Mexico knows how to celebrate. How to party. How to indulge the senses.
After three years, I tend to not notice the parties that make the neighborhood throb each weekend.
But this Friday was a little different. My doctor invited me to attend a party. My first reaction was to accept the invitation, and then use the Mexican option of simply not showing up.
The party was to celebrate the opening of the Indian school where I donate a bit of my time. Because it is a cause that matters to me, I decided to attend.
Let me refresh your memory. The school is in the agricultural village of Pinal Villa. Just a bit inland from Melaque.
And “school” is a rather inexact term. There are three classrooms. But the small complex is a support system for some of the migrant workers (most of them Mixtec Indians from Guerrero and Oaxaca) who come north to plant and harvest.
Following Spain’s conquest of Mexico, the crown outlawed Indian slavery. In its place, the encomienda was established. A feudal transplant from the Iberian peninsula, where the king granted large tracts of land to an “owner,” who could demand a specific period of work from the Indians he also “owned.” It was merely slavery in white face.
In theory, that system died with Mexico’s independence from Spain. But it still echoes in Mexico”s fields (as well as the fields of other nations).
The Mixtec leave their ancestral lands to come north with their entire families to do work that the locals will not do. I complain about the heat here. But I do not have to spend my day planting bananas or weeding watermelon or harvesting mangoes.
The Mixtec do. Single men. Fathers. Mothers. And children. Lots of children.
It was for the children that the school was started. To give them an opportunity to break out of the cycle. To give them enough literacy and mathematic skills that they (and their children) can join Mexico’s growing middle class. Instead of being stuck in the poverty that characterizes 40% of Mexican families.
Having returned home at the start of summer, the Mixtec are returning. That means it is time for the school to reopen. To learn. To get well-balanced meals. And for 16 families, to have a comfortable place to live.
Friday was a welcome back party. Filled with the type of events one would expect.
These are the teachers. I apologize for the blurriness. But I wanted you to see how young they are. What I cannot show you is their dedication and their energy.
And there were awards for the outstanding students. All of them extremely shy. They have not learned the bright student syndrome that exists above the border -- to be the center of everyone's attention. But they are the core that we hope will reach escape velocity.
At all of these events, there is a skit that melts hearts. This was an homage to the vowels. As for the dog, he insisted on being part of everything.
And no decent Mexican party can exist without music. This singing group of students is from another school. And they have learned the rule of getting attention. Lots of music. And I mean lots.
The school had invited a group of Americans and Canadians who have volunteered their time to work with the school. But they were merely guests. The fiesta was for people like this little guy who spent the entire evening batting a balloon. This was the only photograph I managed to get that was not a complete blur.
These migrant workers lead a very rough life. But the dedication of the children is what amazes me. After a full day in the fields, they attend classes in the evening.
To me, that is the message of hope.