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The solar grannies

15 August 2018

Norma Guerra Ramos really lit up the town when she showed up recently in Tres Marías Paso del Tigre, Oaxaca. The small Tehunatepec mountain town has never had electricity. That is, until Norma… a 52 year olf fisherwoman and housewife with a grade school education, traveled by canoe, horseback and on foot to the isolated community from her coastal home to install solar panels for every home and the village school.

Norma, and a handful of other woman, are graduates of the Barefoot University, an Indian based project that teaches rural woman the practical skills needed to install electrical systems and water pumps in under-served, and isolated communities. The “solar grannies” (abuelas solares) were trained as “solar engineers” back in 2014, mostly expecting to work in their own communities, but, as they are discovering, their skills are needed throughout rural Mexico.
That Tres Marías never had electricity never crossed anyone’s mind (that is, officially). People got along somehow (like every did until the last century) and no one seemed to particularly notice. That is, until a would-be charity showed up after last year’s earthquake, intending to assist with whatever reconstruction and relief projects might be required. The Tres Maríans had survived the quake without too much disruption, but …. uh… no, you can’t plug in your cell phones. Sorry. Oh, and the charity workers were told, if you want to plug in that power drill, the nearest outlet is an hour and half away. Hope you have a really long extension cord.

So… it appeared what Tres Marías really needed was some lights and maybe a way to plug in a cell phone now and again. With Norma supervising, the ten houses and village school have their won “off-the-grid” systems, an outlet or two for telephones (one woman in the village is pregnant, and they’d like to be able to call a midwife if they need to), kids can do their homework after dark and it’s possible to cook without spending half the day gathering firewood.

A feel-good story that shouldn’t be. Tres Marías is on the Isthmus of Tehunatepec, one of the major electrical producing centers in the Americas. It’s one of the best places on earth to site wind-power generators, and foreign investors, especially Spanish firms, have been falling over themselves (and riding roughshod over local land-owner’s rights) to install windmills. For industrial electrical users. Power to the people? For that, don’t look to corporations. Look for a solar granny.

(La Jornada)

One Comment leave one →
  1. 20 August 2018 2:24 pm

    Mexico, with its plenteous sunshine seems like an excellent place for solar power. I’m glad to see that it’s finally getting installed, especially where it’s needed the most. Now if CDMX, in particular, could only find a way to use water a little more efficiently, they’d really be on to something.


    Kim G
    Redding, CA
    Another ideal place for solar where it’s definitely gaining traction.

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