martes, 29 de marzo de 2011

To Enter La Embajada

 This past Thursday both the MG and Social Work groups headed to Mexico City, aka D.F., aka Distrito Federal. Some of us had been there before as Maren has noted in the previous post, while for others it was the first time back to the capital since arriving to México. We stayed at Casa de los Amigos, a Quaker Center for Peace and International Understanding. We had such a large group that we ate breakfast in two morning shifts on Friday, and then we traveled to la Embajada de Estados Unidos, the U.S. Embassy. In order to enter, we had to bring our passports, wear professional clothing, and leave electronics at the door. We heard from a panel of U.S. employees who have their current tours/posts in México. It’s interesting that ‘tours’ in the foreign service are generally only 2-3 years long. Is this because they don’t want people to become too attached to the country they are working in? Wouldn’t it be better to have experts rather than a shifting staff?
We learned about the visa process, which is long and complicated. Some applicants have been waiting for 15 years just to have their appointment; it isn’t even guaranteed that they will qualify. I further researched online and found that up until January 2010, HIV infection was a reason for ineligibility based on health-related grounds (1). Fortunately this has changed, and HIV positive individuals are not restricted from crossing the border. Later, some of the MG students debriefed the Embassy visit in Abril’s Political Science course. We discussed how only certain individuals in Mexican society have a chance at getting a visa because they must prove that they have ‘enough’ economic resources. This gives insight into why crossing without official documents becomes logical and reasonable for individuals and families under economic pressures.

 Students from the Political Science class at the Cuernavaca sign in Mexico City

Barriers to immigration efforts are not unique to the U.S. At the talk at the Embassy, we learned that a recent survey found that many Mexicans expressed conservative expectations from Latin and Central America immigrants, such as a high level of education and ability to speak Spanish. This reminded me of the film De nadie we watched a few weeks ago about the struggles experienced and challenges faced by immigrants south of Mexico. As the journey to the U.S. from Mexico is not an easy one by any means, the journey through Mexico for a Latin or Central American immigrant can be even more difficult. I would definitely recommend this film, and I would like to present some questions that often come up in our lab group and class discussions: Doesn’t America include the North, Central, and South? Aren’t we all Americans? What is the best way to build respectful and supportive relationships within our American family?

1. 1) U.S. Department of State. Classes of Aliens Ineligible to Receive Visas. Accessed March 20, 2011: < >.

-Annica Stull-Lane (Oberlin College ´11)

Learning about Women´s Rights with a visit to CIDHAL

On Thursday March 17th, the Migration and Globalization students visited the first women’s organization in Cuernavaca, Morelos. CIDHAL or Comunicación, Intercambio y Desarrollo Humano en América Latina, is an organization that focuses on women’s rights not only in Cuernavaca but throughout Latin America. They have inspired similar organizations to increase benefits for females, including education, health, communication and information in communities where women are so often marginalized.
Students and Professor Ann Lutterman-Aguilar with
Flor Dessiré León Hernández and Jerry Martínez Águila

Flor Dessiré León Hernández, led a two-hour session that explained the work that CIDHAL does to benefit the community and help women who otherwise would be hopeless. The work accomplished at CIDHAL is inspirational and functions in such a way that comforts many. The mission statement of CIDHAL says it all: “The completion and participation of all kinds of social, cultural, scientific, and educational means to initiate, promote, promote or encourage communication and exchanges for human development in all its aspects in Latin America mainly women, irrespective of any political or religious ideology.”

Throughout the session, we learned about many issues that women face in all parts of the world such as motherhood, sex education, and the hot topic of abortion. It was fascinating to learn about such topics that are often debated in our own cultures but in a different context with many different culture norms involved in greater Mexican society. The trip was rewarding and inspirational to say the very least. For more information on CIDHAL and its work, check out their website at

-Sam Krogstad (University of St. Thomas)

miércoles, 16 de marzo de 2011

Mexico City Experience

Women representing their role in the Mexican Revolution
On Sunday, March 13, The Globalization and Migration students as well as the Social Work students had the opportunity to visit Mexico City. We arrived in the morning to enter el Museo de Las Bellas Artes. We attended a Folkloric Ballet, which was truly incredible. Each dance had a story behind it, describing Prehispanic culture or an important figure or event in Mexico’s history. Not only was the ballet full of talent and beauty, but the stories behind them made it all the more interesting and special. My favorite dance was called “La Revolucion,” which had a series of dances with in the piece. The most moving part for me was when all of the female dancers were in one line with their rifles and bullets in hand. The movement and music together created a very strong image.

Male and female dancers representing
a regional culture
 After the ballet we were able to see some of the most important murals in Mexico by David Alvaro Siqueiros, Diego Rivera, and Jose Clemente Orozco. These three famous muralists’ work described the struggle of Mexican society after the Mexican Revolution. In many of the murals, the hard and tedious life of the worker was portrayed, as well as the overpowering affects of industrialization on the Mexican people.

After Bellas Artes, we went to Coyoacan and to el Museo de Frida Kahlo, La Casa Azul. We walked through her house to see a collection of permanent pieces that were very important in describing Frida’s life. We were able to see everything from her kitchen, to her and Diego Rivera’s bedroom, as well as her studio. Her studio especially moved me, seeing her wheelchair and paints left just as she would have kept them. I enjoyed learning more about her life and struggles as an artist and as a Mexican woman. We had free time in the neighborhood of Coyoacan where there were a variety of coffee shops, restaurants, and artisan markets. Our experience in Mexico City was a great learning experience and a lot of fun! I am sure I am not the only one who would like to spend more time in D.F.

Maren Daniels (Augsburg College ’13)

jueves, 10 de marzo de 2011

Al Campo or Bust

This week both the Migration and Globalization students and the Social Work students had the opportunity to experience life in rural Mexico. This particular town is located approximately an hour away from Cuernavaca. There were two main reasons the program decided to have us stay here with host families for three nights and four days. The first is that it was a good practice for our rapidly approaching longer term (6-week) urban home stay in Cuernavaca. The other is that many of the inhabitants of the community are still connected to their indigenous roots in some way.
The street outside where I lived

 However, just because we were there, that did not mean that we were on vacation! Granted, we did not have to sit in class and read books, but still, we participated in the Center for Global Education’s favorite teaching method—experiential learning… aka learning by experiencing. We went to a panel on immigration where we heard the very impressive but sad stories of two local men’s experiences in traveling to and working in the United States and returning home again.

The next day, my birthday (March 1st), we got to experience something completely new and exciting. We all received a Temazcal and a Limpia. These are two traditions that have been passed down from the original indigenous people who lived in the area. A Temazcal is essentially a sweat. You have to crawl into this oven-like cavern where you will sit in complete darkness with about eight other people. Once inside, we were instructed to remain silent while asking the Gods for clarity on something in our lives, or that they help resolve a problem of ours. While we are doing this, a person (who is familiar with the tradition) is waving palm leaves around in order to continually increase the temperature. Finally, after a half hour, we exited the cavern and were asked to wrap ourselves in sheets that they gave to us and lay on the ground to let our body temperatures readjust.

A statue of of the god Quetzalcoatl in the town square
After receiving our Temazcal, we went to go see community leaders for our Limpias. A Limpia is another type of cleansing tradition. In this case, the community leader took leaves from a particular type of plant that grows in the area and an egg into one of his hands and ran them together all over our bodies. The point of this is to extract the negative energies from our bodies with the egg and plant. After this process, he cracked the egg into a glass of water and was able to read the contents. He told us things about our lives and how we are as people in general. He also told us about some life struggles we may have had in our lives thus far. I know it sounds a little out there, but he was completely accurate with my reading. I could not believe it!

Well, after an interesting and busy four days in the campo (country) getting to know a different piece of Mexico, a little about some indigenous traditions and perspectives on life, and living with a family, we returned back to Cuernavaca, where, for better or for worse, we felt more comfortable. We missed not only our houses, but being home. Before going out to the community, I know that I had some preconceived ideas about what I was going to see. What do you think those things were? What do you think the reality was? Would you be willing to put yourself in a similar situation? Well, if you ever have the opportunity to do so, I would strongly suggest it.

Jordan Freking (Williams College ’12)