Finding Neverland - The Magic of Barra de Potosi, Mexico
At Christmas, when you are half a world away from your family and friends it is important to find somewhere special to celebrate. That somewhere for us was the tiny Mexican village of Barra de Potosi on the Pacific coast.
Passing by you see a dusty road of a town, similar to that of other Mexican towns you drive by on the bus. You wonder what's so special. Then you venture down the village path towards where a giant lagoon meets the sea.
It's just beautiful. You've made the right choice.
In the village of Barra de Potosi there is a strong sense of community, family and friendship. The people embrace you quickly with warm hearts and beaming smiles, and welcome you into their way of life. You are invited to take part in local Christmas celebrations, including nightly Posadas, fireworks and the breaking of piñatas!
You soon hear stories of the area - of the people who live there, who have died there and the celebrities who have visited to escape the pressures of Hollywood. So many stories for such a tiny village made up of half a dozen streets, miles away from anywhere...
Clearly, there is more to Barra de Potosi than meets the eye.
It's all About the Children
You are never far away from the sounds of the innocent giggles of babies, and the soft scampering feet of children, padding along the dusty dirt-red road, setting off fire crackers along the way. Children are everywhere and I had a very strong sense that it was the children who kept life flowing in the village. Without them the village would lose its energy - it would struggle to survive.
And so the children of Barra de Potosi are nurtured and loved by everyone. Most of the activity in and around the village is centred around them.
Dona Laura and the Children's Library
We stayed at the beautiful 'Casa del Encanto' of Dona Laura (Laura Kelley).
Dona / Don (like The Godfather), is the title of address placed before a name to indicate respect. So how had Laura Kelley from California earned herself this honorary title in such a tiny close-net Mexican community?
When Laura first arrived at Barra de Potosi she wanted to be a part of village life and so focused her attention and work on what was valued most by the community - the children.
The children’s library of Barra de Potosi is more than just a room filled with books - it is a project spear-headed by Laura, who regularly hosts creative workshops for the children and leads on projects involving local artists and visitors, teaching the children English, and developing their reading and writing skills.
This video beautifully depicts the work that is done in the library
The Magic Bit!
It all starts with a story...
The children are often overheard telling tales of goblin-like creatures guarding treasure in the rocky cliffs by the sea.
They discuss the old hermit man who lived in the hills, who claimed to dine regularly with the devil and the old witch with long white hair who haunts the lagoon.
Adults share the stories too, with such passion, such conviction you find yourself lost in the story, unable to later decipher fact from fiction.
Recently, a famous Spanish movie director Maria Novaro based herself and her film crew in Barra de Potosi to shoot a movie about a family who travel from Mexico City to live in the village. The city children, struggling to adapt to country life soon make friends with the village children and together they go in search of pirates and treasure.
Again - a village made up of half a dozen streets in the middle of nowhere, attracts a famous director to shoot a magical children's movie.
It's incredible - there is definitely some element of magic here, there must be. The village's location and scenery is stunning, and the children - with their stories of goblins, and witches and caves and treasures - are what keep this village alive.
Had we stumbled into a real life Neverland?
Stories are Told - Legends and Heroes are Born
Whenever the children spot the goblins they hurry to Dona Laura's home...
"Dona Laura! Dona Laura!" they call from the street. "We've seen them, we've seen the goblins! In the mangroves!" Laura steps out of her house and asks the excited children questions about what the goblins were doing, what were they wearing?
I strongly suspect Laura believes them. I suspect the children know that she does and so they trust her and love her. They gravitate to her, as do the locals - through the work that she does to keep the village and the children happy.
One mother overheard her son discussing with a friend how Dona Laura came to be a part of village life.
"Did you know that Dona Laura didn't always live in the village - she came from somewhere else, far away from Mexico!"
"No, Dona Laura has always lived here in the village. It is not possible that she is from anywhere else."
Laura Kelley from California becomes Dona Laura from Barra de Potosi.
And so, stories are shared and legends and heroes are born.
That is the magic of Barra de Potosi - Mexico's very own Neverland.