Coming Home and Finding Our Roots

Good Afternoon dear reader.  I have had one more blog posting percolating since my last post.  Now that I have had some time to be home again and tomorrow I begin a new course load at UTS, I thought this would be a good time to send out a few more thoughts about this trip.

Since coming home again I have had many people ask me the question, “How was your trip?”  What then do I say? It was fun? It was awesome? It was challenging? It was a great learning experience? It was eye opening? Yes, yes, yes and yes.  All of the above and more.

I do know that the effect this trip has had on me is not finished.  I think for a very long time if not for the rest of my life, there will be teachings from this experience that will continue to come to me—perhaps in moments that I least expect it.

I also know that this will not be my only such experience, because I feel strongly that I will try to make other similarly focused trips in the future, perhaps even back to Chiapas.

This photo is of an artwork created Continue reading

ProMedios and Other Worlds

Buenas Noches dear reader.  As you already know we are all back home safely.  I have to say that I am none to glad to be back in familiar surroundings with my dear family.  During our last few days in Chiapas I noticed how natural it had become to greet people in Spanish and respond with “Gracias” instead of “Thank you.” I wondered if I would continue out of habit for days after our return. Nope.  I am struck by how easily I have also slipped back into familiar patterns. The only hesitation I have noticed is when using the bathroom. Continue reading

Worship at Acteal

Greetings, dear readers! You have already heard some about Acteal and Las Abejas. The service at Acteal really moved me, so I wanted to share some of the things I saw, heard and learned there. The people of Acteal have experienced such tremendous hardship, yet they speak, sing, and pray with tremendous hope and joy. Their courage and perseverance was truly inspiring.

The first banner I noticed was one that read as follows (I included my attempt at translation to Engligh — I may not be spot on, but hopefully I caught the gist of it!):

“Tlotik el Pueblo De Las ‘Abejas’ de Acteal Te Da La Bienvenidos Por Caminar En La Luz”
(The Village of the “Bees” of Acteal Welcome You to Walk in the Light)

R aul
A utonomia (Autonomy)
U nidad (Unity)
L ucha (Struggle)

V erdad (Truth)
E jemplo (Example)
R espeto (Respect)
A mor (Love)

L uz (Light)
O racion (Prayer)
P erdon (Forgiveness)
E vanjelio (Gospel)
pa Z (Peace)

The service was conducted both in the indigenous language shared by the people in the village and in Spanish. I tried hard to understand as much as I could, and I’ll share with you a short list of a few of the things that I understood as either spoken  by individuals or sung by the choir with great fortitude: Continue reading

Do you see what I see?

Buenos Noches again dear readers! It is so hard to believe that we only have one more full day here in San Cristobal.  For me this day began and ended in tears.  This morning when I went to get my coffee at breakfast time I was suddenly overcome by a wave of homesickness. I felt lonely and just wanted to be home with my family and my familiar surroundings.  The waterworks were short lived, but took me a bit by surprise since I have never been one to get homesick.  This trip has been a wonderful experience, but this is the longest I have been away from my home by myself in a very long time.

This evening ten of us went out to dinner at what has become a favorite dining place on Real de Guadalupe, one of the pedestrian shopping streets downtown.  While we were eating a young boy came around and asked Pam if he could shine her shoes for 20 pesos.  She had been hoping to do so before leaving so she agreed and he set to work.  It was 9:30 pm and I could just see the top of his head at the end of the table bobbing up and down as he shined her shoes.  I lost it right there and the tears flowed.  It just did not seem right Continue reading

Hoy Dia a La Manana

The title of this post is “From Today To Tomorrow.” It is the title of a poem I wrote on Saturday which I will include at the end of my post.

This past Saturday, we met with women from 3 different weaving cooperatives. The patterns and styles of each community’s weavings are unique. The vast array of colors and patterns created a great deal of excitement in the group as we negotiated who would purchase which of these one-of-a-kind items.

The women were very shy yet they answered a few questions — mostly with “yes” or “no” responses. Continue reading


Buenas Tardes dear reader.  It is now 4:30 pm on Monday and it seems I have been on my feet the entire day except to eat lunch.  As I told you before we did have a later start today.  It was 10:00 am when most of us set out on foot to walk (some of us took a taxi) about 2 kilometers to visit the Center for the Development of Mayan Medicine (CEDEMM) which is overseen by the organization OMIECH, the Organization of Indigenous Doctors of the State of Chiapas.  This center includes a museum, a medicinal plant garden and a pharmacy.  It also includes a small chapel/place of healing where Maya healers can meet with people who come for healing.

The purpose of this center is to revive and honor traditional Mayan medicinal practices, recognizing them as legitimate healing methods and remedies. We learned about traditional indigenous Maya healers: Pulsars, Elders who pray, Midwives, Bone Healers, and Herbalists. We were so fortunate to meet Victorio, a healer who was at the center, and he graciously allowed us to ask a few questions.  He told us how Continue reading

Chamula: The Festival of San Sebastian

Hola, queridas!

Our visit to Chamula was several days ago now (Fri), but many of the images I saw there are still running through my mind. This is a very special event for the people of Chamula, and the celebration lasts for several days with the peak on the day we were visiting. This day, many children were baptized, and I noticed that just like in the United States it was a time of great joy for the families and and many tears for the babies.  :)  Inside the chapel, I experienced a sensory overload. The floor is covered with pine needles — a ritual that brings the people closer to the earth — a source of holiness and energy. The air is filled with the smoke and strong scent of Copal (a common incense used in Chiapas). There are many people packed into the church — some standing in lines facing the altar praying out loud their individual prayers. Some formed in groups around the Statues of the Saints that line the church — caring for and honoring them. Some people moving towards the front of the church where San Juan Bautista (St. John the Baptist) resides. Along the left side of the church, the male saints stand, representing the masculine energy. Along the right side of the church, the female saints stand, representing the female energy and leading to the area where children are baptized. Candles were burning throughout the sanctuary, some in glass containers on the floor and on tables, some placed directly on the floor and secured with melted wax. Musicians occasionally played their instruments in a seemingly random fashion. Then the procession began … Continue reading

The Cost of Privilege

Buenos Dias dear reader.  It is hard to believe this is Saturday already!  At least that is what the calendar on my laptop says…I have lost complete track of time! I  do want to catch you up on the last two and half days, but first I will tell you about our reflection time on Thursday evening.  Chris Smith and Tim Johnson (pastor at Cherokee Park United Church) asked us a question, “What is one thing that has deepened my own sense of privilege, and what is the cost of that privilege?”  I and my fellow bloggers have already noted a sense of privilege as we prepared for this trip, but now that we are here it becomes even more apparent.  The first image that popped into my mind Continue reading

University of the Earth and CIDECI

Buenos Dias dear reader.  It is another new day here in Chiapas as it is for you wherever you are.  I sit here in the hotel lobby between the open front door and the open grassy courtyard that is lush with green trees and bushes and flowering plants.  The air is crisp and cool and my heart and mind is full of all we experienced yesterday.  There was so much to process from our visits that by the time we finished with worship last night the mind was mushy.

Our visit to Universidad de la Tierra was, what can I say…a WOW experience.  It began with all of us walking downtown to the zocalo to pile into 5 taxis.  And I do mean pile. With 21 of us, in my taxi there were 5 of us squashed into space for 3!  And off we went to just outside of town.  What an amazing place.  Something that I found out is that this place is not only the Universidad de la Tierra but also the Indigenous Center of Integral Training or CIDECI las Casas or simply CIDECI (say-dee-say).

OK, where to start. This place is a school—a place of learning.  The philosophy here is one that challenges all the ways we do teaching and learning in the United States.  One way to understand how this place functions is to note that CIDECI is the practical side of learning and the Universidad de la Tierra is the philosophical side of learning.  CIDECIis a place where indigenous youth can come from the communities as young as age 12 to study to learn a trade as well as to learn how a community can live with autonomy from the government.  Resistance and autonomy are two important principles for the indigenous communities here in Chiapas, and one cannot understand why this important without understanding some history.

The Zapatista uprising in 1994 by the indigenous poor was an attempt to be heard finally as a people.  It was to protest against the way the Maya people had been enslaved and pushed aside for all the 500 years since the Spanish Conquest.  ¡Ya Basta! Enough!  The Zapatista demands were for basic human rights.  The response of the Mexican government to these fully legitimate demands has been to continue finding ways to push the indigenous communities aside in any way it can including creating rifts between indigenous groups and murder and yes, massacre.

CIDECI and the Universidad de la Tierra were created and founded with the thought and liberation theology of Bishop Samuel Ruiz Garcia. These organizations share space and philosophy.  All of the buildings have been built by indigenous people. The teachers of the children are indigenous.  The school is self-sustained and all the needs of the school are produced on site as part of the learning program.  There are training areas for cooking, sewing, weaving, typing, publishing, electronics, electricity, architecture, farming, music, shoe production.  The school grows vegetables and raises sheep, rabbits, chickens, and geese. Nothing that is produced is sold outside the school, but is used by the school.  The huge looms for weaving were constructed in the carpenter shop.  The shoes are made for the students who live at the school. The school is truly autonomous which means that they do not accept any government money or programming.  They have even gone off-grid with electricity.

The way education happens here is that youth age 12 and older are invited to school from their community. They come to the school for 2 months at a time then go back to their community for a month or so and return.  They do this for 2 to 3 years.  The youth are given a choice as to what they wish to learn.  If they leave and decide not to come back for awhile, that is fine.  When they are ready to return they are welcomed back.  The youth return to their communities with tools and knowledge of the practical things they have learned at CIDECI which help to aid in the autonomy of their home communities.

The Universidad de la Tierra or the University of the Earth is consists of seminars that happen on Thursdays where the indigenous people decide what topics and pertinent issues they would like to discuss.  It is a school, yet there are no teachers or students. Yet all are teachers and students.  The idea is to learn from one another and that each person is a teacher.  The topic is chosen as a group and then the director of the school gathers materials regarding the chosen topic which are sent to the attendees a week prior to the seminar.  The people gather and discuss issues that emphasize the reality of Chiapas, Mexico, and the world.  It is called University of the Earth because “we sit on the earth” together.  The seminars are held in Spanish, and people from all five of the indigenous languages have participated, but mostly from the Tzotzil and Tzetzal communities.

Dear reader, it is now 11:17 pm.  I have written the last half of this post in the cool, crisp evening air.  I have not done justice to our visit to this amazing place. It was only half of our day yesterday and we have experienced yet another entire day we have yet to tell you about!  Tonight at worship Chelsea mentioned that what struck her most about CIDECI and Universidad de la Tierra is that it was truly autonomous.  There was nothing to offer them but our prayers—a humbling thought.

Please be on the lookout for more photos.  We are working at choosing and reducing the digital size so we can get them uploaded.  It is our plan to insert them within the appropriate posts we have already sent, so do check back for photos of this place as well as in our previous posts!

Buenas noches,

-Déadra M.