Saturday, June 13, 2015

Semana Tres

Yet another week has come to an end that was filled with adventure,
learning, laughing, meeting new people and of course eating delicious
food. We had language school every day this week from 8 am till 1 pm
than at 1 we would have a 45 minute class all together to learn about
a different aspect of Mexican culture.  This week the classes were
more interactive than our previous week. We had lessons on the
different Mexican foods made from corn, a lesson on salsa dancing, a
session of traditional Mexican songs, and the different popular
Mexican drinks made from Tequila.

Monday after our classes we went to a local rehabilitation center. We
got a tour of the facility and told us a little bit of their story and
how their business got where it is today. Their facility consists of a
room with a mat for physical therapy exercises, a room for
occupational therapy, and two different rooms with beds and ultrasound
machines and machines for electrode therapy. All the people that work
at the rehab center used to all work in a larger facility with a
different boss. In the previous business, the boss wasn’t making his
payments to the government and the business was shut down. The boss
also didn’t pay the employees their liquidation when the company was
shut down so they decided to go on their own and start a new
rehabilitation center. They are currently working out of the lower
level of a house that was donated to them since they are not able to
rent a proper facility. This is also one of the places where we can do
our internships for the last couple weeks of the trip so I think it
will be interesting to see the differences in their form of treatment
and that of the US.

Tuesday we got to learn about the many uses for corn in Mexico. What
we think of as tacos is really not a taco in Mexico and a tortilla is
not simply a tortilla. There are quesadilla, tortillas, tortas, tacos,
tomalis, sope, pozole and there are so many foods made from corn than
we could have ever imagined.  Food is something that differs with
every culture and it is a great way to bring people together and learn
about others traditions. That night we did the Global Awareness
Project at the Quest Center. We were split up into groups and each
group had a giant world map and a pile of game pieces that we used to
demonstrate where the percentage of the population is throughout the
world. Then we had to divide up a percentage of poverty among the
world as well as the world’s wealth, debt, and amount of money spent
on military weapons.

Wednesday we experienced the many different Mexican drinks made from
tequila. We learned about the plant that is used to make tequila and
the different types of tequila that can be made based on how long the
alcohol has been aged. We also got to taste tequila and learned about
some common drinks that are made in Mexico as part of the culture. We
also learned about Mescal, which is a type of tequila that is
fermented and bottled with worms.

Thursday we had quite the entertaining dance lesson. There was a dance
instructor that came to the school to give everyone a lesson on Latin
American dancing. We started by learning some of the basic steps. For
some of us it was pretty easy to catch on to but there were others who
needed a little more time to warm up to it. After we learned some of
the basic moves, each girl partnered up with one of the guys at the
school and we had a chance to test the waters salsa dancing with our
partners. Some of the guys surprisingly had pretty good moves, but
there were definitely those that struggled. Many of us enjoyed being
able to learn a style of dancing that is so rare to find people doing
in the states. Sometimes I wish that our country had a native style
that was beautiful, graceful and fun to learn. It was an amazing
experience and there were lots of laughs throughout the lesson.
That night we watched a movie about the School of the Americas (SOA).
SOA is a school where men are sent from Central and South American
countries in order to receive military training. The school in based
in Fort Benning, Georgia and the soldiers receive education about
democracy and other military tactics in order to be able to properly
defend their country.  Historically some of the worst Latin American
dictators have received training at SOA. Many soliders have returned
back to their native country and violated the civil rights of their
own people, even killing many of their own people. One of the
countries that the movie focused on was El Salvador. There was a
dictator in El Salvador that came back from SOA and not long after he
returned, he started ordering mass murders on the citizens. Every year
there are protests to shut down the school outside the gate of SOA and
each person carries a cross with the name on it of someone who was
killed in a Latin American country by someone who trained at SOA. Our
group has been having a debate about SOA because we think that there
are good and bad things that come from the school. We want to know
more statistics and find more information that explains both sides of
the argument. What is the basis of the curriculum? Just because some
of the soldiers violate civil rights, does that mean that the school
is to blame and that it should be shut down? Every year there is a
group of CSS students and teachers that go to Fort Benning to take
part in the protest. If you are interested in learning more about the
protest or want to get involved just stop by the Center for Just
Living and you can find more information.

After we watched the movie we went to the house of an El Salvadorian
woman named Gloria.  She told us the story of how the military invaded
her village and how her entire family got separated in the midst of
trying to flee.  Her family was in hiding for a while so they wouldn’t
be taken by the government. One time she got taken to be interrogated
by the government and it was a miracle in itself that they let her
walk out. She was able to leave the country with her husband and
children and has lived in Mexico ever since. Their family started off
with 11 children and 2 parents, her after all that happened, she lost
4 siblings and both of her parents. After she finished her story we
helped make pupusas.  A pupusa is a fried tortilla that has cheese
stuffed in the middle. We struggled with not having the tortillas
falling apart so we decided to just let the ladies do the work so they
wouldn’t keep falling apart.

Friday we sang along to traditional Latin American music. We learned
some traditional Latin American songs as well as the Spanish versions
of songs we grew up with.Friday night we went to the LGBT church here
in Cuernavaca. The church is located right near the covered market,
the location of the church always changes because of the
discrimination towards the LGBT community here in Cuernavaca. We met
with the leader of the church, his name is Alfonso and he is an
ordained bishop for the LGBT church. The church was also recently
registered with the government.

Alfonso talked to us all about the discrimination and prosecution
that the LGBT community deals with today and what the past had been
like for them. Alfonso told us that when he saw what was happening to
the people who were suffering from HIV and AIDS within Cuernavaca, and
specifically within the LGBT community he decided he had to do
something about it. His answer was opening the church to those in
need, half of the church building was for worship and the other part
was a hospital/hospice center for those who needed aid.

The church does some great things for the whole community in
Cuernavaca. This church is the only one in Cuernavaca that performs
marriages between two men or two women, they also have these workshops
to help LGBT people and their families. One activity that we got to
participate in is going to the public hospital with them. Every week
they go as a group and pass out coffee and bread to those who are
waiting outside of the hospital. With the hospital system in Mexico,
many people come from very rural areas and usually the whole family
comes. These people struggle to have enough food and water so they end
up staying outside of the hospital while their family member is being
taken care of. We got to hand out coffee and bread to those who were
waiting and it was great seeing the smiles and being able to give
something back to the community that we have been in.

Saturday morning we woke up for a semi-early breakfast and then
headed of to the indigenous mountain village of Tlamacazapa in the
state of Guerrero. We were told that when the Spanish conquistadores
came to bring christianity it made the indigenous people run into the
mountains. It turns out that the word for baptism and beheading were
very similar in the two languages. The only difference between the
words was an accent. Naturally, the indigenous people were afraid for
their lives and went into the mountains, their descendants have been
their ever since. They stayed in the mountains for years before a man
left the village to see what life was like. After the man came back
safe, more people have been going down into the city and selling
baskets to support their families, but the majority of the village
stays in the mountains.

We were told that this village only has five wells for water and that
is supposed to last them a whole year. and in order to get to the well
you have to climb this 34 stairs down to get the water when it is the
dry season. Each person only get about 1.5 liters a day to clean,
cook, wash, and drink. But the water is slowing poisoning them, all
the wells contain arsenic from the minerals in the mountains and they
can’t fix it. I had this picture in my head of huts made from twigs
and grass for roofs with people wearing hand made clothes, when
someone would tell me indigenous village that is what I thought. So
when the car stopped in front a church with a store across the street
selling coke, I was surprised. I thought it was just a place that was
in-between our home and the village. But no, it was the village, with
stores that were made of concrete and selling coke, with music playing
in the church from guitars, with people wearing shirts that had
printed designs on them, with no grass roofs in sight.

We went into the church and saw a group of people playing songs for
mass, the church was very small but full of character and life. That
is a really common occurrence here in Mexico, the people might be poor
financially, but they are rich spiritually. In this church the Virgin
of Guadalupe was in the front behind the alter and an African-American
Jesus on the cross was off to the side. That has been the case in a
lot of other churches we have been to as well. After we spent some
time listening to the music we started to go to the first house of the
day. The roads are crazy in this town. They are at about a 50 degree
incline. It is crazy to see these old little grandmas just walking up
this hill with a bucket of water in one hand and food in the other.

The first house we went to had about 20 kids in it and about a living
room a little bit bigger than a dorm at CSS. This lady had around
seven kids with kids of their one and for the most part all lived in
one house. They make their living by selling baskets that they weave
and one of the grandkids makes bracelets with names on them. When they
have enough money they buy coke and drink that instead of the water.
But sometimes they don’t have enough money to even buy corn for their
tortillas they eat everyday. One of the grandchildren was named
Sophia. In their culture it is bad luck for anyone outside of the
family to see a child under the age of one year old. This most likely
came of trying to find blame for children dying from malnourishment.
When we asked how old Sophia was we were told seven months old. When
asked why we were being allowed to see her, we were told that we are
considered family. People I never even knew existed welcomed me into
their home, feed me tortillas, made me a bracelet, gave me a basket,
and considered me family. It was a very humbling experience.

We went to a house of a girl who was 19 years old and she was in
charge of all her brothers and sisters because her parents had died.
She had been going to school but had to quit in order to keep her
family home and keep food on the table. We also went to a different
house where the family gave us gifts and welcomed us into their home
and showed us a baby who had been born two weeks ago. Even though this
people don’t have much in terms of physical belongings, they are very
happy and content with their lives and are concerned with giving to
others. I left the village wondering how a city full of 6,000 people
not have access to clean water? How can people drink water that is
slowly killing them?

After we were done visiting in Tlamacazapa we headed to Taxco or the
“city of silver.” In Taxco they have these silver mines and jewelry is
super in-expensive there. It is a very cute little tourist town that
has a bunch of shops and restaurants. Many of the people spoke enough
english to try and sell you things. There is church there that has the
only picture of Jesus being circumcised. We all split up to do some
shopping and all met up at this pizza restaurant. It was a very
relaxing afternoon just exploring the city and the shops.

Sunday we headed off to the ruins of Xochicalco. It is an
archeological site in the western part of Morelos. It was created
around 600-800 common time. At the peak time for the city it might
have had around 20,000 people. The area was founded by a Mayan group
of traders. A really cool part of the ruins is the astronomical
observatory. It this giant cave that had been modified to follow and
study the movement of the sun. Apparently when the Sun is strong
enough you can see an x-ray of you hand if you put in the ray a
certain way. It was super cool learning about the culture and seeing
some of the ancient artifacts that were found.
        After the ruins we headed back and watched a movie about the
Zapatista movement and had Efraim Rojas Bruschetta come and talk to us
about the Zapatista movement today and what it was all about. He was
super nice because he talked in English and in Spanish for us. He
started off his talk by showing us a picture of the world upside down.
He told us that Latin American citizens go through schooling seeing
their country and their history as insignificant to other parts of the
world and Central and South America do look very small compared to the
other countries and regions on a map. He talk about how the Zapatistas
are fighting for equality and are fighting for justice. Later on he
even played us some revolutionary songs which were super cool to hear
and find the meaning to.

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