Thank you for all your support in getting me here. I am happily thriving in my community and falling more in love with this country every day.

My Spanish has come a long way and I feel more confident than ever in it but I still get faces of “what in the heck did you say?” and “oooh, I get what you meant but that was rough.” Still, it’s been a joy despite the struggle to live speaking such a beautiful language. I continue to appreciate the sounds and chaos of the city. The metro gets sweatier by the day as we are entering summer. And I am dreading leaving a place where I can buy fresh squeezed/blended juice of whatever fruit I like on most street corners for under 20 pesos (75 cents or so).

I would like to share with you some things that have been very present with me the last few months, on my mind, on my heart, and in my experiences. They all are not the most uplifting topics, but they are important.  At the end, you’ll find a selection of various photos from the last couple of months.

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My work site, ProDESC, continues to challenge, form, and inspire me. We have recently taken on another accompaniment case focusing on labor rights in the Baja California, Mexico. I was given the task to edit and create a cohesive video from interviews taken of some of the agricultural workers in the community. Even more than reading on, I ask you to take the time to watch and listen to these four people give their devastating and honest testimonies about the reality they live in. (click here)

A maj10646796_10100616198141173_2368156472866771811_nority of the workers in this region of Baja California and the San Quintin Valley specifically harvest crops for Driscoll’s Berries, a brand you can find in stores like Costco and Whole Foods. One major lesson I am learning at ProDESC is the power of our consumerism and the impact of unconscious compliance with transnational human rights violations. I would ask you to take a simple but important step in helping this cause by joining the community’s call for a boycott on Driscoll’s until they receive a non-hunger wage (more than 8 USD daily), vacations, social security, paid over-time, and the sexual harassment women frequently suffer in order to maintain their jobs (and thus their families) ceases.

 

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Mexico City and its 22+ million inhabitants consume a large valley. It used to be a massive lake, but now the mountains and volcanoes encircle an ocean of concrete. Recently reaching record levels, the ocean of concrete is been topped with some hazy grey, lung burning, allergy aggravating, and eye reddening pollution. Not only have the surrounding mountains been hidden the view on my morning metro rides but also sections of high rise buildings which are much closer. They recommend not exercising outside, which has most definitely affected me. Along with congestion and a cough which won’t seem to go away.

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You normally can see mountains and high rise buildings from this view out of the metro.

The city’s government has decided to enforce a program called Hoy No Circula which defines which automobiles cannot drive that day based on the last number of their license plate. On days where the contamination is worse, this number doubles. This cuts out millions of cars a day from driving, but no significant improvement is to be seen. As someone who cares and worries about our precious, God-given creation, I am happy to see that something is being done. But it’s not enough, and the citizens are noticing and anger is rising. Anger at measures that are “too little, too late,” criticizing the lack of preventative methods. Anger at allowing highly contaminating public transit (think thick black clouds of exhaust) continue to circulate and not attempting to replace such old, harmful vehicles. Anger at skimping on regulations for factories which most definitely contribute.

It’s a tough reality of being in one of the largest cities in the world.

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I was warned about machismo before I arrived. I was warned of the cat calling. I was warned the metro was “a sauna and massage for only 5 pesos.” The reality of the sexual violence, the belittlement of non-male genders, and the lack of general respect ranges from being exhausting to damaging to the point of death.

On the 24th, I was unfortunately out of the city and unable to participate but a march took place for the movement of #NoTeCalles (don’t keep quiet) urging women to file charges on sexual harassment and assault they experience and to raise awareness in men (however innocent or guilty they may be) to how common and daily these experiences are. Beforehand there was a trending hashtag of #MiPrimerAcoso (my first harassment). Stories poured out. Women took great courage in sharing and exposing the reality of women in this country. A coworker told me her male friends were shocked and humbled to realize the extent of the problem (they have the privilege to forget, we as women do not).

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Taken from teleSUR English facebook page

From the same post in which I took the photo, teleSUREnglish: “In an ongoing femicide crisis in Mexico, 7 women are killed every day on average across the country and dozens more face other forms of gender violence, according to a national statistics institute. 63 percent of Mexican women over 15 years of age have experienced some form of gender violence, which could include physical, sexual, emotional, or psychological violence as well as economic forms of abuse such as discrimination in the workplace. Despite more than 44,000 women murdered in the past three decades, according to official statistics, few perpetrators have been brought to justice. An impunity rate of more than 95 percent in femicide cases fuels violence against women.”

Mexico City is NOT the only city, nor is Mexico the only country, that breeds a machista culture. As someone who works with many female human rights defenders who are highly targeted, this is a subject even more disturbing and real. I ask you to rethink thoughts such as “it’s not that bad here so we’re fine” and prayerfully consider gender inequality and its effects. I ask you to pray for those who suffer in such violent contexts.

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Cinco de Mayo:

  • Is not Mexico’s Independence Day (which is September 16th) but rather marks the battle against France that was fought and won in Puebla, MX.
  • Is celebrated less in Mexico than in the US, though schools get the day off.
  • When celebrated, is REALLY celebrated. Without insensitive or inaccurate cultural references to things such as… taco bowls.

One of the only neighborhoods in all of Mexico City that celebrates May 5th is the neighborhood of my host brother-in-law (Peñón de los Baños). Although I missed the battle reenactment, I got immersed for a couple hours in a bombardment of canons going off, banda music blaring, people drinking and dancing with genuine enjoyment painted all over their faces. Don’t worry, mom. I wore earplugs. 🙂

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After all that reading, I will end with some photos. Thank you for reading, supporting, and being. Love to you all.

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Fellow volunteers, Gracia and Alyssa, setting little turtles free during our semana santa visit to a turtle sanctuary on the coast of Oaxaca.
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Holding a hawk at an ecological park in Toluca, MX.
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Fellow volunteers, Cathering and Justin, at my house enjoying some dinner: tacos of chicken liver, tripe, and heart. The chicken liver was a little too much for me…
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One of my weekly joys is playing soccer (indoor style) with these wonderful ladies every Sunday. Win or lose, I’m loving this game and community. Gracia is at the far right.
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My cousins and I eating with the family we stayed with through AirBNB. Lovely people and fun to exchange stories!
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Two of my cousins visited me and we headed to the coast. Blessed family time and a gorgeous place.
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