Wednesday, February 22, 2012


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


  1. Thanks for the detailed description and heart-felt insights of your experience so far, Stephanie! "Hola" to all -- really enjoying your postings!


  2. Reading this made me reflect on the many ways I take for granted how I use water and how MUCH I use. Something as simple and precious as clean water can impact a community in so many ways. Having access to clean water frees up time and energy that can be spent on tackling other issues such as malnutrition and the other problems you stated above when there are less sick people.

    Thanks for sharing- Good luck!

  3. That was a really well written blog entry. There was so much packed into it, not just issues, but good perspective. Sufficient water and clean water is such a huge worldwide challenge. If the UN could just fix global water resources then it's existence would noble. About being an outsider: I've learned that if you don't actually live in a community you are considered a tourist. Only people in the hospitality industry (like) tourists. Of course, if you are impoverished and "rich" people are touring your poverty sometimes you feel resentful no matter how nice or well-meaning the person is. Understand their side and don't take it personally. We do take some things for granted in the U.S., but we should. Basic human needs should be provided and maintained. Clean air and water should not be political. Basics should be non-political. We do like our "stuff" up here. Our problem is that we can no longer tell the difference between "need" and "want." When was the last time you heard a parent respond to a child who says "I want that!" by saying "Yes, but do you *need* that?"

  4. Thanks Steph, for a very well written entry. I'd feel so awkward in that situation, especially if the locals were acting negatively towards me. A resource like water (where we take for granted every day) is a human right, and it's frustrating to know that many in this world have to struggle to attain it.


  5. That would be very difficult to see such poverty and injustice and not being able to fully help out. Also, with the negative comments would make anyone feel uncomfortable and awkward. Thanks for this entry, I am sure it opened your eyes. A lot of American's don't realize what we do have, and what we do take for granted daily. Things such as clean water, transportation, sewer systems, food, housing, education, etc. I think seeng this would have made me feel saddened and yet determined to help out anyway I could. I admire those people, who struggle to survive each day, they are so strong because they have to be, but yet, they know the reality of the world. Their world isn't glammored up or covered up by material things, they arn't blinded by media and all the stuff Americans are.

    Kelsey Thompson