For the last two days, I spoke about my experience of Chiapaneca Mayan culture to consultants, local partners and three members of the board of trustees from the Kellogg Foundation, one of the largest private American foundations which provides grants in the United States, Central America, and Southern Africa. The photos will come soon. You’ll have to forgive me; it happened so spontaneous that I entirely forgot my camera the second day.

Many millions of dollars per year are put into social programs or projects that promote children’s health, nutrition and strong families in regions that are among the most vulnerable, and I was fortunate enough to accompany them to surrounding impoverished communities of Zinacantán, Comitán, Lagos de Montebellos, Poza Rica, and projects along the Carretera Frontera, bordering Mexico and Guatemala. In the end, we became very fond friends and I know we’ll touch base over the years.

Margarita and Erika at a strong family of women weavers.

At least for me, it was a fulfilling experience to see Chiapas from this angle, and escape from my cooperative and discuss poverty issues from an over-arching and broad perspective of development.

On the one hand…to exchange wisdom and personal experiences with Jeff, Carolina, Gail, Carlos, Ramón, Pedro, Gaby, Han Min… through Marcos, Margarita, Xunca, Pedro, Adriana and the simultaneous interpreter Erika, and to converse each other on the cultural landscape of this region from my own (narrow) experience working at Taller Leñateros. Despite the increasing regional incidence of depression, suicide, malnutrition, and a loss of social-cohesivness, I witnessed strong Mayan women and men doing things to empower themselves and strengthen their own communities in healthy ways… in particular, there was a family of self-sufficient women, and we also visited a center for sexual rights with assertive and beautiful girls. Of the varied regional differences that Mayans exhibit, it was enriching to see that we are able to enact positive change.

On the ride winding around dizzying mountain switchbacks—Carlos mentioned that as a consultant aggregating experts and major multinational companies in North America and Mexico, he’d be interested to show my “Mayan Territory” documentary and cover my travel expenses in the capital for a conversational dialog with these company executives in Mexico City… to demonstrate what could be done in these Mesoamerican regions. I would speak to the audience in Spanish, and show them how a catalyst could help indigenous populations acquire useful habits. Though this was one of the many sketch ideas exchanged while we traveled, many introductions and suggestions, I can only imagine how much good this sharing might do.

I witnessed several invaluable things and felt painful sorrow, but also persistent hope. After seeing this, it’s good to see that Americans are still generous and cognizant of global issues, and Carolina inspired me so much with her personal story growing up very wealthy in Monterrey, Mexico and going zapatista rebel in Chiapas. When we went to the communities, some of the conditions of the Mayan indigenous peasants were so unacceptably despicable that I had felt melancholy for hours, but the knowledge that I myself am “the change that I want to see” also provides me fulfillment and satisfaction. We are doing our part, and it is wonderful (if frustrating) work. Rather than pity the impoverished, we give them tools to empower themselves, and in that the term “indigenous” disappeared and all that was left were human beings with marvelous potential. Through their stories, I began to see things differently yet again.

They left today on a charter plane to Guerrero.


Funny Subtleties in English

Jeff: In English you can say that you like children, but you can’t say you like children of a certain age. To say “I like seven-year-olds” will raise eyebrows.

Carolina: And you can say you like children, but if you say “I like teenagers” that sounds a bit sketch too.


Spanish Words of the Day:consenso” consensus | “sentirse realizada” feel fulfillment | “desanimado” dispirited | “empalagoso” fulsome | “multiplicador” a street team