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.