Wednesday, May 20, 2009
We have done so much and grown as a group and as individuals.
Final evaluations were done for our classes and the program as a whole, logistically wrapping up our academic life in Cuernavaca.
Migration and Globalization students, Social Work Students, Interns, and Staff on the Last Day!
The final projects were a main theme of the week. I personally holed myself in the computer lab hoping to integrate what I had learned over the course of four months into a 10-15 minute presentation. Videos were being filmed, interviews were conducted, pictures were gathered, and power points were being put together.
The presentations are meant to be brought back to United States and shared with a proposed community, whether it is the university’s study abroad program, the Social Work department, or a specific agency that could gain knowledge from our experiences. A popular theme of the presentations was focused on the cultural differences between the Mexican/Latin American populations and the United States and how to approach those differences. This knowledge was something that the students gained through direct interactions with the people in Mexico along with readings that advised the reader how to work with the specific populations maintaining the Social Worker/client relationship.
The day of presentations was a good way to cumulate our experiences, academic and otherwise, inspiring and allowing us to bring back the information gained to our friends, family, students, and other citizens in the United States.
The final facilitated day of the program the interns Christina and Julie led a group session in which we addressed the issues of culture shock and re-entry. We did role playing and discussed what to say when someone asks you in passing “Hey how was Mexico?” We then participated in a graduation ceremony in which the program staff members gave a final commencement address, and handed out diplomas.
After the graduation ceremony we had a BBQ and picnic and then free time at a water park. The water slide was very popular with the students and interns, inspiring a long train down the slide, and initiating many bruises on our elbows.
Our last night was spent packing, guitar playing and enjoying our last moments together in the house. I had an early flight along with another one of my classmates and friends, so we said our goodbyes at five a.m. with a lovely wake-up call going from room to room. It is an adjustment back to the United States culture, not hearing Spanish every day, and not seeing the same people we have lived with for four months, but I am looking forward to summer and sharing my experiences with anyone who will listen.
Integrate, Share, Learn, Travel.
I hope you enjoyed reading the blog, and now it is time to talk to your family member, your friend, your colleague and listen to their stories.
We have learned and experienced a lot, and now you have the opportunity to gain knowledge and perspective on a different culture and way of life.
-- By Bridget Staloch
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
She also talked about the differences between social work in the United States and here in Mexico. Up until this point I had heard from UNAM students and our own professors here say that social work was very different and much more community based, but this was the first time I got to hear about a social worker practicing these very things. These were some themes that she talked about:
- ¨Managed to obtain a lot of resources for the community. ¨
- ¨As a citizens organization, forcing the government to be more responsible.¨
This was a great experience to have because it was inspirational and hopeful to see what one person could do for their community. A social worker or not, everyone can do something to make a difference.
She also gave us a tour of her community where we saw one of the projects that she had worked on. This project was made to protect the water in the community that was being polluted by garbage and runoff. She fundraised so that they could cover this stretch of water with cement, in attempt to protect the water that would ultimately be going into the river. One of the most touching parts of her speaking was when she told us about how she doesn’t let anyone in her community off the hook. She talked about how important it was that everyone in the community was a part of the action taking place. The people in the community that others may not have seen as useful, she did, people who were looked at as the alcoholics or drug addicts. She made them feel that there was something to do, something they could help with, and afterwards, they were asking her ¨what more can we do?¨
--By Ashley Butler
 Marta Delgado, social worker/community organizer in her community; conversation on May 7, 2009, in Cuernavaca, Morelos, México.
Thursday, May 7, 2009
Tuesday our group had a busy day, starting off with an excursion to the Congreso de Morelos (Congress of Morelos). We met with Laura Alejandro Ramirez Verduzco, Asesora Direccion de Desarrollo Legislativo (Advisor of Legislative Development). She gave us a tour of the Congress building and talked to us about what goes on there everyday. She told us about some of the currents issues being discussed in Congress, such as Dengue and the mosquito fumigation project, the current swine flu crisis, clinic for women’s health issues and indigenous rights. The majority of seats held at Congress are by the PAN (National Action Party), with 14. The others are held by the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party), PRD (Democratic Revolution Party), New Alliance, Green and Independent senators.
Up next in the day, we left for an exciting visit to Juan Cintron’s  house. Juan Cintron is the owner of Floto Mex, a car part manufacturer, whose international business runs out of Cuernavaca. Cintron talked to us about a wide variety of issues, from his big theme of education, to poverty, NAFTA, Mexican Politics, business and immigration issues. His big topic of education really stood out to a lot of us listening from a social work perspective. He talked about how depriving people of education means condemning them to a life of poverty. Overall, Cintron was a very refreshing speaker and challenged us to think differently about our own social nets that are set up in our countries. One thing he said that stuck with me is that as social workers we’ll be “helping people survive the system and not succeed it.” A negative aspect of our job that sometimes becomes a reality. This was a very provoking thought and put my future of social work into a different perspective.
Mexican Flags hanging over senate seats
The rest of the week we were busy with classes and getting papers written for our final weeks here. This weekend was a holiday that brought us some adventures. Friday a number of us spent the day on a trip to the Zoofari outside Cuernavaca. Que padre! We traveled in the vans about 45 minutes away to zoo that you drove through with live interaction with the animals. A giraffe greeted us by sticking it’s head into the van to eat some of the food we purchased before hand. A monkey through a rock at a student, we met a very hungry hippo, a camel took another student’s entire bowel of food and we all took turns sitting and taking a picture with the jaguar. Overall it was a wonderful day and probably the best zoo experience I’ve ever had.
A giraffe greets us as we enter the Zoofari!
--By Devin Thomas
 Laura Alejandro Ramirez Verduzco, Advisor of Legislative Development at the Morelos, Mexico Congress; tour on April 28, 2009 of the Congress of Morelos in Cuernavaca, Morelos, MEXICO.
 Juan Cintron, owner of a car part manufacturer called Floto Mex in Cuernavaca, Mexico; conversation on April 28, 2009 in Cuernavaca, Morelos, MEXICO.
Monday, May 4, 2009
Everyone back to our regular class room in Casa Verde where we are in our Mexican Context course.
This woman (let's call here Lora) is part of a Christian community movement called the Base Christian Communities. These are religious groups that encourage social activism within the community. Lora is a Catholic woman that is a supporter of women's rights. When Lora was talking about her personal beliefs clashing with the hierarchy within the Catholic Church, one of the students asked, "So why do you continue to be part of the Catholic Church Anita talking to us about the EZLN groups and de-briefing our visit with her friend “Lora.” when your spiritual leaders won't even support you?" Lora answered very eloquently and calmly saying, "The church is like your sick mother. When your mother is sick you don't just turn your back on her, you stay and take care of her until she is better. This is just like the church." This really hit home with me and I will remember that quote from her forever. I think many of the other students will too.
The rest of the week we had classes and our instructor Antonio taught us more in depth about the Zapatista Army of National Liberation known as the EZLN. The group was started within the indigenous community of Chiapas where the Zapatista uprising occurred -----Antonio’s presentation on the EZLN Zapatista Movement.
on January 1st 1994. The Zapatista uprising was in response to years of oppression and unheard voices from the indigenous and poor communities. The Zapatistas planned it on January 1st to coincide with the start of NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) in order to protest having their rights taken away by the hierarchy of the government. On this day and for the next twelve days thereafter, shots were fired, government officials were taken hostage, and people were killed. The work that they have done, before and after January 1st , has given the indigenous people a voice, but as for actually gaining many rights…the fight is still continuing and I hope that they can find the strength to continue this never-ending battle.
A doll figure of “Marcos”-- one of the main leaders of the EZLN-- that Antonio showed us during his presentation on the Zapatista’s.
This week in our student led class session, we put our frustrations down on paper airplanes and then threw them off of the roof as a symbol of "letting go of our frustrations." At times, I wish it were that easy for the marginalized and oppressed people of Mexico to rid their lives of their frustrations and be able to rest and know that the struggle is over--until then, I just want to thank the people of Mexico and the country itself for teaching me so much during my time here. There will always be a place in my heart for this country and I hope to learn even more in the last few weeks I will spend here.
Some of the Social Work students with their “frustration” paper airplanes before sending them off of the roof!
--By Katelyn Macaulay
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
One highlight of our seminar in Mexico City this week was our visit to the National Institute of Neurology and Neurosurgery. During our visit we were able to connect with the social work department at the institute, which helps UNAM social work students complete thesis projects at undergraduate and graduate levels as well as social work internships. During our visit, we learned how health problems are often linked to social issues.
Social Work students at the National Institute of Neurology and Neurosurgery in Mexico City.
The institute, created in 1964, has remained a leading research and training center in neurological science for 4 decades. The institute is dedicated to research, teaching, diagnosis, and treatment. They care for patients with chronic degenerative neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. They also care for neuropsychiatric diseases such as depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, which constitute a serious public health problem. Brian tumors and other neurosurgical entities are also a growing area of treatment. In addition, the institute is connected with university students from Mexico and abroad for masters and doctoral programs in medicine.
As one of the social workers explained to us, denial of mental illness is a problem in Mexican culture. Mental illness just isn’t very well recognized, and people with mental illness are viewed as crazy. Therefore, people put a lot of blame on themselves for their illness. The social worker explained that she often helps patients deal with negative feedback from society. She tells them that they’re not crazy, and that their illness is simply an illness like any other.
Another highlight of the week was the opportunity to visit the house where Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera lived. The house is now a museum of Frida’s brilliant artwork. I could have spent an hour looking at each painting because they are all so filled with so much symbolism about her life. I really admire creative forms of self-expression, and it was beautiful to learn about deepest feelings of this female Mexican artist in this way. As we have spent the semester meeting people from all experiences and walks of life, I felt as though I got to meet Frida in some way. Frida and Diego lived in this house 1929-1954
To finish the week, we took a day to practice the Mexican cultural value of “being” rather than “doing”. In the colonia of Xochimilco, we spent the afternoon riding in a colorful boat along a canal, and were even serenaded by a group of mariachi musicians! It was a great end to a wonderful week in Mexico City.
One of the boats along the canal in Xochimilco
--By Rachel Schwabe-Fry
During our Tour of the University we Passed by the Library
Some of the biggest differences between programs in Mexico from the United States are the curriculum and practicum of the students. Social Work students at the UNAM start into their coursework and programs beginning in their first semester. As we have experienced in the United States, it is more common for a year or two of prerequisites to precede coursework towards a major.
Katie, Katelyn, Devin and Ashley Talking to UNAM Social Work Students about their own Experiences with Internships and Programs in the United States.
Many Mexicans hit the beach at this time, so some of us chose to avoid the crowds and visited the beautiful state of Michoacan instead. We stayed in ‘El Pueblo Magico’, Patzcuaro, a small colonial city on the tranquil Lake Patzcuaro, surrounded by mountains and pine forests, less arid than other parts of the country.
Tzararacua Waterfall of Uruapan, Michoacan
Many of the smaller surrounding villages are inhabited by the indigenous Purépecha people, who have retained much of their pre- Spanish conquest traditional culture. While some of their practices are now partly geared toward tourists, many still make their living off of fishing, sustenance farming, and sales of hand-woven and beautifully embroidered clothing. The market stalls are also filled with fantastically crafted pottery, stone and copperware, carved masks and other woodwork, including the famous Paracho acoustic guitars. The level of artisanship is world class.
Fishermen on Lake Patzcuaro
Many Mexicans who don’t vacation at this time instead take part in the elaborate Semana Santa celebrations held in every parish throughout the country. Called ‘Mesoamerican Catholicism’ by anthropologists, Mexicans practice a unique blend of indigenous religions and Catholicism, resulting in beautiful and fascinating celebrations . They dress up and parade their holy statues in nighttime processions, weaving their way through the towns on the shoulders of parishioners by candlelight, and decorate cathedrals and churchyards with thousands of fragrant fresh-cut flowers, holding all night vigils.
Attending the Good Friday celebration in Tzintzuntzan will be one of the most memorable days in my time abroad. Held in the large town churchyard, the elaborate Passion Play is performed amidst an oddly contrasting atmosphere, somber while almost carnival-like at the same time, with picnicking families, vendors selling food, balloons, and crafts, Patzcuaro and Surrounding Countryside  and all the while manacled and hooded penitants weave their way through the crowd collecting alms for the church. Meanwhile, hundreds of other worshipers meander their way through the crowded church to the altar, some crawling on their knees to receive a blessing. While the shackled penitants may seem disturbing to some, we’ve learned the importance of avoiding cultural bias by viewing experiences within their own cultural context, not ours, remaining open to the real significance for the individual.
Although surrounded by so much cultural richness and natural beauty, it was at times difficult, knowing that many residents are forced to leave their homes due to economic hardship, partly due to NAFTA. The collapse of the local corn industry soon followed implementation as highly subsidized American imports squeezed out the small scale farmers, whose subsidies were at the same time required be to phased out, crippling their ability to compete in an unfair market .
The nearby village of Cheran, Michoacan is what “Crossing Over: A Mexican Family on the Migrant Trail” author, Ruben Martinez, refers to as one of the main three ‘sender states’, states with high rates of immigration to the U.S. because families can no longer survive within the local economy. I believe our foreign economic policies have much to do with our current immigration problems, as well as with some of the political and social unrest around the globe. I hope informed citizens will lobby their representatives to wield our nation’s immense influence in ways that truly promote social justice and democracy, not merely our economic interests.
--By Marianne SchmitsTravel Pod.com. "TravelPod: The Web´s Original Travel Blog." Retrieved April 20, 2009 from http://www.travelpod.com/.
Corbis Corporation. "Corbis." Retrieved April 20, 2009 from http://pro.corbis.com/search/searchFrame.aspx.
Foster, Lynn. “A Brief History of Mexico”. NY: Checkmark Books, 2004.
Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. "Patzcuaro." Retrieved April 20, 2009 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patzcuaro.
Anderson, Sarah & Cavanagh, John with Thea Lee and the Institute for Policy Studies. “ Field Guide to the Global Economy”, The New Press, 2005.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
One of the great speakers that I remember from this week was an Afro-Mexican woman. Her talk was about Afro-Mexicanos, and what it is like growing up as an Afro-Mexicana. She talked with us about what it was like growing up in her family, being a part of school, and her adult life now with her children. This was a very touching story for me, and I enjoyed learning about something I knew very little about.
On Thursday night we had the chance to hear from several speakers on a panel. They spoke to us about sexual diversity and being an activist for sexual diversity in their communities. This was also very interesting for me to listen to because I had heard many speakers on this topic back home in Minnesota, but it was great to hear the differences between Mexico and the United States.
All together this was a great week for our two individual groups to come together and learn from one another. They shared with us their experiences and knowledge of social work, as did we. It was also great to be able to learn something new together from the many speakers.
--By Amber Mullenbach
Thursday, April 2, 2009
Within the village there are many people. 60% of the homes are made with corn stalks or cedar branches. The other 40% live in concrete or brick houses. Within the town the women weave baskets. They learn how to weave from a young age. Some of the families sell the palms in bulk to other families within the town to make money. Others buy coke and sell it to others in the town.
People in Tlama believe in having large families; that children are a gift from God. The people are poorer now then they were 15 years ago. They eat only about two times a day and cook with firewood which is detrimental to the forest. The influx of junk food has increased within the last 10 years causing a decrease in health.
Filling a jug with water from one of the wells.
In 2007 a road was put in. The construction of this road ran the wells dry. There are 4 wells in Tlama. Finally, with government funding, a water pump was put in place but shortly after two men from the town took over. “Water went from a free to an economic commodity," said Karrie Jones. During the dry season people were forced to buy water from them, if they could afford it.
The water in the wells drain down from the mountain and are found to have natural lead and arsenic in it. This is causing people to turn black. They have black lines across their stomachs or on their gums. The government thought it was a bacteria and put chlorine into the water supply resulting in deformities.
The group I was in first climbed the hill to get water. There wasn’t a path to walk on. The hill was very steep and keep in mind that these people have no shoes, plastic shoes, or not good shoes in general. At the top of the hill a man pulled water out of the well and we dumped it into the jug. Then each of us took turns carrying the jug down the hill. It was very heavy and the road was very smooth, which made it easy to fall. People from the village have to go down this road every day with water!
Student carrying water down the hill back to a family.
When we returned we took the water to one of the families and there we got to learn how to make palm baskets and tortillas. Afterwards we walked to meet up with the other 5 students. There we talked about our day and did a closing. It was a very exhausting experience but an eye opener to a different culture, way of life, and group of people within Mexico.
 Presentation with Karrie Jones, director of Atzin, a non-profit organization working in community development, on March 24. 2009, in Cuernavaca, Mexico. Name is a pseudonym to respect privacy of the speaker.
--By Ali Klatt
My supervisor, Nadixiel Limor (Nad) is one of the women who started the organization. She is an amazing women’s rights fighter. Every day she is reviewing the latest news on women’s rights issues in Mexico. She works closely with policy makers, looks at laws, and teaches politicians about reproductive rights. She is also a lawyer who helps women who’ve been violated. She may be called at any hour to accompany a woman to the hospital to ensure the lady’s rights are upheld.
I work closely with a young woman named Andrea Avecevedo. We both value women’s rights. We have fought for the freedom of choice although in different contexts. We give prevention talks at a high school in Temixco, Morelos every Wednesday. We teach students how to use condoms and tell them where they can get emergency contraceptive. We debunk myths comparing it to abortion. The most important is that we challenge the youth to think about their future. Teenage pregnancy is a social problem all over the world and thinking about one’s future is another example of prevention.
Andrea demonstrating how to put on a condom.
This week I met Juan Manuel Zaragoza who works with community organizing in San Anton, Cuernavaca. He talked about what it means to do social work in Mexico and participatory action research, where people come to research, participate, and give back to the community.
Zaragoza said, “There are 100,000 people who ask for information [i.e. foreigners]. They go back, turn in their thesis. What happens with all the theses that have been written?”
Many students come here to “learn” but they do not participate and return home to forget about the social problems in Mexico. I will not be the next to leave without giving something back.
I focused on not pushing my US social work values on the people but I was also afraid to make suggestions or share. I talked to my supervisor about it. She told me that I should always speak up when I have ideas. We already have very similar feminist values, and I should not worry.
Me talking to the students about emergency contraception.
One must be here to live in the problem rather than have the “fix it” attitude. In Morelos it is illegal to get an abortion. All involved will be prosecuted.
I can be a resource for women who need to get to Mexico City for abortions. I can work with others to help pregnancy/STD prevention, share expertise without pushing my own agenda, help make a change, and lastly leave something behind to give back to the organization for all that I have learned.
Me telling the Temixco high school students to "Imagine at this moment in your lives that you are pregnant. How will it change your futures?"
*Interested in learning more about Ddeser, check out the website Ddeser.org*
--By Katie Walker
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Seeing this school was a huge inspiration to me, knowing that efforts to improve the cycle of poverty can be made on such small levels, and yet make such a huge difference in the community. The leader of the school said that they have been able to educate the community through the children, even through teaching basics like personal hygiene and manners. It was adorable for me to see this played out when the three to five year olds “nos saludaban”, or greeted us, by giving us all a kiss on the cheek when we arrived, which is a common custom for many Mexicans.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
The day that we moved in was the birthday of their colony. A parade of Chinelos and members of the neighborhood danced up the main road to celebrate its founding. The Chinelos originated in Morelos and while they are native to this state, they are extending to other states as well. They dress up as the Spanish conquerors, and are, a way, making fun of them. Because their dance consists solely of jumping, it is called el brinco (jump) de los Chinelos. Whenever there is a party in Morelos, they end it with the music of the Chinelos.
Students dancing along
with los Chinelos.
My home stay family took me to see a Quinceanera for the first time. This is a traditional event in Mexico, that occurs on a girl’s 15th birthday, when she becomes a woman. It was beautiful to see. I was told that girls look forward to their Quinceanera for two or more years before they turn 15. My host grandmother told me that “It is a girl’s dream to have her Quinceanera. Her Quinceanera and her wedding.”
I have talked to both my host mom and her mother about the roles of women here in Mexico. They have both mentioned that women generally get married in their early 20’s, even though it is somewhat changing now. My host grandmother mentioned that there was a cutoff age for getting married because if women did not get married before they turned 30, it will be difficult to have children. She also mentioned that it is not the same to adopt children, or marry someone with children, as having your own. I have learned a lot about women’s roles here in Mexico, and how women are seen from staying with a family.
A Young Mexican Woman at Her Quinceañera
--By Kay Hockeiser
Friday, March 6, 2009
Students buckled down for Spanish finals at Universal. There was lots of studying, lots of talking, and lots of review. But our class also made a special trip out to Bons Café for a celebratory lunch with our professor! After it was all said and done, Universal hosted a pool-side barbeque party for the students and staff on Friday afternoon. It was a nice way to wrap up the time spent in the classroom, and now students are a little more prepared to engage in their field placements, family homestays, and the Cuernavaca community. Getting ready to present topics in class.
Lab group this week provided time to learn about the history of immigration policy in the United States of America. Each student shared their own immigration story of their family by writing a small summary and placing it appropriately on a timeline of important dates in American immigration history. Besides recognizing our commonality as children of immigrants, we observed U.S. policy trends and became more aware of the urgency in addressing fair legislation and immigration policy reform. This is important to keep in mind as some of the host-families have family members living in the U.S.A.
More than anything, I feel this week has truly been about living in the present, and living life to the fullest. Our history is important; it bears onto reality of today and the decisions for a better tomorrow. However, life is happening presently, and being in Mexico is a wonderful environment for us, as students, to practice the delicate balance that is the dance of life. We are challenged to be present to our studies, to our families at home, to each other as a cohort, to our new families in Mexico, and to the greater culture here. While sometimes it can feel as though we are spread thin, in taking account of the many opportunities and experiences we have as individuals and as a group, I conclude that we are truly blessed to have such rich and full lives.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
Walking to the base of a mountain as part of our introduction to the village and its cultural and spiritual history
by hugging each person around the circle
By Meg Hennessy
 Betty Ramos, experienced cultural intermediary and author of The Geo-Context; presentation on February 18, 2009 in Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico.
 Name was changed at speaker’s request.
 Benjamin, secretary of commerce for indigenous village, member of Nahuat people and defender of indigenous rights; conversation on February 22, 2009 in Morelos, Mexico.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
from the top of the "Sun" Pyramid
--By Jessica Larson
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
This week we focused on the topic of migration in the rural communities as well as how it has affected these communities. We heard many personal stories from many different generations including young men, older adults, and even families. They told of their struggles getting to the United States and then how they survived being there. Most went illegally using coyotes but others went on monthly work visas.
We visited sugar cane and fig fields as well as tomato greenhouses. We learned how the government has helped support these greenhouses to better the community. We also went to the local satellite junior high, the health clinic, and learned about helping programs in the community. We got tours of each place and were able to ask all sorts of questions.
Here is the group in front of the Satellite Junior High with the school director.
We then traveled to an ex-Hacienda (former plantation) called Santa Cruz where we got to debrief about our time in Ixtlilco, as well as reflect on the things we learned. We discussed immigration with an activity where we were split into groups and had to create a web of either the consequences or causes of immigration. Surprisingly there were many similarities between the consequences and causes of immigration, like support for family.
During our stay at the ex-Hacienda we got to go see the Xochicalco pyramid ruins where we saw an observatory and many temples. The biggest temple we saw featured in the picture was called the Quetzalcoatl Pyramid or The Feathered Serpent. This temple was disassembled a hundred years ago piece by piece to look for an underground tunnel. None were found so it was then reassembled but they couldn’t quite put it all back together the same way they took it apart. It was built by the Olmeca-Xicallanca which was a small group of Mayan traders back in 620 A.D. We learned about sweat lodges, temples and how this group was so advanced in many areas of science.
This picture was taken on the Quetzalcoatl Pyramid
We have even had time to explore the city a bit this week. We went to El Mercado and did a survey to see the costs comparative to the United States. We also have gone out to some clubs and bars to experience the night life of the city. I really enjoyed the bar Los Arcos, because there is live music and salsa dancing.
View From Behind Casa CEMAL (The House Where We Eat)