Hello, friends and fellow students, Greetings again from the Social Development and Social Justice class here in Cuernavaca Mexico. I write to you on the morning of our last day here, as we are moving to Mexico City tomorrow. I think that the group has mixed feelings about the end, as most of us have really enjoyed this city, its people, and especially our host Gerardo. Though I think that one of the bloggers may write a little more about his story, I want to introduce you to him briefly because he's a man I believe we've all come to respect and admire.
Gerardo grew up in Canada in a conservative family that had pretty strict religious views (Dutch Reformist I believe) and raised him in the traditions of Canadian dairy farming. He told us that for years he felt as though something was missing from his life, and even though he was making good money as farmer, he did not feel fulfilled. So with a group of other farmers around the area, he put together several trips here to Cuernavaca, to get to know the farmers here and what their need were. Eventually this group donated 30-some dairy cattle to the people here, and Gerardo brought them down from Canada and began helping out here among the poor and marginalized.He likes to say that he spent 34 years talking about what he was going to do and the good man he was going to be, and now he has to spend 34 more years not talking and actually doing what he said. Anyways, to make a long story short, he decided to stay here permanently, selling most everything he owned in Canada and living here to help the people around him. Though he came here to help the farmers, his philosophy has changed over time. A quotation on the wall of the room where we meet begins to explain how he thinks about his work. It says, "If you've come here to help me you're wasting your time, but if you've come here because your liberation is bound up with mine, let us work together". Gerardo has bound up his life with the Mexican people. Eventually he started this program called QUEST that we've been experiencing for the last two weeks, and has given us all a lot to think about. There is a lot more to Gerardo's story but it is much better told in person, and I will happily tell you if you ask sometime.
I know the Volweider sisters talked about what we've done each day, but I want to tell you more about what I have experienced here, to hopefully make it more relatable and personable. Also as seen in the title, I want to talk about letting go of my truth, or the subjectiveness of some things that I've "known" compared to reality. Mexico is a beautiful country. Normally when I say that, I would mean that, physically, the country is beautiful, which is true. However, the real beauty I have found here is in the people. I cannot express how gracious and hospitable everyone has been to us here. They greet us so warmly and open their homes to us, giving us food or gifts even when they do not have very much themselves to begin with. This sentiment has been very challenging for me. If some random people that I did not know came to my house, would I be so quick to open up my life to them? I don't know that I would, and that bothers me. We have a tendency in America to value material goods and wealth, sometimes even above other people. And that is the case here too, but only for the 20-30% of people at the top of the food chain who are super rich. The other part of the population here seems to care so much more about family and having relationships with other people, something that I think we've lost sight of in our consumerist culture. I'm not trying to preach to you from my soapbox; that would be hypocritical. But I want to change, to be more happy with what I have, and to put my relationships with others at the top of my priorities list. Many of the people here are poor and marginalized by the wealthy, and in the end all they have is each other. But that thought got me thinking...even for all our advancement and technology, if we stripped away all the junk, all we would have is each other too. I think it's an important realization for myself that without other people, I'm nothing. I don't mean to say that I have no purpose or meaning, but without other people in my life, I am poor.
We talk about how other countries have less money or are not as good as we are, but I think that most of America (myself included) has missed some key parts of the big picture. We are the ones who are poor. Poor in spirit, poor in relationships, poor in loving our fellow people, poor in fulfillment, and in real meaning. I want to make the disclaimer that this is a observation about our culture in general, not every American. I maintain that this observation is true, though, and that as a country we could use some real soul searching to regain a sense of who we are, especially in these times in our history. I'm beginning to question just how much I support America. Do not mistake what I'm saying; I love my country. However, there is also a great deal of ignorance from the American people at the harm we have done throughout the world and continue to do to this very day. Some may say that my sentiments are unpatriotic, but I disagree. I think that admitting when your country has been wrong and gone astray of its values is the most patriotic thing you can do, and something we should all work to do further. Accountability is something we should not be afraid to enforce.
We have been exposed here to a great deal of problems that are either directly or indirectly caused by the United States. NAFTA has destroyed the farming communities, which has forced millions of people to travel to the U.S. to work or else their families starve. You can say that they're causing problems in our country (which I suggest you actually try to back up with facts), but we caused problems for them first. If you think that the fathers and mothers of this country want to break up their families to travel to the U.S. and have our "American Dream" you're dead wrong. Sure, some immigrate because they want to be wealthy and have nice things, but the biggest segment of immigrants from Mexico are just trying to provide the basic necessities for their families, and they feel bad that they have to come to us illegally in the first place. There are reported cases of immigrants having to wait for a hundred years for their citizenship to be approved. Literally. The U.S. banks refuse to give loans to the Mexican government unless it gives our corporations privileges in the country and marginalizes the poor. Coca-cola is one of the largest suppliers of beverages in this country and since a lot of the water is undrinkable, people drink so much pop that diabetes is now the number one cause of deaths among the Mexican people. U.S. railroads own most if not all of the railways here, and many other services and utilities have been bought by U.S. corporations. Pardon me, but how am I supposed to feel good about any of that? As you can probably tell by now, I'm feeling a little frustrated. The Mexican government is quite corrupt and definitely a huge part of the problem, but I want you to realize or at least think about how much that goes on in our government and country that you and I never know about. I want you to think about who actually runs things in the halls of Washington, because from the standpoint of some of these third world countries, we only care about getting more money for our companies at the cost of exploiting them and their people.
Feel free to disagree with me, but I just want you to stop, do some research, and think about who we are as a nation compared to who we say we are. After living in a society of freedom and unlimited information, I feel ashamed at how easy it has been to be ignorant and not care. If you'd like to know more or want to discuss, please send me an email. I think that is good enough for now.
Thanks for reading, and may you have a good Monday.