 

No matter where we looked, we saw how integrated the mushrooms were to this culture. For instance, this is a sign for a tortilla factory. The little red mushrooms with the tiny white dots were a boon and a protector to Huautla and all her people.

I don't know what we expected, but we were a bit mystified and taken aback by the whole possibility of coming face-to-face with God and the Eternal - at least according to Mazatec legend and values. So we stopped off at a local bar to discuss our options.

 

The owner of the bar - pictured here - was wearing a tee shirt with the likeness of Maria Sabina smoking a marijuana cigarette on the front. Many of these tee shirts are sold in markets throughout Mexico, and the Mexican counterculture has an affinity for Sabina, calling her un símbolo de la sabiduría y el amor (a symbol of wisdom and love).

We continued to ponder the situation and what we wanted to do about it over a beer on this hot afternoon.

 

The heat of the day slipped by without us making any definitive decision so we wandered through the town, looking for an ice cream cone. A local man takes a break from the direct sun and from his working day by holding the wall up here at this store.

 

Native Huautlans seemed friendly and welcoming enough. These local women are chatting next to bags of carbon - or charcoal as we know it - while a young boy looks on. The carbon is a mainstay in these rural Mexican communities for cooking.

 

Life is simple here. People carry their loads in creative ways and are willing to smile to strangers. Everyone goes about their daily business as usual. No one looked 'drug crazed' to us... or should we say 'mushroom crazed'? Maybe this is what happens when God is so available.

 

Uniquely stacked piles of Nopali cactus for sale in the market. The cactus stickers are scraped off, then the leaves are cut into thin strips and boiled. They are then eaten in vinaigrette salads with onions and tomatoes or with melted cheese in a fondue type of dish with freshly made corn tortillas or with pork or beef in a type of Mexican stew.

 

Here we are at Huautla's marketplace. Even in this remote location in the mountains there is a Coca Cola vending machine.

 

The next day while waiting for our bus to arrive, we see a wedding procession pass by. Family and friends all accompany the bride and groom (who do not exactly look happy, if you notice) up the hill to celebrate their union.

 

Maria Sabina Transport posted a bus schedule for the route between Oaxaca and Huautla. Transportation is much more organized these days!

 

Our previous van driver called earlier in the day to say they were hung up in traffic and were being searched by the police for their transport papers. This caused a real backup in traffic, so we found another company to take us back to Oaxaca. We enjoyed the remarkable desert scenery on the winding road back home.

 

The hills were catching the setting sunlight and reflecting all their colors. The ride home was much easier and our driver chose to eventually take the toll road to avoid being stopped to show his ownership papers for the van he was driving.

 

The enchanting river ways and peaceful mountains continue to hold their mysteries. We'll never know if we missed our one opportunity to do these sacred mushrooms or if we made the best decision of our lives!

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About the Authors

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli are recognized retirement experts and internationally published authors on topics of finance and world travel. With the wealth of information they share on their popular website RetireEarlyLifestyle.com, they have been helping people achieve their own retirement dreams since 1991. They wrote the popular books, The Adventurer’s Guide to Early Retirement and Your Retirement Dream IS Possible.

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