Film Premiere: Chia’s Passionate Mountain

Alberto Villalba farms in the shadow of Popocatépetl, the towering volcano that has shaped the history of this land, and enriched its soil.

Long before the Spanish arrived, the Aztecs were fascinated by the way sustenance-giving rain clouds gathered around Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl, a smaller volcano to the north. In legend, Popocatépetl was once a warrior, Iztaccíhuatl a princess, and the angry plumes the result of love lost, a molten despair that never cools.

The mountain still fumes, and the land retains its storied abundance. Today Popocatépetl broods over a population that no longer fears it, but rather looks up with a casual sort of affection. The volcano has a nickname, Don Goyo, and its very real dangers seem abstract. It’s just part of the landscape, like the lush carpets of grains and fruits and seeds that unfurl each season from Popocatépetl’s halo of clouds to the low fields gathered before it.

On such a field, farmer Alberto Villalba labors to prepare the soil for a planting of chia, guiding a plow that is pulled across the landscape by his two horses. It is a sight that would have been familiar to his great-grandfather, who first worked the family’s precious parcels. Since that time, the family’s deep respect for nature hasn’t changed, nor the devotion to growing pure, healthy crops. But a few things are different. Now there’s a name for what the Villalba generations have been doing — organic farming, using safe veganic techniques.

“We grow everything organically, not just for ourselves but also for the health and prosperity of our community,” Alberto told us.

“We love our work, and it begins early each day. We have breakfast before leaving our house, and then work all day. We have one hour for lunch, and end the day at 6, or sometimes later in the evening. We need to make sure we are rested for the next day, because we start again early in the morning.”


We invite you to spend some time with Alberto and the hardworking people of Puebla. Begin your visit with our film premiere below. Or enjoy the video along with photos and an essay on our Web site: