It’s been a long, strange, mostly dust-free year and a half for many of the creators in our global community. We’re all missing the playa, and many of us have idle hands raring to get things going again.
What’s it like for a project and camp as complex as Mayan Warrior to be forced off the hamster wheel of our annual event cycle? What has the crew been up to?
“We all experience Burning Man in our own way, and you see the outside world differently after going [to Black Rock City],” Mayan Warrior founder, Pablo González Vargas says. “The natural step after you contribute to the event is to think, ‘How can I bring this creativity to the outside world?’”
Pablo says, in many ways, the Black Rock City experience prepared him for the pandemic and the work that’s been needed to navigate it.
“Bringing any kind of project out to the playa makes you a resilient producer the rest of the year. You face a lot of challenges in the desert just to get your thing up and running, so when you’re back home some of the problems are a little easier to tackle.”
He added that the simple, relatable desire to help your BRC neighbor in need translated fluidly to the new normal of Covid.
“Covid changed us. When you look at some of the humanitarian efforts in the world right now, you can see some of the same dynamics on playa with how we use Communal Effort and Civic Responsibility to help each other.”
In response to an apparent lack of personal protective equipment in some parts of Mexico early on during the pandemic, one of the first things the Mayan Warrior team did was create a musical livestream event that raised funds to deliver PPE to communities in need.
Over the last few months, Pablo, along with the founders of the Maxa and Sacbe camps plus two Burning Man-adjacent communities, started Planet Buyback. It’s a nonprofit organization dedicated to funding a select grouping of projects, all focused on efforts to protect natural habitats, mitigate climate change, and support cultural initiatives. The team wanted to figure out a direct, easy-to-understand way to make an impact in Mexico and around the world, and the idea of creating a subscription model rose to the top.
“We have an active base of community members, and we had critical mass to do something meaningful. The Burning Man ethos of the Gifting economy led us to think about how we can give back right now, and how we can make it scalable.”
Current projects Planet Buyback supports include an ocean conservation project in Indonesia, a clean drinking water initiative in Guanajuato, Mexico, and plastic cleanup efforts in Tulum, Mexico and Lira, Uganda. Projects will rotate over time, with each member group (Mayan Warrior, Maxa, Sacbe, etc.) choosing a project that’s important to them.
Going deeper on why a subscription model makes the most sense for this endeavor, Pablo notes that despite their fun and significant financial impact, you can only do so many large-scale fundraising events, especially with something as complex as the Mayan Warrior mutant vehicle.
“We gave 50% of the proceeds from our recent New York fundraiser to Planet Buyback. But fundraisers are complicated, and aren’t scalable or sustainable in the way a subscription model is. So we invite the community to join us and give $5 a month to support these amazing projects.” Pablo says the team’s goal is to gather a million subscribers. “That’s $5 million a month. We can have a serious impact at that level.”
Part of the idea is also to create a model that other Burning Man camps and crews can replicate.
“Why do we love Burning Man so much? It’s the gathering of people from all walks of life who come together to create something amazing. The collaborative aspect is what drives us. So we hope Planet Buyback shows people a way to bring that to the rest of the year, and whether or not we can do Black Rock City.”
Of course, and like…ahem…ALL of us, Pablo’s missing the dust, and he’s got his fingers crossed for Black Rock City 2022.
“This coming year will be the 10-year anniversary for Mayan Warrior, so it’s going to be special.”
Here’s to hoping we can all dance under the lasers again soon…
Cover image of the Mayan Warrior team in 2019 (Photo by Nicholas K. Hess)