Temazcal – Traditional Steam Sauna



During my permanence in Mexico I had the opportunity get in contact with the Fundación Mundo Sustentable which promotes cultural and environmental education for sustainability and the green economy, opening “holistic centers” for an integral development of communities with particular attention on developing indigenous population.

One center is located in “San Miguel de Bustamante” Nuevo Leon, a town of Tlaxcala’s heritage , which although situated between two deserts counts with 180,000 walnuts trees. This is made possible by an unique microclimate allowed by the numerous springs flocated in the canyon and the ditches that from there run all through the village. Those particular conditions permit the presence of different species of vegetation among which many medicinal plants.

Carlos Gómez Flores director of the Fundación and columnist for the town of Bustamante, invited me along with Manuel Rodríguez, with whom he was working in Saltillo in a cooperation project, to visit the village coinciding with a workshop on alternative medicine that was celebrated in the town. One of the objectives was to give our opinion on the status of the holistic center located in an old building whose roof had suffered serious damage.

During the talks of those daysellos días surgió Carlos mentioned histo donate his home, which has a large garden crossed by a ditch, to university institutions to develop educational programs in town and his plan to build in that place a “Temazcal” an indigenous ritual steam herbs sauna (from the Nahuatl: temazcalli, “house of steam” by temaz “steam” and calli “house”).

The Mayor of Bustamante, Oscar García, was immediately interested and offered support to the initiative. Thus began the adventure of building a straw Temazcal in Bustamante.

Thanks to the synergies with various activities that we were programing in the area, and the support of the foundation, we could count on Michelle Pecoraro to help compile the project online and lead personally the workshop and on the experience of David Juarez. In the weeks before the workshop Manuel was in constant contact with Michele, with the shaman Lorena and with Enriqueta Santos from Bustamante’s city hall that with her efficacy revealed a fundamental piece along the process.

how to build a temazcal, ctrl+z architectureThe workshop was organized over two weekends to allow drying of the first layer of mud, thicker, in the intermediate days. Thanks to the work of the local team from the beginning we had all the necessary materials to begin construction to which the neighborhoods joined by dozens.

Many residents were familiar with the principles of the technique, before they began to build with concrete blocks, in the town used to built with adobe walls and concrete roof. Doña Bertha the teacher organized turns with the kids of local school to decorate the Temazcal with traditional figures, tasks seconded by Pedrito.

Technically the foundation is composed of old tires filled with soil over which was arranged an used plastic canvas (of the former municipal elections), to protect the bales and the structure of the potential raise moisture. The structure is a geodesic assembled from perforated metal plates, was a point to count on the experience of David.

On it relied the straw bales, forming the main door and the “coyote window”, also made of tires and protected by local hurdle. The smearing was done in several layers from the fattest for the filling to the finest. Curiously Michele commented that the clay from the same lot, the one that was removed to prepare the hole, was one of the best with which he had the opportunity to work.

Our stay was more enjoyable being able to know the main tourist attractions: the caves of Bustamante, famous throughout Mexico,the Bustamante Canyon and the “Ojo de Agua de San Lorenzo”, where Carlos was kind enough to join us at dawn to bathe as according to tradition. However, thanks to the kindness and generosity of the people, we knew the food heritage of the first inhabitants of the region, the famous bakery based on nut bread, goat and also Mezcal of which Bustamante is a reputable manufacturer.

During the days of the workshop were many people who came and who were interested in the construction of straw and in the possibility of the geodetic system to whom we tempt advice, now we expect pictures of the results.

Finally we had the opportunity to participate in the inauguration of the Temazcal, that without any doubt was an unforgettable experience.

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