One of the great things about producing this podcast is the opportunities for meeting a lot of amazing people from the area, and one particularly interesting guy is Sandro Canovas.
Sandro is an adobodero–in the simplest terms, someone who makes adobe bricks, but he is also considered an artist for his mastery in making adobe structures. He’s also an activist that proclaims, “Adobe is Political,” after Presidio County increased the assessed value of adobe structures, thus increasing the property taxes on them. An outcry and opposition to the move, which seems to be unprecedented for actually taxing a specific building material more, resulted. The ramifications are pretty clear of dramatically increasing taxes on adobe owners who often have little income, and whose families have lived in the county for generations. They get priced out of their own homes, leaving adobes to wealthier newcomers who can afford the buildings and the upkeep needed on them.
Long ago, I wanted to write about Sandro and maybe take one of the many adobe-making workshops he’s hosted, but it just never came together. But I did get a chance to sit down with him over some migas and tacos for breakfast at Magoos in Alpine.
A native of Mexico City, Sandro has had an interesting life, including profitable stints fishing in Alaska, his studies and community work in Adobe, playing guide for Anthony Bourdain in a Parts Unknown shortly before Bourdain’s death, and some well-known conflicts being harassed by the Border Patrol in his ongoing treks back and forth across the border. My hope is to get together with Canovas again soon for a deeper tour of Ojinaga that we discussed over breakfast, since much of the backdrop for this podcast is centered around the Mexican border city.
Until then, check out the following profiles on his work and political activism:
Adobe documentary builds conversation (Big Bend Sentinel, August 7, 2019)
Adobe Houses are Made of Mud and Straw — and Some Now Cost $1 Million Because of Rising Taxes (Documentary by Alan Thompson, July 2019)
On ‘Parts Unknown,’ Anthony Bourdain Asks If West Texans Are the Platonic Ideal of Texans (Texas Monthly, October 23, 2018)