Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Speaking Engagments


So now that I'm back in Minneapolis, I've been lining up some presentations to give to various communities through out the Twin Cities. As of right now I'll be speaking August 3rd to the Minneapolis South Rotary Club, August 9th to the Woman's Environmental Institute's Organic Farm School Class and to a group of high school kids from the Little Earth of United Tribe, the date for this one is still TBD.

The following are lecture topics for each presentation-

Minneapolis South Rotary Club
- This one will be more focused on my experiences in Mexico as a Ambassador of Goodwill.

Woman's Environmental Institute's Organic Farm School- The fight against transgenic corn in rural indigenous Mexico.

Little Earth of United Tribes- The basics of genetically modified organisms and the possible consequences for indigenous communities in Mexico and the United States.

If you are interested in attending one of these three presentations, please contact me to let me know. You can email me at rega0078@umn.edu.

Artwork: Mujer Indigena by Mexican muralist Diego Rivera

Sunday, May 30, 2010

My Last Post!


Well this might be my final blog post, I'm not quite sure.

Two months early and after 10 months, I am finally back in the states. Since I've gotten home, I've been making sure to eat healthy, exercise and get plenty of rest. I can tell (well lets cross our fingers) if I keep doing this, little by little, my body and spirit will heal.

I feel so fortunate to have had this wonderful opportunity to share such beautiful experiences with others, to grow as a persons and to expand my mind. When I think about the goals I had as an Ambassadorial Scholar, I am happy to say that I accomplished what I was looking to do-

1. Carry out meaningful and positive community service

After unsuccessfully finding a Rotary projects of which to take part in and volunteer my services, I went off on my own and decided to reach out to a single local honey producer as my community service project. I helped him diversify his products, expand his local market, create informational brochures, create a business plan. Most importantly, I helped spark a small fire within him to be proud of his work and become more passionate and open to using his creative talents to expand his small business.

2. Break down walls of discrimination and build relationships of peace and understanding

In regards to building cross-cultural relationship of peace and understanding, I hope and I tried my best to contribute to breaking down borders of prejudice when friends, family and those in my vicinity. Many times my friends or class members would approach me and tell me that I was very different from what they thought an American girl my age would be like. At first, hearing this comment in its many variations made me upset numerous times, but then I realized that a positive change and transformation was taking place within the people making these remarks. Through my friendships, presentations and lectures, I hope I helped open the eyes of many people to the fact that the stereotype of an overweight, uninformed and apathetic American may need to be reevaluated. Discussing on many important issues such as immigration and U.S. foreign policy with numerous people created beautiful and unique safe spaces where ideas could be created and shared where furthering of understanding could flourish. I was also able to breakdown many of my own stereotypes I held from growing up and traveling to Mexico frequently, about family relations, machismo and violence.

I am currently planning to speak with the Rotrians of South Minneapolis to see if they could support me in providing a mini public film festival focused on a few important current political and social issues in Mexico such as violence, gangs, immigration and child labor. I think it would be a great and creative idea to show some amazing movies and documentaries I have picked out, present them to the public and then have time to discuss these issues openly. I would love to do this as a way to create awareness here at home and to continue to help break down borders of prejudice.

August 9th I will be giving a public lecture on a topic focused on rural indigenous communities and agriculture in Mexico for the Woman's Environmental Institute's 10 week Organic Farm School Class. I'll keep you posted when I have more details.

3. Build a meaningful relationship

This was one of the biggest things I accomplished. Strengthening family relationships and creating new ones with Rotarians and friends. I know that this part of my experience will be with me forever and that I have made life-long friends. I now have a number of good friends from Mexico in the process of making arrangements to come and visit, I can't wait!!

4. Grow and flourish with professional and personal knowledge

Taking graduate level classes in Spanish, making a number of visits to rural and/or indigenous communities, researching and learning about domestic and foreign Mexican agriculture related issues and the numerous and diverse conversations I shared with those in Mexico have all pushed my limits of comfort (in a great way), thus making me a stronger, more informed, compassionate and skilled person.

I could go on and on about what an absolutely amazing experience this scholarship opportunity has been, but I've tried to sum it up in these four points.

I want to say thank you to all the Rotarians, friends and family who made this possible, I am forever in debt to you. Knowing that others made this opportunity a possibility for me, I continue to work to promote ideals of peace, justice and understanding that transcends borders.

Thank you.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

I'm Home!

I just got home today!! I can't believe it! Let me settle in and get a few things organized and I'll catch up and let you know how my final days went, how it's been going since I got back and some final reflections. Thanks-Maria

Friday, May 21, 2010

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Another Plug for My Hero



I saw this....and I just HAD to share it with you. Hopefully I'm not making you all sick of Will Allen. I hope I'm doing the opposite, sparking a little interest in issues such as food-justice, structural racism, food systems, national and international policy, finding out where you food comes from etc.

In the end...you all know, I'm currently working to follow the steps Will has laid out for me/us in lessening the injustices in our country and in our world through food.

Maybe I should change this blog website title to, "Will Allen is my Hero", noooo....just kidding, but I am thinking about doing a blog just on food-justice. Actually, I'm pretty sure I'm going to do it once I get back home and settled in again.

Check this out, it's a pretty good intro video to Will and his work- The Good Food Revolution

What does this have to do with my time here in Mexico? A lot. I've been here learning about key issues in indigenous, campesino, rural and urban communities, the injustices they face when it comes to food access, food production, development, etc. and how they are working to survive and provide alternatives. This is all part of my learning process in educating myself on such issues to be better equipped to really work with and for our local and global communities in providing equity, healthy lifestyles and peace.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Bring on the Kleenex!


Yup....that's right.....as of two days ago marks the first day of the dreaded and awful "goodbye" process. I know this because two days ago was the first time I cried quite a bit about leaving Mexico, I'm pretty sure I was telling Miguel he just wasn't going to understand how hard it is going to be leaving my life, family and friends here.

I think it went a little something like this, "Sobbb...it's just that you don't understand sobbbbbbb, how hard it's going to be......sobbbbbbb, uhhhhhhhhhhh soobbbbbbbbbb, leaving everysooobbbbbbbbbthing. My friends, school uhhhsobbbbbbbbb family behind sobbbbbuhhhh and start all over again sobbbbbbbbbb...."

Something like that as I recall, and poor Miguel, listening and supporting me the whole time, who knows if he could even understand me between the tears and sniffling.

Sure enough, I had another "attack" of tears tonight when I had to say goodbye to (with all do respect when I say this) "los viejitos" of the two Rotary Clubs here in Texcoco. I had the pleasure of having one more meeting with this group of "over the hill" (jeje) distinguished, proud and very endearing men who have always invited me to be part of their family and have always made me feel comfortable. My last Rotary meeting with them was amazing...we were all laughing and telling jokes the whole time and of course, being their guest of honor AND the only female there....like always....they treated me like a queen. I can't say I didn't like it and think it was funny and curious at the same time.

This time the sobs started the moment after I said goodbye to Leonardo Leal, my Rotary Counselor, or mejor dicho, the person who was in charge in making sure I was fine and at home here in Mexico. I must say he did a great job and I greatly appreciate it. I held the tears in when he and I were saying goodbye, but the moment I closed the door behind me......my repressed tears surged....

Being such a sensitive person, I have no clue how in the world I'm going to make it through these next 8 days alive without drowning in tears. Imagine-every time I have to say goodbye to someone I've become close to....every friend and family member! Just thinking about it makes me want to cry!

I don't know what I'm going to do with myself! I'm not looking forward to these next few days.

NOTE: Now this story is a little exaggerated and dramatic (there's a reason my boyfriend calls me Señorita exagerada aka "little miss exaggerated"), but I really feel like this, but don't worry I'm not some emo kid ready to end her life or anything....I know everything will be fine and this is part of the constant process of life, death and rebirth that cycles in our lives and needs to accepted and fully embraced.

Sorry Guys.....


Yeah, so I'm sure you're pretty bummed out because you're now starting to get the hint that my posts in these next few days are going to be sad and depressing, about leaving, right? Well, yeah, you're pretty right on. This is part of this whole experience as well and frankly, I'm going to share it with you...sorry. But I'll try to put some positive things in there as well because as much as this is a sad process, it's also an amazing and beautiful experience. These are a few quotes I picked up to focus on the miraculous, unexplainable and heart-warming aspect of the transformation of my experiences and friendships created here into something new and marvelous-

"Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened."-Dr. Seuss


"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."-Maya Angalu

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Child Obesity, Will Allen, Mexico's President and Michelle Obama


This just in from Growing Power...Remember when I wrote a post about childhood and adult obesity in Mexico and the U.S. or when I shared Will Allen's Good Food Manifesto on this blog? Well in this post these things, along with a connection to Mexico mergers. Just when I think that Will Allen can't be any more ground-breaking and amazing, he does something else that makes me admire him even more revolutionary. He's my hero for a reason... how many public figures (because that is what he is know) do you know that break down cultural, economic, international and class borders to bring people together for social and food justice? Not many. Will Allen is one of our modern day revolutionary activists that are really making a change, right here and right now.

Check it out-

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Will Allen returns to the
White House

Growing Power CEO a guest at
Mexican state dinner

Milwaukee (May 17, 2010) – Just two months after First Lady Michelle Obama asked him to stand with her in Washington as one of four Americans speaking in support of the launch of her “Let’s Move!” initiative to end childhood obesity, Will Allen of Growing Power has again been invited to the White House, this time as a guest at a dinner to honor the official state visit of the president of Mexico.

The state dinner is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday.

The invitation, received Thursday, read: “The President and Mrs. Obama request the pleasure of the company of Mr. Will Allen at a dinner in honor of His Excellency Filipe Calderon Hinojosa, President of Mexico, and Mrs. Margarita Zavala.”

“It is an absolute honor to be invited by the president and Mrs. Obama to such a prestigious and important event,” Allen said. “It will give me an opportunity to continue building important relationships that will help drive our Good Food Revolution. I’m really looking forward to
attending.”

The invitation capped a heady week for Allen. On Saturday, in the midst of hosting Growing Power’s Fifth Annual National and International Urban Agriculture Workshop, with more than 100 attendees participating in intensive training, he took time off from his duties to accept an honorary doctor fine arts degree from the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design and to deliver the commencement address to 140 graduates of the institute.


Here is a link to the Let's Move Campaign

Sunday, May 16, 2010

A Quote from Luis Villoro


"El regreso al pasado no es un camino transitable"
not translated literally-

"A return to the past is not a possible path"

de Estado plural, pluralidad de culturas, 1998

Picture: L'Etacq Quarry by Virgina Colback

Alto al SB1070






I'm sure all of you have heard about the recent Arizona Law SB-1070, and if you haven't its time you get out of your own personal little bubble and start paying attention to whats going on in your country and in the world, please look it up. Here is an email I got from activist and academic Roberto Rodriguez of Arizona regarding the law-

*Welcome to Apartheid, Arizona USA* *
By Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez*

“If I am alien, where is my spaceship?”

This is how we feel right now in Tucson.

It’s a line in a poem from Cantos Al Sexto Sol (Wings Press, 2002). This is how we feel right now in Arizona. It is insane here.

First they have come for our bodies (to deport those of they can); now they come for our souls.

No matter what they do, they will never have our spirits. The last part, I believe, is a line from Aztlan Underground.

With Arizona in the spotlight, most of the nation has focused on the draconian anti-immigrant law: SB 1070. But what has to be clear is that this is the culmination of a 518-year ongoing and relentless war. Nothing less. The mood here is not anti-immigrant. It is anti-Mexican. The racial
profiling law has little to do with legalities; it is about the expressed targeting of red-brown Indigenous peoples.

Law officers do not or will not target generic Hispanics or even Mexicans. Their profile is 100% Indigenous. That’s why American Indians in Arizona too understand precisely what this law is all about (Navajo Times, May 13); they are subject to this profile because the similarities are obvious: short, dark hair, dark eyes and red-brown skin. Spaniards or other Europeans are not at risk.

How do we know this? Look to the historic practices of the migra. Or let’s look at the practices of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. They have been racial profiling for years, and now, the governor has authorized all law enforcement to be able to do the same, under the threat of lawsuits, etc. For years, those of us with red-brown skin have lived this reality anywhere along the U.S./Mexico border. Nowadays, this anti-Mexicanism, under the veneer of anti-illegal immigrant fervor, is nationwide.

That is about our bodies. And I repeat, the targets are Indigenous.

In past years, they’ve gone after our tongues. In Arizona, in the year 2000, it was proposition 203 – a measure that virtually gutted bilingual education, on the belief that it is better to be monolingual, than to be bilingual. To this day, the question remains: what does language have to do with legalities and illegalities? (And truthfully, on these matters, Arizona is simply following California’s footsteps from the 1990s).

The latest salvo is HB 2281; this one is about our souls.

This new law is an attempt by Superintendent Tom Horne to eliminate Ethnic Studies. Specifically, Horne has targeted Tucson Unified School District’s Mexican American Studies program, arguing that what is taught there, is outside of Western Civilization and should not be taught in Arizona schools.

This law has nothing to do with “illegal immigration.” If anything, it closely resembles the practices of the early European friars who deemed Indigenous knowledge to be Godless and attempted to both demonize it and destroy it completely. The burning of the books of our ancestors – Indigenous peoples of this continent – resides deep within our psyche. The philosophical foundation for Mexican American Studies in general is Maya-Nahuatl knowledge – derived from thousands of years of maize culture. Anthropologists refer to it as Mesoamerican knowledge. One part of it is: In Lak Ech – Tu eres mi otro yo – you are my other self (me). It is an ethic that teaches us that we are all part of each other and connected to each other. It is a human rights ethos connected to social justice and love of humanity and of all things living and non-living.

This is what Horne wants to ban, what he wants to eliminate. Could book-burnings and an Inquisitorial auto-de-fe be next? Of course. This is what he wants. This is what he demands. He has singled out Rodolfo Acuña’s book, Occupied America and Paolo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed as examples of books that preach hate, promote segregation, anti-Americanism and the violent overthrow of the U.S. government.

After the law was signed by Gov. Jan Brewer, metaphorically, an auto-de-fewas precisely what Horne came to conduct at TUSD the very next day. Hundreds upon hundreds of middle and high school students laid siege to the TUSD headquarters. When he failed to show his face, he then scheduled a press conference at the nearby state building a couple of miles away. The same students marched to the state building laying siege to that building. Eventually, 15 arrests were made (I was one of them).

Why are students willing to be arrested? Because the two books singled out are but the beginning. The new law – despite being in compliance per the TUSD legal counsel – authorizes the monitoring and censorship of books and curriculums to ensure they are in compliance with the law. Only non-educators could have come up with this one.

And so here we are again; welcome to apartheid arizona, u.s.a..

Rodriguez, a professor at the University of Arizona, can be reached at:
XColumn@gmail.com

Column of the Americas
PO BOX 85476
Tucson, AZ 85754

ARCHIVED COLUMN OF THE AMERICAS
http://web.me.com/columnoftheamericas

XColumn@gmail.com


You change my way of writing, you change my way of thinking. You change my
way of thinking, you change who I am.

Eco




Sorry non-Spanish speakers, but this song connects to right now. It's called Eco by Jorge Drexler. It really resonates with all these fantastic and unexplainable experiences I've had thus far and the beautiful relationships that I've built. If you'd like to hear it, I also connected a YouTube page to the song. I'm not going to explain anything in relation to this, I'm just going to put it out there for you to enjoy.

Eco
Esto que estás oyendo
ya no soy yo,
es el eco, del eco, del eco
de un sentimiento;
su luz fugaz
alumbrando desde otro tiempo,
una hoja lejana que lleva y que trae el viento.

Yo, sin embargo,
siento que estás aquí,
desafiando las leyes del tiempo
y de la distancia.
Sutil, quizás,
tan real como una fragancia:
un brevísimo lapso de estado de gracia.

Eco, eco
ocupando de a poco el espacio
de mi abrazo hueco…..

Esto que canto ahora,
continuará
derivando latente en el éter,
eternamente….
inerte, así,
a la espera de aquel oyente
que despierte a su eco de siglos de bella durmiente..

Eco, eco
ocupando de a poco el espacio
de mi abrazo hueco…..

Esto que estás oyendo
ya no soy yo…

YouTube Video of the song


Paintings: No title or artist found, both taken from http://joinedatthestitch.com/blog/?m=200907

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Wisdom at los Pulques


At a round of pulques the other night with my friends from school (all of us sociologists), my friend Julian said something that I really appreciated it. I'm not going to discuss it here, but rather just tell you what he said and let you think what you want about it. He said,

"If you really want to enjoy something, don't rationalize it."

Picture: Birth of Liquid Desires, Dali, 1931-1932

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A One-Way Ticket to Happiness I Wish I Could Share


As I was discussing my departure date and the plans for my next few weeks with one of my aunts (my favorite aunt with whom I'm most close with, shhh....don't tell my other aunts!) she had told me a deep and sad truth that I have not been able to get out of my head...

"That's great that you're leaving this chaos Maria, you need to go home, rest and take care of your health. If you have the opportunity to leave all of this, do it. You are lucky, because not all of us can just pick up and leave when we are suffering and need healing..."

And with that, I knew exactly what she was talking about. She was right. I am one of the lucky few in this world who has the opportunity to leave an environment which is making me unhealthy and take refuge in family support, quite and serenity. People all over the world, including here in Mexico and in the U.S., are suffering huge injustices, unhealthy physical, home and work conditions. People are exposed to toxins, chaos, multiple forms of violence and are trapped. They are trapped because of their family situation, their economic status, their physical conditions. Other for their blindness and fear. Some choose to stay in these conditions because they are sacrificing their well-being for the well being of their loved ones.

Who are these people living in mental, emotional, spiritual and physical sickness? Who are the people who endure violence, injustice and unsafe conditions their whole lives (because many do)? They are (examples taken from my own loved ones) ....

Undocumented immigrants that get treated as federal offenders for trying to support their family (thank you Arizona),
A housewife who needs a change in her life,
A bus driver who really wanted to be a lawyer but didn't have the money to go to school,
Women who's daily stress and concern is providing for their sick spouse,
Young mothers who live in unhealthy relationship and home environment,
Young and hardworking professionals who have developed physical problems from all the stress,
A hard working woman who should be retired but earns less the $6 during a work day and needs to keep working

I could go on and on, giving examples of those who can't leave the difficult and unhealthy realities that have been handed to them.

In a way, I feel lucky that I am going home to take care of myself and recuperate my body and mind, but deep inside, I'm burning of shame that not everyone can do the same. Why me? Why them? Why did things happen this way?

I can't even imagine how strong those individuals must be to live lives they don't want to live and have little mobility in or power over...I admire them so much and feel shame that I can buy a plane ticket home to be with my loving family who supports me. I feel shame that others can't just pick up and "buy a plane ticket" out of their difficult situation. Because in the end, that's what I'm doing right? I'm leaving early so I can leave my stresses and difficulties behind in order to heal and be strong again.

This isn't a blog about pitying others, because that's not what I'm doing. It's about trying to understand and think about how things really are in this world. How as much as you think your life is horrible and difficult....there are people living in complete violence, sickness and danger and think that is what a normal life is like.

That is one of the ideas I dislike most about religions like Catholicism, they teach people that hell is here on earth and that the "good life" is when we die.They teach people to accept these horrible conditions they live in, I get the point they are trying to make, trying to make people strong, but religion has also justified many injustices. The thing is that a violent and unhealthy life is the truth for millions of people and it shouldn't be justified by any religion or belief. It is a complete injustice.

Photograph: This is a clip taken from the documentary "Los Heraderos" about Mexican child laborers, another group in our global society that has "inherited" as the movie title suggest a cruel and violent life. It is a completely amazing and moving film. When I come home, ask me to borrow it. I'm also planning on having a mini at home film festival about important topics here in Mexico such as child labor and immigration-keep in touch for dates.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Here's the Plan



Last night I purchased my plane ticket back home. Wednesday, May 26th. Very soon. I know its right around the corner, but I feel like returning home as soon as possible is what my body, mind and soul need right now to be healthy again. I am pretty sad that I am leaving in this way, with such a rush to get back, but the current conditions have made this my reality.

My plan is to take these next two weeks and a half slowly, focusing on my school work. School, home, school, home, school, home...As my boyfriend and mother say. I'm going to try to live day by day as calm and stress-free as possible, trying to appreciate the little time I have left.

I'm happy to know I'll be home soon so I can finally have the deep rest, serenity and recuperation with my family that I've been needing.

Pictures: Pedazos 2 and Mi Riena, both by Lilian Wilson, I chose Pedazos 2, becuase it's a great representation of the way I feel right now, not whole, not healthy and loosing my true substance. I added Mi Riena because the young girl in the picture has a serene look on her face and a bright, shining heart-I'm returning home in the hopes of healing and finding this same serenity and shining and strong heart.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

A Dedication to mi Abuelito


I dedicate the following post in memory of my grandfather Angel who passed away a few days ago.


Viejo, mi querido viejo
, a song in dedication to mi abuelito.

My grandpa's favorite radio station, you can stream it online.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Burning Out


Unfortunately this post is a bit of a downer, but also a candid and heart-felt one...

I've been in Mexico for 9 months now and it's been one of the most insightful, inspiring and challenges moments in my life yet (I'll go into this later). While this is true....the first half of my time here has been very different from my last months. While I've been on many more visits to different communities across the country, I've also been home a lot less. I've been cooking less, exercising less and have been much more stressed.

Since February 1, I've been very sick physically....I now have colitis or what's know as a "nervous stomach" which has giving me horrible inflammation and pain for three months now and is related to stress. It's nothing fun and really effects my everyday life in a big way. Imagine feeling horrible every day or every other day for three months now....It starts to effects you emotionally and mentally. On top of this health issue, I've had others as well, that are related to stress and my stomach problems.

In addition to these physical problems, I also have a number of other things that have been taking a toll on me. My grandfather has been very ill for about a month now and I've been returning to Mexico City to frequently to take care of him in his sickness. A week ago, he fell extremely ill. I returned to help my family in taking care of him and two days ago, he passed away. This has been very hard for me and my family. While this is true, I just feel very fortunate that I have had this chance to spend time with him and watch over him when he needed it the most. This has effected every other aspect in my life in a negative way, including the healing process I was going through with all my stomach problems.

While I have learned so much and have grown as a person here, I am ready to go home. I just don't feel like I can live a calm and healthy life here with the way the food, stress, pollution, noise, etc. has effected me. I haven't really found a natural, quite place where I can hike and walk among the birds and tress and living this disconnection has been one of the hardest things for me. I feel like I'm in another person's body I don't know, I've had a number of physical problems I've never had before and I don't seem to be getting better, I'm actually getting worse. I'm always rushing from one place to another and I haven't really found a good outlet for all this nervous energy.

I've loved my time here and I can't wait to build upon the foundations I've created here but I feel like I've hit a point of despair and high level of mental, physical and emotional unhealthiness. I've thought about all of this a lot and I feel like the only way I will begin to heal is by returning home, eating healthy and fresh food, exercising daily in nature (take my dog on walks around the lakes, hike, riding my bike-the activities I do daily back home), meditating, living in calm and quiet with my loved ones caring for me and beginning a life of routine and stability.

At first I was hard on myself about this whole thing, thinking that I was failing at my task here in Mexico..."Why can't I seem to live a stable and healthy life here?", "What's my problem, am I a weak person?", "Am I giving up by being ready to go home?" etc, etc....But I've realized how my driven and self-critical personality many times has pushed me to the edges of extremity and I've been trying to accept that I need to put my own health and well-being in front of other things. This has been very hard for me and to tell you the truth, I'm still struggling with it...but it's a process, right?

I'm just trying to get myself together and finish my time here in a positive way, appreciating every moment and tryingggggg to take things slow. The time will go so quickly and I'm hoping that before I know it, I'll be healthy again.

Friday, March 26, 2010

One of Our Nation's Biggest Problems


I just heard on MN Public Radio (thank you online streaming!) that Minnesota has the lowest number of overweight children in the nation BUT 1 in 4 of its children are overweight. If current obesity trends continue, soon 1 out of every 3 children will have diabetes as adults. THIS IS NOT OK. We should all be very concerned about this, it's unbelievable. This is all related to the issue I talked about over and over in this blog....We need a complete and radical change in the way we live, including our relationship with food.

Internationally, Mexico is #2 in obesity behind the United States, in terms of child obesity, Mexico is #1 in the world.

Check out this week's MPR obesity coverage.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Guerrero's Community Police


This past week in my Issues in Indigenous Agriculture class, we read and discussed indigenous autonomy and I presented a number of examples of what different rural indigenous communities are doing to create and defend their autonomy.

The Community Police of Guerrero was one of the examples I highlighted. This is pretty amazing, and when I say pretty amazing I mean super amazing......52+ indigenous communities in violence-ridden Guerrero (because of age long disputes as well as drug trafficking) have taken their well-being and protection into their own hand in the wake of the Mexican government failing to protect these rural indigenous families. The Community Police is made up of men that give a mandatory year of volunteering as community police officers. Their services include working on community improvement projects, keeping their own pueblos safe as well as keeping other neighboring communities, who solicit their help, free from violence...AT NO COST.

Why free? Because they function under the indigenous cosmovision of communality, meaning that they understand this service as a community need and good, thus being free, mandatory and available to all. Pretty amazing concept huh? Just imagine if our society thought about things like education and healthcare in this same way. Check out how these communities take their safety into their own hands.

The Virgin/Whore Dichotomy


So as I was writing the short Killer Coke piece, I started thinking about the Virgin/Whore Dichotomy that plays a HUGE role in everyday Mexican culture. Being that I'm currently studying at what is likely the most Machista (aka sexist) university in all of Mexico (which many have said and which I have noticed), I see this portrayed a lot in social interactions amongst my teachers and classmates. I thought this article explained it pretty clearly...this whole issues is just another one of the "great" things I'm dealing with here. But, butttttt...it is making me a stronger and more observant person.

The Madonna/Whore Complex

P.S. I love the picture, I think it is perfect for this post.

Killer Coke


I totally forgot to show you this picture....I was in Veracruz the past weekend at a friend's house and all the sudden I found myself in this situation....and I had to take a picture of it....it is a perfect example of how Killer Coca-Cola has its strong-hold on Mexico and the rest of Latin America. Traditional Mexican drinks such as pulque or tejate are being replaced by Coke. Many people never drink water, but consume their Coke daily (I'm not making this up, there was a special news story on this a few months back). Coca-Cola is as Mexican as the Virgen de Guadalupe (which is another great topic to blog about, I'll get on that). This is a huge problem linked to health problems, poverty and loss of Mexico's traditional culture, among a # of other issues.

Chiapas!




Tomorrow night I'm heading out of Mexico City allllllll the way to Arriaga, Chiapas to see my family. I've never been to Chiapas but I'm super excited. This will also be the first time I meet my aunt Azucena and cousin Norma IN PERSON. For years we have talked via phone or email, but since Chiapas is so far, we've never had the chance to meet. It's about a 16 hour trip by bus to Arriaga from Mexico City.

In addition to visiting a new place and seeing my aunt and cousin in person for the first time, I'm so excited that I finally get to the amazing state of Chiapas.....I've wanted to go ever since I was little. Let me fill you in on some facts about the state so that you can see why I'm so excited...

Chiapas is the southernmost state in Mexico and has a humid tropical climate and contains rain forest and mountains. And even more exciting....Chiapas is home to a Mexican indigenous armed revolutionary group called the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN). EZLN currently has 32 rebel autonomous municipalities in the state. Their ideology combines libertarian, libertarian socialism, libertarian municipalism, and indigenous Mayan political thought. They align themselves with the wider anti-globalization, anti-neoliberal social movement and seek indigenous control over their local resources, especially land (Wikipedia). Awesome huh? Well anyways...you can look up a ton of information on the Zaptistas. While I'm probably not going to go to one of the 32 rebel communities, my cousin is going to take me to their region and show me around. I've heard it's amazing.

I'm so excited to be with my family, see new things and expand my mind. I'll tell you how it went when I get back.

Check this video out, I think it does a great job of giving an overview of los Zapatistas and their lucha.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Femivore's Dilemma


Here are a few articles that I want to share with all of you! I'd like to thank Feed Denver for sharing the NY Times article with me. The others I found online. Check out what the discussion is, it's very intriguing and would be a great topic for more research (I'll keep it in mind). Is the femivore's dilemma radical feminism or regression back to the 50's housewife style of living?

New York Times Article

Grist Article

Blog Article-The Feminist in my Kitchen

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Anthropology of Food


I discovered this amazing journal, entitled The Anthropology of Food, which is published in English and French. Unfortunately none of the French articles are translated into English (well except their abstracts), so you'll have to look for English articles. Check out the March 2007 issue, From Local Food to Localised Food, the articles are in English.

Well I find it pretty interesting, I love that it has an anthropological perspective on global and local foods issues....right up my alley and is the perspective I'm taking on my work here in Mexico. I think I've decide that I'll make it a goal of my to get published in this journal...an exciting goal to work for. Enjoy

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The true nature of things



Here is a really nice quote I took from Seng-ts'an and thought I would share it with you. In one of last year's blog posts I also shared a poem with you by Seng-ts'an (I actually think the quote is from the same poem), check it out again if you like. This kind of thinking has really helped me during a number of hard times during my journey in Mexico and will continue to help me remember what is important....especially as I near the end of this amazing and beautiful chapter in my life (sadly only 3 more months). I just really think that understanding this logic can be key to finding happiness, even though it's tremendously difficult to practice, which basically implies "unteaching" ourselves societal (OUR U.S. society that is) conditioning that teaches us that things should be and are permanent/unchanging (ex. the billions of dollars we spend on anti-aging remedies, plastic surgery etc.), that identity, success and happiness are equivalent to material accumulation and consumption (even though the U.S. has the highest rate of consumption in the world AS WELL as one of the highest rates of unhappiness and depression...hmm...how interesting). We forget that what we have learned to accept as fact is in fact only our perception and interpretation of things. I hope you enjoy it and think a little bit more about how your own grasping onto things inhibits your serenity and relationships with other.

"Indeed, it is due to our grasping and rejecting
that we do not know the true nature of things.
Live neither in the entanglements of outer things,
nor in ideas or feelings of emptiness.
Be serene and at one with things
and erroneous views will disappear by themselves."

-Seng-ts'an


PICTURES: In my opinion, both of these paintings have to do with our perception of the world...what Seng-ts'an talks about-opening up to the true nature of things. They were two pieces I really liked on my visit to Moriela's Contemporary Art Museum.

Unfortunately, I forgot to write down the name of the artist and title of this first piece- sorry!

About Impossibility-Benjamin Valdez Alverez (Painting on wooden posts)


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Sneak peak




So I have a really fun project I'm working on that I want to tell you about. Let me catch up on some of my work this week so that I have some free time to post a blog and tell you about it! Here are two pictures that have to do with the project.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The notion of community


I'm currently doing reading my homework for my class, Indigenous Agriculture Issues, and I found this great definition by Mixe author Floriberto Diaz Gomez for indigenous community and thought it a fitting as a great definition for any type of community, not just for a strictly indigenous community, check it out-

"No se entiende una comunidad indígena solamente como un conjunto de casas con personas, sino de personas con historia, pasada, presente y futura, que no sólo se pueden definir concretamente, físicamente, sino también espiritualmente en relación con la Naturaleza toda."

Which translates to........

"An indigenous (in this case, ANY community) community is not strictly understood as a grouping of houses with people, but people with a history, past, present and future, that is not solely defined concretely and physically, but also spiritually in relation to all of Nature."
- Floriberto Díaz Gómez

How do we perceive what community means to us? To what communities do we belong to? And how do we belong to these communities? This idea has some relation to my project of sharing the stories of those in our own communities that I wrote about in my last posting.....the idea of community, something I've been contemplating recently.

Picture: Huichol art exemplifying the concept of Diaz Gomez's idea of community.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

An attempt to put human relations back into "humanity"




"The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them; that's the essence of inhumanity."
-George Bernard Shaw

The pictures above are part of a larger project I am currently working on that opens the doors to the lives, passions, identities, professions, inspirations and challenges of a wide range of Mexican society. This project will include film, photographs and voice recordings of all the amazing and inspiring people I have met, built relationships with and greatly admire during my time here. I have had the amazing opportunity to learn about what drives, motivates and gives life to people in my everyday life. A few people that I will interview for this project include family, fellow students, the butcher next to my house, the baker down the street, a family with an urban farm a few houses down from me, a lady who sells home-made flan to me every few days at school, a man who travels around the country selling hand-made jewelry and a woman who sells handmade and hand-painted functional art. As I complete individual stories, I'll post them on my blog to share.

I'm hoping to create a space that well shed light on the every day people of our daily lives. Many times we don't take the time to build relationships with those people who we may not know, but are those who make it possible for our world to turn....Hopefully this project will help you look those very important people, we so often take for granted, in a new way and hopefully it will foster your own efforts to build relationships-

"When you meet anyone in the flesh you realize immediately that he is a human being and not a sort of caricature embodying certain ideas."
-George Orwell

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Interrelationship














I have to catch up on some school work and then I will write a few more posts. I thought I would share this beautiful poem with you by Thich Nhat Hanh since it has to do with what I would like to share with you in upcoming posts, something I have been contemplating and learning during my time here.

Interrelationship


You are me, and I am you,

Isn't it obvious that we "inter-are"?
You cultivate the flower in yourself,
so that I will be beautiful.
I transform the garbage in myself,
so that you will not have to suffer.

I support you;
you support me.
I am in this world to offer you peace;
you are in this world to bring me joy.

Thich Nhat Hanh- 1989

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A Lesson Learned the Hard Way


I'm happy to say that after two weeks of hell, I am finally feeling better.

It all started Friday, January 29th, when my friends and I went out dancing for a friend's birthday....After dancing to hip-hop, salsa and banda, we were starved! The only place in town open was a late-night taco restaurant. We took our seats and all ordered tacos de pastor, very common snack after a long night of dancing and drinking. Load them up with salsa and order a few more, wash it all down with a soda and its time to go to bed. The next morning I woke up and felt horrible! Was I hung over? How could it be? I only had 3 beers the whole night! Soon enough I realized that something was wrong and that it definitely not a hangover. I ran to the bathroom and threw up, my body started to get rid of all the water it contained (I'll spare you the details). Something was wrong. I was in so much pain. I was shaking, eyes watering, stomach hurting, head pounding. Luckily for me (or so I thought at the time) I had a 24-hour clinic across the street from me. I crawled over to the doctors office and told him everything that was happening to me. He told me I should have never eaten those tacos which most likely contained salmonella. Oh no! Not again, this happened to me when I first got here and it was horrible! He told me to pick up some medicine at the pharmacy and gave me a strict diet of Gatorade and jello. I didn't leave my bed for 3 days after that. My aunt Evelyn and cousin Belen surprised me the next day and cooked me chicken soup and jello.

A week later, my stomach pain was getting worse. I went to the same clinic, but this time it was a different doctor. She told me that in addition to salmonella, I had colitis, or intense intestine inflammation from the toxins in my stomach. She told me to continue my salmonella medication and to add a few more medications. I tried to do the basics, basically go to school and come home and sleep.

Days after, I noticed that my pain was still getting worse and that I could barley eat anything without crying. One day at lunch I was with my girlfriends trying to eat soup and I started crying from all the pain. They said I looked horrible. That was it. I needed to go see another doctor! I felt that the other two doctors just prescribed me medicine without really giving me the right tests and my pain wasn't going away. I went to the family doctor of a friend who was born and raised here in Texcoco. She ran a bunch of tests on me and told me my salmonella was bad. She gave me a shot, sent me to buy even more meds. and told me to come back after taking some blood tests. The next two days were horrible. I had serious anxiety and I felt like I was putting so many things in my body without knowing if they were really going to help me. I didn't really feel comfortable with going to so many doctors that I didn't know or trust. I was spending a ton of money on appointments and pills and things weren't getting better. Until one night I snapped....I cried and cried, I felt like I was getting worse and I didn't know what else to do to get better, I felt like I had done it all!

I called my aunt and 2AM and she and my uncle came to pick me up and take me to their home. We went to their doctor the next morning and I showed him all the pills I was taking and told him everything that had happened in the past two weeks. He cut out all the medications except one and told me that my body would take care of itself and I would soon get better. He told me that I have to be really careful with what doctors I go see. That its best to only see one doctor and to make sure that that doctor is a professional person of morals. Since in Mexico anyone can have their own private clinic, many times doctors do not provide quality service or have their clients well-being in interest.

I leaned some really important lessons from everything. I learned that I need to be very careful when choosing what doctor I go see, I decided that no matter in how much pain I am, its worth making the trip to see my family's doctor. That just because someone says they are a doctor does not mean that they are a person I can put my trust in, like I'd like to believe. And finally I don't know what I would do without my family here. I've come to this final conclusion over and over again many times and once again it happened. They have kept me strong and safe here. Without them this experience would be completely different.

I'm so happy to be feeling better again, though not 100%, I feel great improvement and I don't think I'll be eating greasy tacos again, I don't care how hungry I am.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Keeping Updated

This is a great website if you are interested in keeping updated on food issues, policy and action in the U.S., the post of Michael Pollan on Oprah is great-

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

First day of swim class!













Today is my first day of swim class at my school! Ugly royal blue one piece swim suit....check, bright red swim cap...check, goggles (which are pronounced gogles in Spanish, I get a huge kick out of that every time!), towel...check. I feel like a ten year old boy! Haha, but I'm so excited.

As many of you have read in my older blog posts, one of the most important things I've been missing here in Mexico is my connection with nature, the ability to hike around the state parks, climb boulders, jump in lakes, run through the woods and inhale the smell of fresh pine and earth. I no longer live on the farm, I live in a city, soon to be consumed by one of the largest mega-cities in the world, Mexico City. I can go hike around in the dry desert-like hills, but I have been warned that I could easily get robbed, beat up or even worse. There are beautiful archeological sights around Texcoco since it's the sight where King Nezahualcoyotl had his palace and where Cortes prepared for the attack of the Aztec Empire, but almost all sights that aren't recommendable for their housing of thugs and little punk-ass kids that will rob you. All the "rivers" around here are little tiny droplets of water that are green, brown, orange, all the colors of the rainbow, with tons of trash and feces in them, the smell is horrible! Nothing like our 10,000 lakes back home:(

This lack of having nature at my fingertips has really taken a toll on me emotionally, physically and most importantly spiritually. I don't really have a great way to connect with the earth right now, pavement, noise, graffiti, etc.

I'm hoping that by taking this swimming class 4 days a week, I am able to relax in a way that I've been missing. Yeah, so I'll be in an indoor pool with tons a chemicals, but at least I'll be in the water, I'll feel the sensation of being part of the water, of flowing, of being submerged in something greater than myself and of course the exercise will be great. Swimming has seemed like second nature to me, ever since I was a little kid. It's the closest and best option I have right now to have some kind of outlet of all my energy and need to relax in a deeper way.

We'll see how it work!

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Future of Mexican Workers in the Age of Globalization?

With the outsourcing of U.S. jobs to "third world" countries and recession at an all time high we now hear in the news that Mexican immigrants are returning home...And I ask myself, "Is this the future that lies ahead?" Thank you Onion for another great news story.

A Little More Artistic Inspiration


I painted this about a week ago, shortly after my inspiration, Miguel, left from his two week visit to Mexico and returned to chilly Minneapolis. The idea of the skeletons came from graffiti I saw and I just love the quote from Aristotle. His words, along with the rest of the painting seemed to perfectly fit how I was feeling after Miguel left (who I hadn't seen in 5 months and who I won't see for at least another 6 months!). The quote is as follows,

Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies.

All my experiences here in Mexico have motivated a resurgence of my passion for writing and painting, which I have never really lost, but have left at the wayside for many years. I'm happily giving into my artistic and more emotional creativity as a way to process everything that is going on in this very surreal country (and I say surreal because Mexico is as artist Andre Breton once stated, "the most surrealist country in the world" and I strongly agree) and with these amazing experiences of mine.

As for the topic of my next piece....I'm not so sure, I can't force it. I find that I work best at times of extreme emotion, thought and feeling, when I just can't get the big questions out of my head, ideas for my painting just seem to come out. I process them by writing or painting, but as always, I'll make sure to share it with you.

More to come......

If you're a little patient I have some more interesting post coming up, topics include-

social commitment through each of our professions,
the silent war on the poor,
maybe a little sample of some more artwork,
environmental justice and the indigenous campesino community in Mexico





Sunday, January 31, 2010

Social Responsibility















I'd like to discuss one of my largest personal convictions and a point made last week at the Rural Sociology Department's Seminar, Rural Sociology in the World Today by speaker Victor Toledo. It is stated over and over again by many authors, teachers and great thinkers including professor and mindfulness teacher Jon Kabat-Zinn (who by the way is amazing, if you have the time to find some of his books, lectures or meditations),

We are each being called upon to find out who we are and to live that authentically in the service of this world, not just for our particular small-minded benefit.
-From his 2009 Speaking of Faith Podcast on NPR

In his last week's lecture, The Civilization Crisis: the Dilemma between Industrial Agriculture and Agroecology, professor and author Victor Toledo made a clear point that we have fractionated ourselves to the point that we are failing to successfully and effectively organize for the common good of those in need today. We have let apathy and fear take over, giving power to corrupt governments and transnational corporations.

We each have a social responsibility that lies within each of our professions.
We need to break paradigms that no longer function for the greater good of humanity and nature. How will you do this? How are you doing this? In what way will you contribute to the improvement or corrosion of our current and future world and society?

What does this mean? This means that each and every one of us, young, retired, female, male etc. has the responsibility as a human being on this earth to contribute to the safety, harmony and well-being of all things on this planet. This means we will all grow up one day to do something, to own a business, work in the service sector, manufacturing ect. and through that profession, whatever it may be, we have the chance to contribute to a greater good. This might sound sappy and idealistic to a lot of you, but I'm sorry, if we do anything less than make an effort to incorporate actions and social movement that will change our actions of exploitation, the "time is money" mentality, and benefiting ourselves at the cost of others, we won't make it and either will our children. Doctors, housewives, CEOs, nurses, teachers, engineers....we each have our own unique and special ways that we can make a positive difference in this world through our professions.

I would really like to read from the rest of you how in you will make a positive change through your profession, what small or big thing will you contribute? Please comment to this blog post with your response......Thanks!

What will you do?



















Last week was the first official week of classes, it's great to be back in the classroom environment because I always learn so much. To kick off this semester (that's 6 months long by the way!!), the department I'm studying in, Rural Sociology, had a week long seminar entitled, "Rural Sociology in the World Today". Lecture topics included "Indigenous Communities and Human Rights", "Neoliberalism and the Economic Agriculture Crisis", "The Civilization Crisis: the Dilemma between Industrial Agriculture and Agroecology" among many other interesting topics. Besides learning more about the current situation of Mexico's rural indigenous and campesino communities, I wrote down a number of great ideas and points many speakers made that I wanted to share with you, some great food for thought. These are things that many people don't think about, but all topics that are of dire important and most importantly things that we all as individual have an important role in-

1. Are we going to transform our society or create a new society and what does the creation process look like?

This is a great question, what will our future look like? It is in our hands. The creation of society begins with the creation of the individual and how the individual constructs identity. Are we able to create new ways of thinking and perceiving the world in order to create the change needed for a more harmonious future? Speaker Victor Toledo suggest three transformational steps for a new society,

1. Change at the personal level of the individual. This means doing "small" things like keeping a compost bin at home, walking to work instead of driving, practicing loving-kindness etc.

2. Retrofitting our homes to be more efficient and sustainable, this includes having energy efficient appliances, creating your own energy, creating systems to harvest water for at home use etc. This is not an option for many people who live in poverty and cannot afford to retrofit their home. For many others, this is a question of priorities.

3. Building a sustainable and peaceful community. This requires an effort to get to know your neighbors, organize and work together to build a safe and green neighbor, town or city.

Toledo believes that social change will come from the people and not politicians, that concerned community members are the ones who will really make the changes needed to create a better future for today as for future generations.

2. A time of crisis is an opportunity for positive change.

We must organize to create social order and movement, but NOT in place of politics. Social movements and politics go hand-in-hand. The neoliberal capital and industrial economic and social systems are falling apart crumb by crumb, we are consuming our finite resources of fossil fuels at a rate so fast that in the near future they will not be an option, we are depleting our oceans of it's life, creating mass soil erosion on every continent and destructing the very ecosystems that filter pollutants and maintain natural order and harmony, our entire global system of food production which is dependent on fossil fuels cannot continue (thus world food crisis), the huge economic and social void between the world's rich and poor continues to widen etc. etc...This is a time where things have to change if we wish to continue living. Some may say this is scary, but I believe that this is the best time to make some real, on the ground change for the better. Our current systems obviously aren't functioning in the benefit of nature and humanity so what are we going to do about it? What path will WE, you and me choose? This is an exciting time to really create radical change and change that comes from the people. We need to create new concepts and look at the world with different eyes. We need to create new definitions of science, of identity, of benefit and profit.

3. The development and rapid growth of capitalism was dependent on the formation and growth modern science and vise-versa.

4. We need to break current paradigms that no longer function.

Example: The modern conventional doctor is essentially an engineer of the human body. We have specialists/experts of all kinds...the individual becomes fractionated. The view of the entirety of the person and body becomes lost. We are machines that become maintained by popping pills to address specific problems when many times the issue is much more complex. Pharmaceutical companies have made a killing from well contributing to the addiction and over prescription by doctors. More and more people have poor health, something needs to change. We cannot ignore that the physical is connected to the emotional, spiritual etc. and that looking at the human body as a machine is not acceptable. This is just one example of social systems that don't work. We each have the power to change this.

5. Social responsibility as individuals (see next blog post for more information).

These are just a few ideas I really liked from the seminar last week and hope you all take the time to contemplate each point and decide how you are going to contribute to the current world situation.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Total Disgust














Here is a completely disgusting post I found at the Heritage Foundation's Blog site, http://blog.heritage.org/2010/01/13/things-to-remember-while-helping-haiti/.

What does this have to do with being an Ambassador of Goodwill? I believe that the following writer is supposedly urging our government to act as an Ambassador of Goodwill. but obviously truly has the expansion of an imperialist agenda in mind-

"Today, the United States began surveying the damage inflicted by a devastating earthquake in Haiti this week. In addition to providing immediate humanitarian assistance, the U.S. response to the tragic earthquake should address long-held concerns over the fragile political environment that exists in the region.

The U.S. government response should be bold and decisive. It must mobilize U.S. civilian and military capabilities for short-term rescue and relief and long-term recovery and reform. President Obama should tap high-level, bipartisan leadership. Clearly former President Clinton, who was already named as the U.N. envoy on Haiti, is a logical choice. President Obama should also reach out to a senior Republican figure, perhaps former President George W. Bush, to lead the bipartisan effort for the Republicans.

While on the ground in Haiti, the U.S. military can also interrupt the nightly flights of cocaine to Haiti and the Dominican Republic from the Venezuelan coast and counter the ongoing efforts of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to destabilize the island of Hispaniola. This U.S. military presence, which should also include a large contingent of U.S. Coast Guard assets, can also prevent any large-scale movement by Haitians to take to the sea in dangerous and rickety watercraft to try to enter the U.S. illegally.

Meanwhile, the U.S. must be prepared to insist that the Haiti government work closely with the U.S. to insure that corruption does not infect the humanitarian assistance flowing to Haiti. Long-term reforms for Haitian democracy and its economy are also badly overdue. Congress should immediately begin work on a package of assistance, trade, and reconstruction efforts needed to put Haiti on its feet and open the way for deep and lasting democratic reforms.

The U.S. should implement a strong and vigorous public diplomacy effort to counter the negative propaganda certain to emanate from the Castro-Chavez camp. Such an effort will also demonstrate that the U.S.’s involvement in the Caribbean remains a powerful force for good in the Americas and around the globe.

To assist Red Cross Relief Efforts, go to www.redcross.org

(Post updated on 1/13/10 at 5:08 pm)"

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Back to a Little Normalcy











After a three week trip from the tip of Baja California all the way to Tijuana, three weeks in the states visiting family and two weeks showing Miguel the best of Mexico, I'm back in Texcoco ready to pick my classes, start school again, give presentations (one tonight for the Rotarians) and continue my service work!

The past five months here have been amazing and challenging, I've learned so much and have grown professionally as well as personally. After taking a look back at everything that has happened over the past five months, I've been able to make some goals for the last half of my scholarship period here in Mexico.

1. Focus on my service work

-It took me a few months to really find a service project that I was passionate about. The Rotary clubs here are working on a number of projects that are interesting but none of them really fueled my deep passion for grassroots community foods systems and environmental work. After a while, I finally came across an environmental group started by various community members in Texcoco. They welcomed me with open arms into their project and in the past few months of last semester I've been working with them and learning about their community food projects, composting project, recycling and education center and the botanic garden they are planning. Now that I found a group that I'm passionately involved with, I want to put my all in to contributing whatever I can give to their project.

2. Continue with my presentations as an Ambassadorial Scholar

-I have about 1/2 of the required presentations completed for my scholarship and will continue to find opportunities to present at my local clubs, school and community about different topics of interest.

3. Continue to learn from and visit various communities here in Mexico, including my family

Because of great family and friends, I've had the amazing opportunity to take part in getting to know the every day realities being lived here. Out of my nine uncles and aunts living in Mexico, I've only been able to visit two families. This semester I would like to be able to visit the majority of my other family who I have not yet visited and spend time with them. I would also like to visit some of my classmate's families and communities in which they are doing their thesis work to be able to learn more about the rural and agrian lifestyle and challenges first hand. This is a great way for me to compliment what I am learning in class as well as another way I can help break down cross-cultural barriers and contribute to building understating between different groups of people.

4. Don't be so afraid to speak up in class and share my reality and experiences

-Last semester I held myself back many times in class because I was afraid of saying something and having my classmates and teacher not understand me, or of saying something in a way that could sound elitist. I had come to Mexico to listen and learn not to take over discussions. This was my thinking last semester. I was afraid of being a tool of neocolonialism with my words and actions. There were many times when students or teachers had stated their opinion on U.S. politics, daily life and other U.S. realities as facts and many times I wanted to speak up and state my point of view on the topic. Some times I would freeze up and not be able to say anything and other times I would defend myself (ex. when a teacher said all Americans think Obama is a communist or that there are no unemployment benefits in the U.S., among others).

After taking the time to talk to various classmates and share the difficulty I was having between being scared to speak up, worried about being another American spreading anthropocentric and colonial views and wanting to really open up and share my own personal reality and point of view about U.S. politics and life, I was encouraged over and over again to share my ideas in class. My friends and classmates told me that they all know I am not the kind of person trying to spread U.S. colonialism and that sharing my experiences with them in and out of class enriches their lives. That it gives them the opportunity to learn about realities different from their own just as learning from them in class enriches and compliments what I know.

5. Remember that being an Ambassador of Goodwill is 24/7

-This is one of the most important, if not the most important part of my scholarship and time here in Mexico. It's important that I remember my role as an ambassador and that it is a full-time responsibility. Every interaction I have here is an opportunity to break down stereotypes, misunderstanding and fear. Every opportunity is an opportunity to build friendships of peace.

6. Be kind to myself

- I realized that over the past five months, I've been very hard and judgmental of myself. I've compared myself, my language skills and level of understanding to that of my peers. I've let many things get to me and get me down. This time around I am going to do a better job of accepting myself at the level I'm at, not compare myself, accept situations as neither negative or positive while still being sensitive and open to my surrounds and those around me.


Taking a look back at my first months here and looking at what I've done well and what I need to improve, I feel reenergized and passionate to continue my journey of learning and communication. I feel that if I stick to these main goals, I can really make a positive impact in serving others and helping bring cross-cultural understanding.


PICTURES: of Miguel's visit to Mexico-

Ruins of Monte Alban, of the Zapote people, one of Mexico's most vast prehispanic ruins site. Also one of the earliest cities in Mesoamerica, and at Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera's house in Coyocan standing next to photographs of our twins?;)