Don Julio: the defender of the Oasis of Durango

This man says that ‘you don’t take care of what you don’t love’; he is the guardian of this oasis

Every time the sun rises, Julio Limones stands at the door of his house to fill his eyes with living hills and the ears of the birds’ trill. It is privileged to not be wrapped in a smog layer. The hamlet is Nuevo Graseros, in the middle of the Durango desert.

Don Julio accommodates the backpack full of pasture, puts on his hat and rides his bicycle to go to his goat pen. When he finishes feeding them, on the same bicycle he travels three kilometers breathing the dry air of the desert that slowly moistens until he enters a forest of ahuehuetes. Yes, in the middle of the desert.

“ It is an incredible thing that in the middle of the desert, the Chihuahuan desert in which we find ourselves, is the only one that is giving life to the lagoon: the Nazas River ,  says astonished Don Julio, who at his 84 years is still amazed that lives

The Cañón de Fernández is a polygon of 17 thousand hectares in the lower basin of the Nazas River, the source that irrigates the lagoon region. Within this Protected Natural Area, two rocky walls embrace the river for several kilometers, a topographical whim that fosters the mysterious coexistence of two ecosystems: the desert and the wetland.

“All this we are seeing here are gavias, and since they are mosques,” says Don Julio in the midst of the scorching heat of noon. -Then he walks 50 steps and stops under the refreshing shadow of a ahuehuete and follows his explanation-: “This is a sabino, the ahuehuete. It’s from the family of the Sad Night tree where Hernán Cortés cried. ”

Don Julio, the defender of the oasis in the Durango desert.Photographs: Alejandro Echevarría / Atomic Feathers

Don Julio has two memories of his childhood in mind: his father repeating “what you see is the only thing you have; take care of it ” ; and to the Fernández Canyon with more flora and fauna.

The Durango government recognizes  that the human being has historically damaged the Fernández Canyon in three ways: hunting, marble extraction, and debris deposit. As a teenager, Don Julio carries in his shirt bag a paper with the civil protection telephone numbers, SEMARNAT and even the army, to whom he calls to denounce the things that affect the Canyon.

According to local media, 100 thousand people visit the Fernández Canyon every year. Don Julio is not an enemy with them, because tourism is the main economic activity of Nuevo Graseros and the population has to eat something.

Before the imminent wave of people who come mainly from Torreón, Coahuila; and de Gómez Palacio y Lerdo, Durango, Don Julio says that the strategy that must be implemented is one: education. You don’t take care of what you don’t love and you don’t love what you don’t know.

“It is not the same to see known. Look at one thing, ‘what a beautiful river’ because we see it, but we don’t know it. ‘What beautiful hills’, yes, because we are seeing them, but we are not knowing them. And that’s what I’m here for, ”he clarifies.

This is how the defender of the oasis that is the Durango desert protects the lands he sees as a legacy, as one of his most precious treasures. 


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