The Saints of Todos Santos: Eco-Educator Paty Baum
by Bryan Jáuregui, Todos Santos Eco Adventures
Sometimes the most non-conventional people get that way through the most conventional of means: they learn it from their parents. So it’s not so surprising to discover that eco educator, punk rocker, beach dweller, film maker, turtle protector, surf breaker Paty Baum’s parents were hard-core union supporters who regularly took the kids to marches and protests, or that her father was a professor of revolutionary literature. The surprise is to discover that kids of local migrant workers here in Todos Santos and Pescadero are doing yoga, reading the ocean for rip tides and currents, documenting the impact of change on the biodiversity of their town, and going on kayaking and camping adventures. And that’s just a tiny piece of what Paty has achieved since she moved to Todos Santos in 1995 and started her non-profit Eco-Educadores Verde y Azul de BCS.
Bringing creativity and education into the lives of under-served youth has been a calling for Paty since her first days as a freshman at Lewis & Clark College. One of her first moves on campus was to join ACTION, a type of urban peace corps program, where she taught photography to inner city grade school kids. She then went on to work for the Multnomah County Urban 4H program for two years where she developed and implemented semester-long workshops for inner-city grade school kids in photography, leathercraft, ceramics, nutrition and fishing. That was just her day job.
Being a classically trained clarinetist, Paty naturally became the drummer for the all-girl Portland punk rock band, the Neo Boys. They played the local club scene for several years and developed a cult following so loyal that K Records will soon be releasing a double album of live and studio recordings by the Neo Boys entitled Sooner or Later. The Neo Boys may have broken up in the early ‘80s but all these decades later the fans are still clamoring for more! And when she wasn’t on stage or with the 4H kids Paty kept the education/punk rock themes all rolling together on her weekly radio show The Autonomy Hour on Portland’s community radio station KBOO, teaching the masses about the great punk music of the time. Then she met Gus Van Sant.
Van Sant was working on his second film, Mala Noche, and asked Paty to do location sound for the film. She found the film-making process so incredibly fun that as soon as she wrapped with Van Sant in 1986 she wrote a script, shot it, and submitted it as her application to the film program at San Francisco State University. They loved it. She’d gotten too busy with life to continue at Lewis & Clark College, but film school completely absorbed her and she graduated with a BA in Film Production in 1990. And she didn’t waste any time making a name for herself after that.
Her first film in 1990 was 122 Webster, a 12 minute, black and white, 16 mm documentary that she co-directed, co-wrote and co-produced with Daniel Robin. A portrait of Daniel’s heroin-addicted roommate Bobbie, the film was incredibly well-received. It was screened at the 1990 Sundance Film Festival, was part of the 1995 Lalapalooza Music Festival national tour, and was shown in venues as diverse as the Cork International Film Festival in Ireland, The Ann Arbor Film Festival, the Humboldt International Film Festival and the Big Muddy Film Festival in Illinois. But even before 122 Webster was making its rounds Paty was already completing her second film, The Cleansing Machine. It won Best Documentary at the 1992 Humboldt Film Festival and played all over the world. The Fins were particularly crazy about it and tried to get Paty to visit with the film but she just couldn’t make it.
Now it’s a known fact that many surfers try to pretend like they derive the same satisfaction from their non-surfing pursuits as surfing, and will make valiant efforts to resist the urge to live at the beach and surf every day. Just one look around Todos Santos will tell you that for the true-surfer-at-heart, resistance is futile. Paty surfed all through her Oregon and northern California years, then came to Todos Santos on vacation on the advice of a friend. After that it took her 8 months to wrap up her life in the US and move into a trailer on the beach at Los Cerritos. She didn’t leave for 12 years.
Paty moved to Todos Santos in 1995 and for the first few years she was happy to just run the Todos Santos Surf Shop at Cerritos and talk surf all day. She created a nice place for people to camp with a composting toilet and it was all pretty blissful. But local folks were leaving a lot of garbage on the beach, and that was definitely killing the paradise buzz. So her first effort with local kids was born out of enlightened self-interest. She wanted people to stop littering so she launched a campaign to make them conscious of their incredible natural heritage and help them understand the value of clean beaches, conservation and recycling. Somewhat to her surprise, the local kids really embraced the campaign and Paty was inspired once again to put her considerable energy into local youth. In 2003 she created the non-profit Eco-Educadores Verde y Azul de B.C.S., under which was formed the Joven Ecologístas de Pescadero (JEP) group.
Funded by grants from various sources, over 300 kids have matriculated through the program to date, and have worked in a remarkable variety of field settings including sea turtle conservation projects, beach and arroyo clean-ups, identifying and growing native plants, studying the impact of deforestation, and mapping the Sierra de La Laguna watershed. (For a detailed analysis of Paty’s experiential learning efforts in Pescadero, please see the article on the program written by Andrew Jon Schneller of the University of Arizona: Environmental service learning: outcomes of innovative pedagogy in Baja California Sur, Mexico )
The JEP group is currently participating in the production of a field guide to endangered sea turtles of the region that highlights the
work and successes of twelve years of community-based turtle conservation in BCS (Paty is the co-founder of three community-based sea turtle conservation groups in BCS). The kids are involved in all aspects of the book, from data collection to art. Says Paty’s student 14-year old Maria Guadalupe (Lupita) Martínez, “I have had some great experiences on our trips with the JEP, and have gone places that I never would have gone. It was particularly great seeing turtles nesting on the beach at night, then counting and releasing hatchlings in the nursery.” 15-year-old Adalberto Guadalupe Ramírez Gastelúm is also excited about his contributions. “We drew lots of turtles and I discovered that I am an artist. I did not know that my drawings were so good, that I have talent!” The guide created by Paty and her students, as well as the accompanying environmental education curriculum, will be distributed to the Mexican public school system and NGOs, such as Grupo Tortuguero’s network of grassroots turtle conservation groups throughout Mexico.
When Paty was doing her work with the 4H inner city kids in Portland the highlight of the year was a trip to summer camp where the kids got to stay in cabins and do things like archery, softball, hiking – the fun things of summer. Similarly, this summer Paty was able to take her JEP students on a weekend of kayaking and snorkeling at Isla Espiritu Santo, a trip that was paid for almost entirely through a fundraiser organized by Paty and Amigos de El Pescadero, AC. Says Paty, “Our benefit was a great success, not just for the $1500 we raised through Amigos de El Pescadero and numerous individual donations, but for the students’ self esteem, and the communities’ support from all sectors, including the sub-delegada of Pescadero and the Red Cross.” Needless to say, the kids had a blast at the Island.
Part of the summer program this year includes yoga with Kim Wexman of Baja Zen every Saturday morning,
followed by a trip to the beach. Kim, who donates her time says “One thing that stands out to me when I teach the Mexican kids here yoga vs teaching teenagers in the US is that while the US teens may be more flexible physically, they are not as able to meditate. The beautiful students that Paty brings are great meditators. They get very deep into it and this section of the class truly seems to resonate with them. I really, really enjoy doing this class with them. They come with great energy. Of course what Paty is doing with these students is incredible. They all seem truly inspired and eager to learn. Paty is an amazing person.”
And Paty’s students definitely are inspired. Says 15-year old Carlos Alberto Ramírez Bujín, the son of migrant workers living in Pescadero, “I want to continue studying and go to university. I want to be a lawyer, so I can help people whose human rights have been violated.” And the great thing about inspiration is that it is a renewable resource that people can continually provide to each other. Paty was so inspired by her students, their eagerness to learn, and their excitement in embracing environmental stewardship for their communities that she went back to school and is now completing her thesis for a Masters in Environmental Education at the University of Guadalajara. Says Paty, “It has been an absolute thrill and privilege to work with these students for all these years. To see them documenting their activities and expressing their field learning experiences through not only traditional science-oriented field diaries and data collection tools, but through so many creative outlets like journal writing, poetry, art, photography and video has been phenomenal. Their ability to document and share what are often life-changing experiences is having a real impact on their schools and communities, and has the potential to influence regional and international conservation efforts.”
One punk-rocking film-maker with a passion for surfing, clean beaches and eco-education and a generation of local kids is inspired, energized and ready to be activists for their communities. Paty’s parents are most definitely proud.
If you would like to join Todos Santos Eco Adventures, Amigos de El Pescadero AC and others as a sponsor of Paty’s field trips or other efforts, please email Paty at .
© Copyright Sergio and Bryan Jauregui, Casa Payaso S de RL de CV, 2013