Wednesday, May 20, 2009

WEEK 16: The Last Week

Four months have come and gone, leaving the students scrambling, finishing papers, packing their newly acquired items (donating many things that people don’t have room for), and visiting our favorite spots for one last time.

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

WEEK 15: Social Action at its Best

This week we got the opportunity to meet with a social worker in one of the communities here in Cuernavaca. Her name is Marta Delgado [1]. She has been a social worker for over 30 years now. The social work she is doing in her community is a bit different than the social work we might think about in the states. Marta is a community organizer. She talked with us a bit about her work as a community organizer and her reflections on social work here in Mexico. It was interesting to hear what she had to say about what other people think of Social Workers here in Mexico: ¨they say social workers are leftists, and trouble makers, and it´s true.¨

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.¨

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?¨

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.

--By Ashley Butler

[1] Marta Delgado, social worker/community organizer in her community; conversation on May 7, 2009, in Cuernavaca, Morelos, México.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

WEEK 14: Excursions that will Never Be Forgotten!

What week we had here in Cuernavaca! The week started out with a bang, literally, an earthquake struck Monday, April 27, Northeast of Acapulco, Mexico. As this natural disaster struck, the world was rapidly being consumed by "Swine Flu." We saw the negative side of globalization as the influenza originated in Mexico City and spread throughout the world. But that didn’t stop us from our week of activities.

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)[1]. 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.

CEMAL students sitting in Morelos´ Congress

Up next in the day, we left for an exciting visit to Juan Cintron’s [2] 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

[1] 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.

[2] 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

WEEK 13: At a Grass Roots Level: One of the last 3 weeks in Cuernavaca

This week has been quite a whirlwind. It was our first week back in the house we originally lived in. The group has been here for three months now, and I feel that this week has been one of the best learning weeks we have had so far. We were able to go to one of our instructor's friend's house and hear about activism from a grass roots level.

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