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Meridith Hatch (IAS '10) is spending five weeks in Cuernavaca, Mexico, as part of a UW Tacoma Spanish language immersion program..

We've been studying the culture and civilizations of Mexico and Meso-America in our grammar class. Our instructor, Lorena, mentioned that the Aztecs used the bark of the amate tree as an early form of paper. She mentioned our interest in amate to our conversation instructor, Rufi. He asked if we wanted to see an amate tree, and off we went on an impromptu excursion to Barranca de Amanalco, or Amanalco Gully.

As Rufi (pictured at right) led us out the back entrance of the school, we passed by a series of public fountains. Rufi explained that President Porfirio Diaz had the fountains brought from Spain to beautify Cuernavaca. He explained that originally the gardens of the barranca were originally only available to Porfirio Diaz. As we walked down into the gully, the humidity and sound of the rushing waters went up. My host family later explained that thanks to the barranca, Cuernavaca does not suffer from flooding during the rainy season (June-August) like other cities might.

Rufi took us under an amate tree growing from the side of the gully, across a deceptively slippery suspended bridge, and back up again. Once we were back up to the top we found vines growing down from the trees high overhead. It reminded me of the Tarzan cartoons I watched as a kid; vines everywhere. It was amazing. If Rufi hadn't led us in I would never have known such beauty lay hidden just a few hundred feet from the street. Thanks, Rufi.

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