Thursday, April 2, 2009

WEEK 9: Visit to Tlamacazapa

On Thursday, March 24 all of the social work students gathered to visit the non-profit organization called Atzin (meaning “sacred water” in Nautl) which works with a town in the state of Guerrero called Tlamacazapa. The meeting with the founder and director, Karrie Jones [1], was to prep us for our visit Friday. She first came to Morelos, Cuernavaca, in 1996. She didn’t have any funding, so for many years she was working on very little money.

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[2]. 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.

[1] 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.

[2] Ibid.

--By Ali Klatt

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