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I learned the news when I was in the middle of a meeting. The notification sounded and I checked my screen – I could only see the last words from a dear friend, “…he was suffering so much.”
In a heartbeat I knew. Alberto was gone.
The man who, more than anyone, was responsible for my tectonic shift in trajectory at the midpoint of my life. The man who, long before I met him, planted the seeds that led to that shift.
Coyote Alberto Ruz Buenfil, a legend for all times, whose penetrating blue gaze and rainbow heart reached thousands, untold numbers of whom were inspired, like me, to follow his lead in creative and proactive resistance and the weaving of a new, more beautiful world.
Coyote Alberto, who with his beret of many colors, took on many mantles: revolutionary, social critic, author, leader, shaman, friend and father and husband and grandfather. Alberto, who knew how to make each person in his vast network feel important and special. Who quickly came to see my relevance to the movement and made a special and ongoing effort to integrate me into the rainbow network of the Global South, known by many names. Alberto, who understood me more than I understood myself in some ways, who connected across space and time to keep me plugged into that network, as he did with so many.
From the moment of his peaceful passing in the heart of his family in Tepoztlán, in the magical mountains of Morelos, the social media networks began to vibrate in a powerful international tribute that has pulsed day and night without stopping, like a giant digital heartbeat, to this day, more than a week later. Photos, stories, sharings from the heart from as far away as Italy, Colombia, Brazil, Spain, Chile, a rainbow of response bringing tears and laughter and more tears throughout the global family he built that transcends his passing.
Alberto, who took the many threads of this global movement and began the weaving of a tapestry that took form in the Rainbow Peace Caravan that traveled for 13 years from Mexico to the Tierra del Fuego, using theater and art to convey messages of Earth care and, as they call it here in the South, Cultura de Paz, Culture of Peace, all along the way; in the Vision Council, whose three decades of transformational gatherings brought together activists, artists, healers, Indigenous people, followers of a variety of spiritual traditions as varied as the world itself.
Who went on to become a leader of the Global Ecovillage Network and to lead the formation of a Latin American counterpart, CASA, the Consejo de Asentamientos Sustentables de las Américas (Council of Sustainable Settlements of the Americas). And then, taking the ecovillage movement to the marginalized neighborhoods of the cities with the Ecobarrios movement. And as if that weren’t enough, becoming an influential leader in the international movement for the Rights of Mother Earth.
Alberto, who to the dismay of thousands, was diagnosed four years ago with stage 4 prostate cancer and told he had perhaps four months to live. He defied the diagnosis and in the past four years wrote or contributed to at least four more books, traveled the world giving presentations and opening hearts wherever he went, and helped to organize and inspire two more powerful, life-changing Vision Council gatherings: The Call of the Water in Bacalar, the Lake of Seven Colors in Quintana Roo; and the Embrace of the Amate, returning the Vision Council to its origins in the mountains of Tepoztlán.
On Wednesday of last week, as I pushed my way through Guadalajara’s relentless traffic, a tiny red dress caught my eye, hanging from the front of a little shop. My Wixárika goddaughter Daysi, granddaughter of the beloved maraka’ame (shaman) Katira whom I met for the first time at the Vision Council, has just given birth to a baby girl, so I found a place to pull over and found a treasure of tiny beautiful clothing.
As I finished making my selections and prepared to pay my eyes drifted to the back of the shop, where a little rainbow-colored circle lay at the top of a pile. “What’s that?” I asked. The shopkeeper stepped back and picked it up. “This?”
It was, as I had thought, a rainbow beret, like the kind Alberto has used for years. Amazing, I thought. “I’ll take it.” And for 50 pesos – less than $2 – it was mine. I laughed at the synchronicity and put it on with a prayer for Alberto.
Less than 24 hours later, he was gone. And it was then I realized the significance of the beret. Alberto had already begun his transition when I found it. And somehow, some way, he or his allies found a way to cross space and time once again to send me a message and a final gift, and at the same time, a final assignment. It was as if from there in Tepoztlán he was extending his hand to me, preparing me and calling me to the work that corresponds to me. To share his legacy and continue the work that we share, that he assigned to me since the day I met him, to continue sharing the stories of our tribe and of the Rainbow Warriors and defenders of the land everywhere.
I have been wearing it ever since, and continue interpreting its meaning. Alberto, wherever you are, now on your galactic journey to the next level, I get it. Rest assured, my dear friend. Your family is my family, for life. My work, like that of so many others, will remain intertwined with yours, until the end. Pamparius. Tlazokomati. Pilmaye. And many, many thanks.
The last book that Alberto finished before leaving was “Raíces Negras Corazón Arcoiris”, which is now available in digital version. To request printed copies, you may sign up here. The publisher requires 350 commited buyers before committing to publish the book, so his family is inviting those who are interested to sign up here: Those who wish to have a copy of this fascinating autobiography where Coyote explores his family’s ties and his own history with African culture may add their name to this list, along with the number of copies they want.