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Ecosta Yutu Cuii

Ecological Conservation & Community Development 

on the Oaxacan Coast

Río Grande, Oaxaca

May 2018


Ecosta Yutu Cuii (meaning Green Tree in Mixteco, one of the local languages) is a community organization on the coast of Oaxaca, dedicated to the promotion of sustainable development and conservation of natural resources through education. Since its foundation in 1993, Ecosta has collaborated with various communities, organizations and institutions in the municipality of San Pedro de Tututepec to create initiatives that address local concerns and generate economic, social, and environmental opportunities for the diverse communities of the region. 

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Río Grande, Oaxaca.

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Garden fence made out of plastic coke bottles.

The community projects Ecosta manages are always conceptualized with the idea that many small actions form part of the solution. Like many indigenous communities around the world, San Pedro de Tututepec faces the essential task of deconstructing implemented ideologies about agriculture and development that have had detrimental consequences for the land and the people that inhabit it. 


Before colonization, the iguana held a place of great importance in the traditional gastronomy of the Zapotec people of the Oaxacan coast. Today, iguana is still considered a sacred food because of the connection of life, wisdom, and respect that is shared between both the iguana and its preparer. However, the destruction of natural habitat, pollution, and overconsumption has led to the species being in danger of extinction. 

With the goal of protecting both the iguana population and traditional ways of life, Ecosta implemented an iguana nursery. They care for the baby iguanas as they mature, generating sources of employment for community members along the way. Some of the iguanas are sold to meet the excessive demand during Semana Santa (Holy Week, a traditional time in which iguana meat is consumed), but many are released into the wild.

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Iguana eggs, incubating in a traditional olla– clay pots used for water gathering and cooking (making beans and coffee), among other things. The incubation period lasts approximately 120 days.

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Emiliano grabs two baby iguanas to give us a closer look.


Two baby iguanas in the hands of their caretaker.

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A baby iguana hangs from the netting of its cage.


Baby iguanas pile on top of each other to bathe in the little bit of sun that enters their cage.

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The ECOSTA iguana conservation team has one adult iguana which unfortunately cannot be released into the wild. He likes to give kisses.

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Wheelbarrow under the mango tree.

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Adolescent iguana pen [Emiliano walks among the mango and banana trees].

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As adolescents, the iguanas are brought from the tropical tree pen to this corral, where they learn to be more exposed in a dry terrain. It's very difficult to catch them here, because they run so fast!


When the iguanas reach maturity they are brought here, where they roam free in the trees as if they were in the wild. This is the last step before they are released.


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A piece of iguana skin on the forest floor. 

Take a look at the artisan goods sold by the communities of San Pedro Tututepec here.

This project was completed as part of an independent learning contract with The Evergreen State College, titled Documentary Photography in the Face of the (American) Capitalist Hydra. The program is a follow-up of an earlier study abroad in Oaxaca and Chiapas, titled Alternatives & Resistance to Global Capitalism, with professors Peter Bohmer and María Isabel Morales.

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