Monday, April 29, 2013

New video from our week with UNAM social work students

Every year CGE's social work students study one week in Mexico City at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and then spend the next week living and learning in Cuernavaca with UNAM  social work students.  The purpose is to learn about Social Work from a Mexican context, discuss our similarities and differences, and form international collegue relationships.

Here is a video for you to get a taste of the week!

-- Ruth Schultz, CGE Mexico volunteer

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Social Work in Mexico City

After our week off for Semana Santa (Holy Week), the CGE Social Work students had the opportunity to go to Mexico City for one week to have a an exchange with the UNAM (Universidad Nacional Autonoma De Mexico or the National Autonomous University of Mexico). During our week we explored the many different things that the UNAM offers its students and its community, including visiting multiple museums, internship sites and cultural sites.

UNAM building with a mosaic representing different eras including the pre-hispanic times, the conquest and the revolution.
Here is a quick and brief history about the UNAM for those of you who this is the first time hearing about it. The UNAM was founded in 1551 as a religious institution called the Royal and Pontifical University of Mexico.  The UNAM as it is known today was founded on 22 September 1910 by Justo Sierra as a public university. The UNAM has one of the largest campuses in Latin and America. The Social Work program is the smallest of the disciplines and has over 2,500 students.

UNAM school of Social Work Emblem
During our stay we had the opportunity to go to a museum about the 1968 student massacre. In 1968 around 10,000 students gathered to protest in Tlatelolco Square. The protest was primarily peaceful and done with the aspiration to influence political change in the country. The army surrounded the students and attacked the students. There is no accurate death toll, but between disappearances and actual deaths numbers are said to reach from the hundreds to the thousands.
Social work students at the modern art museum at the UNAM

Another key part of our exchange with the UNAM was to find out similarities between our social work programs. Something that fellow classmates and I found very interesting was the emphasis on Social Workers, being involved with providing access to cultural sites. We got to visit different practicum at both the regional and institutional levels and both groups of students were placed in museums. 

Diego Rivera Art Museum, a practicum for UNAM students.
This planted the question in my mind: if Social Workers in the United States should or do have a footing in providing the community with access to cultural experiences?

-- Brittney Westgard

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Independent "Study" during Semana Santa in Mexico City

Learning continues well beyond the walls of a classroom. This continues to become clearer for me as I explore new places and ask questions on my own. During my break for Semana Santa, I had the opportunity to stay in Mexico City. My partner in crime: Diego de Regil, art student, fellow adventurer, best friend, and lover of life. Seven days to encounter a city’s history, art, and delicious food. Each experience was accompanied with a story or explanation that enriched my learning outside the confines of a schedule and books. 

After we filled our stomachs with nearly one dozen tacos de canasta, our first stop was El Palacio Nacional. Before we even crossed the main plaza, a pair of high school students from La Universidad Nacional Autonoma de México (UNAM) stopped and invited us to participate in an interview for their class project. With a camera and microphone in hand, they first interviewed Diego, then me.

Diego's interview
My interview
The entire interview was done in Spanish, so naturally, I was nervous. One of the questions really got me thinking.  Que piensas de la frase “el que no tranza no avanza”? Translation: What do you think of the phrase “he who doesn’t cheat doesn’t get ahead”? I supplied a foreign perspective on México’s reputation of corruption in broken, shaky Spanish. This phrase comes from Mexican film called La Ley de Herodes, a political satire of government corruption.  From what you have learned in class, from listening to speakers, and conversing with Mexican acquaintances, what do you think? Today in Mexico, with the current politics and structure of society, is it possible to get ahead without cheating, or compromising?

In El Palacio Nacional, there was an art exposition by the name of Programa Pago en Especie. A handful of famous artists, from all over the country can participate in the program by giving artwork to the state in place of paying taxes. The pieces were extraordinary and free for the public to enjoy. I thought this was an innovative and creative way to approach fiscal responsibilities to the government.

Information about the program Pago en Especie
Later in the afternoon, after a refreshing stop at Yogurtland for 2-for-1 treats, we made our way to El Palacio de Bellas Artes. Here we met the famous muralists, Diego Rivera, Jorge González Camarena (my new favorite), David Alfaro Siqueiros, Roberto Montenegro, Manual Rodríguez Lozano and Rufino Tamayo. If you thought Rivera was good in Cuernavaca, you should see Man, Controller of the Universe in Bellas Artes! The political messages painted over a massive wall are truly impressive.
Inside of Bellas Artes
México City has so many places to visit that are nearby and easily accessible, all provided the opportunity to learn and grow if you open your eyes wide enough. Although I wasn’t in class, I learned so much on my free days. I would suggest that if you have the time, explore as much as you can in the city. It will not disappoint you! 

-- Brooke Pringle

Monday, April 1, 2013

Education for Kids, Consumers, and Teachers

This week started off great with a visit to the Escuela Particular Normal Superior “Lic. Benito Juarez” in Cuernavaca. This is a university for students who aspire to be teachers in a school setting. The purpose of the visit was to meet with students and exchange educational experiences between the United States and Mexico. We broke into small groups to discuss education systems, a movie we watched called “Waiting for Superman,” as well as our cultural differences. The most impactful experience for me, however, was being part of a panel representing the United States education system and my own educational experiences. I shared with them my experiences in high school and college and the cost of education in the United States. It was wonderful to exchange ideas and answer important questions.

Social work students exchanging experiences with Mexican teaching students.

This week was also the first week of internships for Augsburg Social Work students. CGE Mexico places students at a variety of agencies/organizations based on their interests and where need is present. These agencies focus on women’s reproductive and sexual rights, care for senior citizens, and school for those with cerebral palsy. I am currently interning at Centro Educativo La Buena Tierra, a school that serves a marginalized community in Cuernavaca. I work in the Kindergarten and on a typical day, I help serve the students breakfast, assist teachers in the classroom with lessons, and play with the students, of course. I am truly enjoying my time at this agency and am looking forward to learning more about their relationship to the community.

On Friday of this week we had a talk about fair trade to prepare us for a future talk from the Artesanos Unidos (Artisans Together). According to Fairtrade International, “Fair trade is an alternative approach to conventional trade and is based on a partnership between producers and consumers. Fair trade offers producers a better deal and improved terms of trade. This allows them the opportunity to improve their lives and plan for their future. Fair trade offers consumers a powerful way to reduce poverty through their everyday shopping” (“What is fair trade?” Do you shop fair trade when you have the opportunity? If so, where and why do you choose to purchase products with the fair trade label?

-- Natalie Newberry