Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Immersion in Amatlan de Quetzalcoatl

What an incredible week it has been! Our group has had the opportunity to experience a rural home stay in the indigenous town of Amatlán. There we met amazing people, experienced traditions and different lifestyles with our host families, and embarked on an adventure of fabulous food, beautiful sights, and memorable ceremonies and speakers. This week was filled with visits to a government agency, elementary and high school, medical center, and speakers ranging from recipients of government programs to natural healers to documented and undocumented immigrants. We went on excursions and listened to speakers that helped us not only to better understand Mexico and its many cultures, but also to immerse ourselves in these differences by living with a rural family in the community.

The first day that we arrived in Amatlán we were able to partake in an indigenous ceremony at the foot of the mountains that surrounded us. This was lead by Nacho, a spiritual leader in the community, who taught us about the traditions of his ancestors like listening to nature and speaking of peace. It was a beautiful experience and so wonderful to be able to learn more about the culture in Amatlán.

At the base of the mountains in Amatlan
Another opportunity that we had was speaking with Laura*, who is a natural healer in the community of Amatlán. She comes from a family of generations of natural healers, and she learned from her grandmother about what plants were medicinal and how to respect Mother Nature. I found it neat to see the similarity in her culture compared to mine how traditions and beliefs are passed down from generation to generation.  She spoke of the indigenous cosmovision, or worldview, which emphasizes interconnectedness between human beings and nature. In her culture, there is great respect for nature and thanks is given when using plants for medicinal or food purposes.

Laura also spoke of how corn is a very sacred plant and that they celebrate and give thanks throughout the entire process including; picking seeds to plant, planting, taking care as it grows, and collecting the corn again. This is such a vital part of their culture and it was wonderful being able to hear about their traditions and their way of viewing the world. It was really interesting for me to notice the differences in the U.S. dominant culture regarding nature and the sacredness of corn. In the U.S. it seems that corn and other plants are looked at with dollar signs and not so much the love and respect that people in Amatlán give to nature.

CGE Mexico students (and a favorite dog) at a group bonfire and reflection
Overall, this week was an incredible learning experience and I had such a great time meeting new people, learning about a new culture, and discovering and embracing the similarities and differences that I shared with the community and my host family. I will remember this week forever!

-- Rebecca Collins

*Name changed for privacy purposes.


  1. Thank you so much, Rebecca, for such an eloquent and evocative summary of your studies and experiences so far, and also for the gorgeous photos of people as well as environment!


  2. You guys seem to have so much fun! Reading about all the experiences reminds me so much of my trip to Cambodia. It's such a privilege for us all to be able to travel. Hope everyone is having a great time though! Be safe!

  3. What an amazing experience. Its important for us, as social workers, to learn and understand other cultures. That being said, what a great experience to learn from different people in Mexico! Also, its really cool that you could see a connection between your family's value on traditions and beliefs being passed down from generation, and the healers'. Thanks for sharing!

  4. I enjoyed reading your blog about your wonderful experience! It makes me excited to know I will have a great experience when I go to Mexico next year for Social Work. You explained the cultural values of the Amatlán community and I think that it is amazing. To know that they value for instance corn, something we take for granted here. And the fact that this culture has healers, I think is really cool and something you don't see everyday in the USA! Their culture is passed down from generation to generation is amazing, and it keeps everything going and deeply connected, which I don't really see often, usually traditions fall a part or could possibly die. I can see the huge cultural difference between this culture and the one I have in the states. Thank you so much for sharing your experience!

  5. Thanks for sharing this wonderful blog. As our time in Mexico's coming to an end, it's nice to reflect to the events, things, and weeks we have done during the beginning of the semester. I remember that week in Amatlan like it was last week. It was one of the most powerful and memorable weeks in Mexico. I enjoyed it very much and I've learned a lot from all the guest speakers to my host family that week. I've also connected many of my own cultures and beliefs to Amatlan's culture and beliefs, although they're not the same culture, there are so much more to learn about each culture even my own Hmong culture. We often take things for granted but in another culture they value and cherish it just like the corn in Amatlan's community and you made a good point about that. Ever since I've been here in Mexico I've noticed I take many things for granted and Mexico had definitely changed my views and how I value certain things in life. Thanks again for sharing you're wonderful blog.

  6. You are a very talented and skillful writer, Becca, just want to put it out there first. But anyway, thanks for sharing this post, although I didn't read it until now, but it sure did brought back so many memories. Especially about the two speakers when they talk about their experiences in the United States and in Canada. And the bonfire where we all share so many laughter and tears.
    There were so many speaker this week, but they were all very important, especially since there is such a big population of Latinos back in the U.S., and just learning more about the culture and everything while being in Mexico is the best way to learn. Again, thanks for sharing!