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

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

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.

Foreigner

Buenas Dias dear reader! I have just finished another wonderful breakfast here at Hotel Jovel.  I am sitting at the table conversing with Patsy, Erin, Neil, Traverse, Ann and Theresa. We are talking about how we are reacting to how “life as usual” here is quite different from what we are used to seeing in the United States, particularly the more militaristic sights, like a man in camouflage standing watch outside the airport in Tuxtla Gutierrez with a very big gun.

For me, the first sense of being somewhere different happened as I entered the airplane in Phoenix to go to Mexico City.  I experienced a slight internal reaction as I first noticed Continue reading

We are here!

Hello dear reader! Whether you are a family member or friend we know you may be anxiously awaiting further news from us on our travels.  I realize we neglected to remind you that our posts are dependent upon internet access and of course a moment to pause and write.

We are here in San Cristobal after a few hiccups along the way.  All of our flights have gone smoothly; however, due to an unexpectedly long line in Immigration in the Mexico City airport, we missed Continue reading

And they’re off with a … ummm … just a minute

Buenas noches, queridos! I am writing from the heart of San Cristobal in Chiapas. It took us a little longer to get here than we expected, but we arrived safely with baggage and all.  :)  We met at the airport (MSP) early on Monday morning. I was the first to arrive at 4:15 a.m. — those of you who know me know that is an astounding feat for me. Because I was taking a taxi, I was concerned I would be late. As it turned out, I was the early bird (an unusual occurrence for me — I felt so proud, albeit tired). Everyone gathered and got to the plane (departing at 7-ish) with time to spare. A good start! Some people were pretty riled up (in a good way), and others were pretty much walking in their sleep (including me). I am told that there is a lovely “sleeping” photo of me on the plane that provided the group with much pleasure.

The first leg of our journey was fairly uneventful. We flew from MSP to Phoenix and had a plane transfer there. The timing was perfect. Had we been delayed at all, it might have been dicey as we had little time to spare between flights, but all went like clockwork. Our flight from Phoenix to Mexico City also went well. We arrived to warmer weather, more humidty and a LONG line to get through customs. After passing through customs, each person presses a button. When I did so, a green signal indicated I could pass through and I was directed through the exit. At first I wasn’t sure if that moment was when you found out if you “passed” inspection or perhaps how they counted the number of people who entered the country (umm … duh!). I was informed by group-mates that it is a random selection tool used to identify people for further search/examination. Needless to say, I felt a little silly. Live and learn, right?

Oddly enough, there were few people behind us — the timing was just not in our favor this time. This is where our well-oiled machinery had to take a detour. In theory, we were to fly out of Mexico City to Tuxtla Gutierrez at 4:35 p.m. We all made it through our “longer-than-usual” customs process, on to the “Air Train,” and to the proper terminal by about 4:20 p.m. Hmmm … is anyone sensing a potential problem here? Well, because my ticket had been booked separately (I was a last-minute addition to the crew), I was able to print out my boarding pass at home (no one else had a boarding pass yet). My plan was to race through security by myself and plead with the gate agent to hold the plane for our group. However, I had forgotten that one of my bags (which I had checked through Mexico City) had a couple bottles of hair products in it, so at 4:30 p.m. I was sent back out to either dispose of my hair products or check my bag. Needless to say, my plan was futile — especially considering that boarding passes for the rest of the group had to be printed at least 30 minutes prior to the flight (which I did not know at the time). And wouldn’t you know, that flight was the last flight to Tuxtla Gutierrez for the day.

Plan B was set in motion. Continue reading