St. Olaf College
Upon arrival to Amatlán, a small indigenous pueblo in our state of Morelos, none of us knew what life-changing experiences were ahead. In fact, we were all a little nervous to meet our first home-stay families. Even though we would only be visiting for four days, our Spanish language skills and lessons on cultural sensitivity had never been as essential as they were with these indigenous families.
The trip began with an immigration panel where three local men shared their heart-wrenching stories of migration to the United States. One man worked in the U.S. on a seasonal worker’s visa, but the other two traveled without documentation. These two men would have to leave their families for years on end in order to send back enough money to construct a small adobe house or support their children. This is the irony of being a migrant worker – one must leave what they love the most behind in order to sustain it.
We soon found out that essentially anyone who lived in an adobe or concrete-block home, rather than a lamina shack, had paid for their home with remittances from the U.S. Every family in Amatlán had been touched by migration, which more often than not meant they had also been touched by tragedy. So many children had grown up without fathers, and so many mothers had lost adolescents to the pull of U.S. opportunity.
In Amatlán, we also became more informed on land rights and agricultural issues. Most people who remained in the community lived off of a campo for their corn supply and perhaps a little money on the side. However, ever since NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement), the corn markets of Mexico have been skewed in such a way that it is often more profitable for consumers to buy U.S. corn than local, indigenous products. Thus, the people of Amatlán have evolved to just producing corn for their families. And, this corn was amazing!
Our trip has left me wrestling with many questions. Will Amatlán be able to preserve its indigenous cosmovision and beautiful way of life into the future? Will globalization ruin the preservation of indigenous culture? Why doesn’t the Mexican government care about indigenous poverty and lack of voice in politics and society?