Wednesday, May 27, 2015

La Primera Semana

Hola todos! This is the 2015 St. Scholastica Cuernavaca Quest Service-Learning trip to Mexico.
We began our travels by meeting at the Minneapolis airport at 3:00am Wednesday the 13th of May. We took a couple flights and a bus to arrive at the Quest Center in Cuernavaca at around 6:00pm that same day. Since our arrival we have had the opportunity to eat some amazing food and meet some amazing people. While we have already talked with many enlightening folks, there are a couple of experiences that have really stood out and have allowed us to challenge our world views.

One of these enriching experiences was when we had the privilege of speaking with some ladies involved in “La estación proyecto.” This is a group of women who have organized themselves in order to benefit the lives of their children and women in the community. They are living in an abandoned train station that was supposed to be temporary housing.
The Cuernavaca group with Berna, who graciously showed us her home and told us about her life in “La Estación.”
 The Mexican government took the land that these people were living on and told them to stay at the abandoned train station while they built them new housing. Unfortunately, the government did not follow through with its promise, so they ended up staying at the station, building makeshift homes while not owning the land that they live on. The women involved in the project have shown tremendous strength in the work that they do. They have resolved to advocate for themselves and have persevered to overcome many obstacles in their way. Some examples of what they do involve making breakfast for the children, as we all know it is hard to learn with an empty stomach and providing activities for children when they have breaks to keep them off the streets. During our talk with Silvia, one of the women at la estación, she emphasized that what each individual does is temporary and is a cycle. As they work to better the lives and further the education of their children, it is important to remember that it is a stepping stone and is not a permanent position. As one woman’s child graduates, her position as a worker at the project will be filled by a new mother whose children are just entering school. The women were also all very thankful for the donations from outside sources that make their project possible. The funding that they receive goes toward purchasing items that they need to cook, adding on to their building, and buying everyday items that help their children keep up with their schooling. The power and perseverance of these women through such adversity has challenged our perspectives on what the strength of women can really accomplish.
    It has also been an eye-opening experience to learn about the economic situation in Mexico. In a talk with a professor at the university in Mexico City, we learned that 70% of Mexicans live in poverty, and minimum wage is only 70 pesos a day for a 9 hour day of work, which comes out to about 50 cents per hour
A view of “el Mercado” where 
people go to sell their goods.
in U.S. dollars. This explains why the families living in la estación are unable to move on to better living situation. On the second morning of our trip, we went on the “quest” in which groups of 3-4, our families for the day, were given 70 pesos (an average day’s pay)  and went down to the central market to buy a day’s work of groceries. While it was incredible to visit the center of the city and see the market, the cathedral, and the various plazas, it also showed us the reality for many Mexican families, as we were unable to purchase our groceries and take the bus to and from the market with only 70 pesos. This shows why in many families, both parents and some children must work in order to feed the family on a daily basis and also in order to pay for schooling. In Mexico, the constitution states that primary schooling is free. However, due to governmental corruption, we learned that parents must pay for books, uniforms, registration fees, and classroom maintenance, which are quite expensive for a family with minimum wage incomes. Therefore, many students do not even finish the 6th grade and find it hard to overcome the poverty in their lives. While it is saddening to see the state of poverty of many families in Mexico, as we are so accustomed to our comfortable lifestyles in the US, it is encouraging to hear that people are joining together to try and make a change, whether it be the women of la estación, protests in the universities, or the program here at Cuernavaca Quest, educating people about the problems is the first step for finding the solutions.

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