Wednesday, March 18, 2009

WEEK 7: Buena Tierra and Independence from Spain

This week was full of more incredible learning experiences that will enlighten our understanding of Mexican culture and ultimately expand our understanding of social work. The event that impacted me the most was our trip to Buena Tierra, a school here in Cuernavaca. Before Buena Tierra existed, many children were not attending kindergarten because it was too expensive for some families to be able to afford. So when these children entered the free elementary school, they were academically behind those who did attend kindergarten, and eventually dropped out because of this gap. Buena Tierra was started to prepare these children for elementary school, and I could tell through the teachers’ interactions with the children that part of the school’s mission today is also to provide a caring and comfortable environment for the children to learn.

Today, the school has hopes that the children can one day have more opportunities and choices than their parents, because before the school was started, there could be seen in the neighborhood a vicious cycle of mothers and children not being educated. Ever since the school has opened, however, there has been a great sense of community between these families, as their children are able to receive the education they never had.

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.

I know that this experience will stay with all of us future social workers when we are working in the United States or elsewhere. While this excursion was directly related to our Policy and Social Work classes, we also had an enriching week within our Mexican Historical Context course. We learned about many aspects of Mexico’s history, the most significant to me being Mexico’s Independence from Spain. The war started in 1810 and lasted 11 years, finally ending in independence in 1821.
The gift that France gave Mexico in 1910, celebrating the centennial of independence – a beautiful statue called the Angel of Independence, which is in Mexico City.

I truly think it is important for us as social workers and as students to learn about this and all aspects of Mexican history and culture. It will be vital when we are eventually working with people from this amazing country. It will help us to understand where Mexicans are coming from, and to realize similarities and differences in our histories, which have inevitably influenced our different cultures. I can only say I am excited to further this understanding in the future weeks of this program, and I know the other students are as well.

At the base of the Angel of Independence are some of the important heroes of Mexico’s War of Independence, including Miguel Hidalgo.
--By Whitney Boyer


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  2. As promised, here is a more detailed comment now that I know what I’m doing, I hope:

    We have been appreciating and enjoying sharing in your learning in Mexico, reading your reflections, viewing your photos, getting to know the people you’re meeting through your descriptions, and imagining all the sights, sounds, fragrances, and feelings of Mexico. The scenes from Cuernavaca that I recognized from when I was there in 1993-1994 made me a little “homesick” – especially Casa Verde, where I stayed (and met a scorpion – say hello from me to its successors if you see one). I also enjoyed the description of Xochicalco, Tepatzlan, the sugar cane fields, the schools, and Mexico city, and it’s wonderful that you’ve been able to nurture the special connection between Ixtlilco el Grande and Minnesota.

    You have followed through so genuinely on your plans and hopes to embrace new experiences, culture, history, traditions, and people. Thank you so much for reminding us of the deep and abiding value of La Familia through sharing your home stays, birthday parties, and the generous hospitality of CGE friends and resources in Mexico. I have learned a lot reading your posts (for example, how important it is to recognize ladders of inference and to be careful not to jump to assumptions), and I envy your growing fluency in Spanish.

    I hope you have a chance to compare notes on your developing social work competencies with Mexican social work students and practitioners, and I look forward to reading more insights and seeing more beautiful photos, especially of you all -- Greetings to Naurine and staff, too!