lunes, 23 de mayo de 2011

Prison Bound

The group in our prison red
This week, our group was lucky enough to visit a prison in another town very close to Cuernavaca. The building itself was finished in the year 2000 and holds about 2400 male inmates and about 300 female inmates. The justice system here is very different than in the United States. For example here, the inmates aren’t provided a uniform and for this reason when we visited, we all had to wear red to show that we were part of a group and not prisoners. The prison itself was actually quite nice, it had a school for people who wanted to take classes, they offered elementary school to college and even English classes, they had a computer lab and some small factories for people who wanted to work and make some money. The prisoners who would work earn about 100 pesos a week or less that 10 USD but it still gave them the opportunity to save and have some money for when they were released. Another interesting fact was that the female inmates were able to have their children with them in the prison up to 5 years of age. It was interesting to see how our justices systems have some similarities but are also different in many ways.

miércoles, 11 de mayo de 2011

Mole Mole Mole

Friends making mole!
This week our compañera Gabbie did a very interesting lab group where we made mole! For those of you who don’t know, Mole is a very yummy sauce that is made with many different ingredients.  The ingredients depend on the recipe but also the location because recipes and specialties can differ from state to state in México. However, the traditional Mole consists of chili peppers, lots of spices, and even chocolate. At the beginning of the group we talked about how Mole started, which is actually very interesting because it is a mix of a lot of different ingredients from all parts of the world such as spices from Asia, turkey (the traditional mole meat) from the Americas and of course chocolate which is native to many parts of the world but also to Mexico and Latin America. In a way, Mole is perfect for Mexico because just like Mexico, Mole is a combination of contributions from people all over the world. After learning about the history of Mole, everyone got to help out making it and then of course, after everything was done, we had a delicious lunch. Yum!

-Ben Main (Augsburg College)

miércoles, 4 de mayo de 2011

Back to Reality

After a week of vacations during Semana Santa, we all returned to Cuernavaca to continue with classes. Compared to some weeks in the past where we have had many excursions and guest speakers, we had quite a relaxing week.
The major events of the week were the diversity panel on Tuesday night and the trip to the Robert Brady Museum for Maren’s lab group.

The diversity panel was made up of three guest speakers who spoke about their experiences with coming to terms with their sexuality in a Mexican context. 

Each of the three speakers brought a different perspective relating to sexuality. Natalia spoke about the challenges she faces being transgender, identifying as bisexual, and having HIV as well as her social activism based around sexual rights. She started the first group of bisexuals in Mexico called Opción Bi. Vik@ brought a very valuable perspective being out and gay in a rural community. A rural community that happens to be a community we all spent four days in. Graciela spoke about her experience identifying as lesbian in Mexico and the difficulties of acceptance she faces with her family.

I believe that everyone extremely enjoyed this panel particularly because topics such as sexuality are taboo not only in Mexico but in the United States. Also, voices of bisexual and transgender people are often ignore and hidden but they need to be heard.

The outing to the Robert Brady Museum thanks to Maren and CEMAL was also enjoyable for everyone including my parents and Coltin! Fortunately we had the opportunity of having a guided tour and were let in on some of the secrets of Robert Brady and la Casa del Torre. After the tour Maren led us in a discussion about art in a Mexican context including the privileges of art and those such as Robert Brady who are able to travel the world, collect art, and hold parties without working. Part of the reason his house is so interesting to visit is due to the complete extravagance and over 1300 pieces of art decorating the house. We asked ourselves questions such as, Are museums the only places we can view art? Is the Robert Brady Museum accessible to the public community of Cuernavaca (at 35 pesos a ticket)?

Overall it was a relaxing week that was necessary to gear up for our busy next two weeks before we leave the magnificent City of Eternal Spring.
I like the questions you posed at the end, Annica, because I feel that these questions are ones that not many people in the United States reflect upon. The word "American" is thrown around all the time to identify people from the United States, but like you said, America is not only the United States. At times it seems like an ethnocentric label particularly when referring to just people from the United States. All of this speaks to the power of labels and words and the history behind the words that are very powerful. I would encourage everyone to reflect upon the labels they use to categorize people and think about what they really mean.

-Gabbie Gonzalez (Beloit College ´11) 

(Photos by Alex Palomino)

jueves, 28 de abril de 2011

Luz y Libertad – Knowledge and Independence from a Base Christian Community

We’ve just concluded our week of vacation during Semana Santa, and it’s hard to believe that we have just three weeks left of our semester in Cuernavaca!

On Friday, May 15th, the Migration & Globalization students and the Social Work students visited an organization called Luz y Libertad, a 17-year-old group that strives to educate, support and serve women in theological, domestic and emotional capacities. As a Base Christian Community, one the organization’s primary functions is to provide Bible study and discussion through the lens of personal experience. Additionally, the group (comprised of four different women) provides classes that range from crafting, healthy and inexpensive vegetarian cooking, and self-esteem workshops. These classes are geared towards providing women with the knowledge of how to create their own cottage industries (and the ability to generate their own income), how to cook healthfully on a budget, and how to perceive and deal with the social inequalities between men and women in daily life. The organization asks that anyone attending the classes pay 10 pesos, but if that isn’t possible, they welcome patrons in with open arms anyway.

While the organization is full of good intent, there are struggles to be faced, mainly that the community has mixed feelings about their purpose. One of the speakers told us that as she was giving an announcement about a Luz y Libertad function after mass, a man approached her and told her angrily that the organization would be to blame for the divorce he would inevitably have in the future. Also, many of the classes will start out with plenty of members, but membership will decline as the class wears on. Why is this happening? It is quite clear that machismo prevails today in Mexico: Luz y Libertad is nowhere near being a radical feminist group (as they are providing basic skills, knowledge and emotional support to women), but they are still accused of radicalism and blamed for things they should not be blamed for. Providing women with the tools they need to be more independent is not a threat to a social structure which has been in place for so long, and yet may women are still afraid to commit to the organization or the classes. 
After our discussion, the ladies of the organization served us an incredible lunch made of the various soy, wheat germ and gluten dishes they teach in their cooking classes. The visit was very enlightening, and the existence of organizations such as these helps to prove that feminism is not monolithic – it can be religious and domestic, and it can still help women to be liberated. The next step is to fight the machismo that keeps women from taking advantage of the opportunities Luz y Libertad presents.

-Ashley Lopez (Mount Holyoke College ´12)
Photos by Alex Palomino