The Spanish word monte can mean “mountain,” “woodland” or “forest.” But for Mexico’s indigenous people, and for la mestizaje—those of mixed European and Indian blood—the word carries an intrinsic spiritual significance, for the monte is not simply a place of corporeal sustenance but also a site of metaphysical renewal. Historically, the people found edible plants and animals as well as medicinal and curative herbs, or yerbas, within el monte. Whether atop a mountain or beneath the sheltering shades of myriad trees, the monte also possessed religious and ethereal symbols and signs—a power, it seemed, creating a sanctuary that aided in directing one’s life. In recent times, monte has been used to refer to any place “out of town,” from which one infers a locale removed from the stresses of city life, an area of tranquillity and quiet.

Arturo Longoria