One of the important themes of week three was understanding and working with rural or indigenous communities. One of the things that impacted me the most was the talk with Xochil and the visit to the small town Tlamacazapa (Tlama for short).
Xochil works with the nonprofit, Atzin. The nonprofit works primarily with the village of Tlama. The organization consists of several leaders and a number of organizers from the community. Everyone involved works very hard in many different areas. Some of these issues include domestic violence, malnutrition, alcohol and drug addiction, and various diseases due to unclean water.
Xochil has a lot of knowledge about the community and shared a lot of information with us. We also learned a lot through visiting the town. Tlama is a small town of about 6,100 people in the state of Guerrero. The main economic income comes from weaving palm. This is an age old practice that the people of Tlama have been doing for generations. In order to make a living this way, many of the men travel to larger cities to sell the baskets and other goods made by the women.
Another challenge in Tlama is getting enough clean water. In order to get water today, the residents must walk to one of three wells. All of these water sources naturally contain lead and arsenic. What’s worse is that because of the incline, water from dirty streets runs into the wells. The bottom two wells are generally used for washing, while the top one is where people get their drinking water.
|Well in Tlamacazapa|
We got to see some of the other work Atzin does within the community. They provide a school and a health clinic as well as other various resources. The organizers of Atzin are all members of the community who see a need for change and are trying to do something about it. They also work to educate others in the community.
While we were in Tlama, we had many different experiences. Upon our return, we discussed them and while everyone had a unique perspective on the trip, there were some common themes. For example, many shared stories of being called out for being an outsider. Saying things like “So you want to be one of us?” as the group took turns carrying water. Or, “You lost?” as a student walked by.
For me, this was the first time I felt completely like an outsider in Mexico. Because I cannot understand everything people yell out on the street means, I can usually ignore it. But in Tlama I felt as though I was really intruding. The combination of learning about the extreme poverty and injustice along with these feelings, gave me a much different perspective on my role here.
The experience of seeing how much physical labor was required just to survive was very eye opening. I am often unaware of all the privileges I have. Seeing the way of life in Tlama reminded me that not everyone has all the luxuries that I take for granted. I hope this experience will help me work for change in the ways that I can.
By Stephanie Nelson