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A True Keeper of the Desert’s Treasures Passes On

Amalia Astorga one of the most charismatic and quixotic singers, storytellers, artists and visionaries of the Comcaac (Seri) passed away in Desemboque this week, stranded by the hurricane damage to Sonoran coast and left without medical help.

One of several daughters of Jose Astorga, the artist who began the Seri ironwood carving tradition, Amalia grew up in the desert at Pozo Coyote and Desemboque, but later lived for periods of time near Puertecitos, Baja California and on the midriff islands in fishing camps.

She was blessed with visions and limitless passion for cross-cultural exchanges, becoming well known in Italy, Spain, the United States and other parts of Mexico.

Amalia and her husband Adolfo Burgos not only traveled widely, singing and storytelling at public events, but they hosted indigenous and non-indigenous artists of many cultures at their home in the beach at Desemboque. They recorded dozens of CD’s of Seri music and Amalia herself coauthored a Cinco Puntos book with me on her friend and neighbor, Efrain a desert lizard , who kept her company daily for a half dozen years.

She had a preternatural relationship with all animals of the desert and sea and many people as well.

One of the greatest weeks of my life was traveling by sloop with Amalia, Adolfo, Eric Mellink and others recording Seri place names on the islands of the Gulf of California between Desemboque and Guaymas, while being chased by airplanes, helicopters and swift boats from the Mexican navy which thought we were cocaine smugglers!

No one I have ever known lived closer to the spirits of the desert and sea than Amalia, who, when she put me into a vision quest initiation in a cave after days of fasting, opened me up to a domain of this world I had never fathomed.

She was unlike any mortal I have ever met, and will be sorely missed.



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