Saturday, November 12, 2011

party on

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.


Nita5 said...

It is sad to see the work they do that others won't. This is not happening just down there, it is the same in the states. They do work  here that others won't do. You probably heard about Alabama's problem in the peanut fields since immigrants went into hiding for fear families would be split.The price of peanut butter has gone waaaay up.

Mcotton said...

How precious are these young children.  How wonderful that there are folks like you and your friends that care enough to do something to ease their burden, to educate them so they can break the mold.

Steve Cotton said...

And a good reason to get some education to the children.

Steve Cotton said...

I always wish we could do more.  But it is somehing.

Laurie Matherne said...

Powerful post. Beautiful children. Good deeds. But where are the shoes? 

Francisco said...

Uplifting post, what people like Laurie (of Honduras Gumbo) and you do is compassionate and admirable.

Jonna Harlan said...

I'm continually impressed by your good works Steve, you contribute mightily to your world and I congratulate for it.  

Nancy said...

You're so right, Steve... education is what will help bring about change. You are setting such a good example to the rest of the expats in Melaque, too.  Saludos!

Steve Cotton said...

This school is one of the things that keeps me in Mexico -- and in Melaque.

Steve Cotton said...

Thanks.  The school is a constant reminder me that caring about one another is not a social option.

Steve Cotton said...

Thanks, Jonna.  I have come to regard my food with much more respect after watching these families work so hard that I might eat.

Steve Cotton said...

I heard one of the Mixtec children tell a local neighbor in Pinal Villa: "I am as good as you."  That was enough to make my day.