Saturday, March 29, 2014


I admire the resilience and strengths the community of Tlamacazapa, Guerrero, have developed. Despite the fact they do not have resources they need to build a stronger source of income or access to purified water, they have an outstanding determination to provide for their families. The women of the town hold powerful positions because they often take the role of a mother, daughter, domestic worker, and basket weaver. The reason we had the opportunity to visit Tlamacazapa was thanks to Xochitl Ramirez, a leader of Atzin, a non-governmental community development organization. Xochitl was kind enough to provide us with an informational talk about Atzin’s impact on the community and how the community has changed. However, as Xochitl stated, a talk was not sufficient to gain a wider perspective of Tlamacazapa’s situation.[1] When we reached Tlamacazapa, we received a warm welcome from all of the community organizers, who are all women from a wide range of ages. They introduced themselves and their roles in Atzin. Most of the community organizers were part of the kitchen staff, special education program or elementary school preparatory program. I am amazed at the fact Atzin has done a wonderful job encouraging women to become involved at such a young age because these girls serve as role models for their peers and mothers, who can access the adult literacy programs also offered by the organization. Aside from Atzin’s wonderful work in empowering people to transform themselves and others, the willingness of the community to pull through difficulties is astonishing. Residents carry 20-50 liters of water almost daily, from the well to their homes and wait long hours when water is scarce.  In a house visit, I encountered a male who had suffered an incident and lost both of his legs. Nevertheless, he began basket weaving to substitute his job of exporting products to larger cities. It is important to acknowledge the impact globalization, poverty and patriarchy has on Tlamacazapa – as long as we put forward the peoples’ effort to regain hope.

Community Organizers ("Promotoras") of Atzin, students, Cemal professors and staff. The picture was taken after our circle gathering of introductions.
The cleanest water well where the community of Tlamacazapan obtain their water for washing dishes and sometimes, drinking. It is a very long hike up the town to obtain it.

~Laura A. (student)

[1] Xochitl Ramirez, Atzin Community Organizer. Lecture on Mar. 19, 2014 in Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico.
Atzin was founded in 1997 by Dr. Susan Smith and other volunteers.


  1. Thanks Laura for sharing this community organizing exemplar -- inspiring!

    Tony Bibus, Augsburg College

  2. I believe that water is a human need and right, so why is a community so deprived of something created from nature that should be free and accessible to all? These questions run parallel to the issues of education, food and health that Atzin, the community organization, has been addressing. I am impressed with the programs and resources Atzin has implemented and continues to develop for the community and its members. Their efforts and work exemplify the social work is not simply offering aid to clients, but empowering them. This can be seen by the strengths the community embodies and how they continue to unify to overcome the hurdles imposing on their lives. Our trip to Tlamacazapa was an amazing experiential learning experience. The invaluable information and knowledge we received was a collaboration of stories and teaching from community members from various life situations, and it was a invaluable gift to experience a day through their eyes and perspectives.
    - Amy Amsler, Augsburg BSW student

  3. I think it's exciting to read about what you guys are doing in Mexico, and this kind of work as Amy said is very important, to empower people, give them a chance to help themselves. Atzin sounds like an important organization for this community, and should be an inspiration for others to develop similar groups where it's needed. It makes me appreciate the things we take for granted, and reminds me that things in my home that are easily accessible to me, is things others have to work very hard to get. So thanks for the reminder, and keep up the good work you are doing.
    - Lise Eriksen, Augsburg Student!

  4. The women of Tlamacazapa sound very empowering. I admire them for encouraging young girls to get involved and make a difference. I can imagine that being a young girl in this community could be very hard. I am very impressed that the community is behind these girls and they should be role models for other communities. With everyone's help in a community it really shows that things can work out. With girls helping out, it only benefits their community more. I am really glad you shared this with us back in the United States. It is really inspiring to hear about people making a difference in other countries. Hope you are having a great time and keep doing great work!!

    Bridget Kopp
    Augsburg College

  5. The community there sounds really beautiful, and I really admire the strength of the women all they do to help their families and for their families. also how important they are. It makes me realize how really important working together is and also that the community does not have a lot of access to fresh water and have to journey to get it.
    -Drewcella Davis Augsburg college

  6. The visit to Talamacazapa was probably one of my most favorite things out of the entire semester here. Laura, i think you did a really great job focusing on the strength in the organizing within the community instead of the trials they may face. I think that the fact that this was the focus of our visit is really important as a CGE group. Our focus is not to look at the community like a zoo and see all the struggles they have, but instead see the changes being made. This is also important to consider as social workers. The strengths perspective of social work calls us to focus on the positives and strengths within individuals and communities instead of the problems. To those of you who comment on us making a difference, I want to first of all say thank you for your comments, but also point out that that was not our goal. We did not go there to do voulnteer work. I will not say we did not make any difference, I think showing the community our interest may provide some form of encouragement, but we certainly did not go there to "help them."

    Like I said before I will always remember my experience in Talamacazapa. Carrying that water was hard! Not only did I get to experience what the process was like for getting water, but I got to do it with Augsburg's President Paul Pribbenow (and no, he wasn't wearing a bow tie!) By far it was my favorite visit of the semester.