By Laura Johnston Kohl
January 10-January 18, 2015
Ron and I traveled to Mexico City and spent eight days at Casa de los Amigos. The Casa is a 59-year-old Quaker Center for Peace, and it has offered hospitality, service, and Quaker social witness in Mexico City. When you look at it today, or even better, spend some time there, you get a full sense of being in the middle of a kaleidoscope, with movement in every area coming together to make flowers or beautiful designs, and then going off brightly on their own. Our eight days were spent learning about many, but not all, of the activities first hand. I will divide the presentation into the Overview and the broader Details
This was our Schedule:
All seven of us started the tour, and had dinner together. We were from New York, Santa Fe, Berkeley, Nevada, San Francisco and La Jolla Quaker Meetings.
We met up with the Mexico City Quakers for our Meeting for Worship and lunch. Then, we joined the Feria Multitrueque Mixhiuca – a market for local artisanal products held at the Casa each month. Later, we went to the Zocalo (the center of the city) and walked around the Cathedral, Templo Mayor and Alameda Park. We went to the museum where one of Diego Rivera’s most famous murals is housed. Then, we finished the day by joining a huge and wonderful Community Potluck back at the Casa. The potluck is a highlight for many people who have recently arrived in Mexico City, and for many residents.
After Silent Worship and breakfast, we began getting to know the Casa and all of the activities it houses. We next went to Huerto Romita, a wonderful inner city garden that teaches Mexico City residents and school children how to create their own healthy gardens in the bustling city. Then, we returned to the Casa and heard watched and then heard a presentation about “Flor de Mazahua: The Struggle of an Indigenous Women’s Cooperative.” Antonia Mondragon was one of the original members who began a women’s cooperative so that women could raise their children while bringing in income that would support the family. After dinner, we all watched the film about transmigration, “De Nadie.” The film followed the courageous paths of the people who continue to migrate to the North for their own safety and survival.
After Silent Worship and breakfast, we learned about “Mexico as the World’s Migration Capital” and about the Immigrant Housing supported by the Casa. Then, we visited Tochan, an immigrant housing shelter for Spanish-speaking immigrants. Since the majority of immigrants do speak Spanish, the shelter is large enough to accommodate 25 people. Non-Spanish-speakers are housed in the Casa building where they can have Spanish language instruction.
After Silent Worship and breakfast, we found out more about the activities hosted in the Casa. We met with the Spanish teacher. He formerly taught at UNAM – the free, public university, but now teaches at the Casa. He has a very challenging job because many of the immigrants he teaches have had traumatic and tragic lives. He needs to be a social worker, teacher, and friend. Later, we met with the “Collective SubVersiones” or Subversions, and watched their film “Subversions: An Independent Media Perspective.” They are college film students who met up about five years ago and started documenting the abuses going on around the country. They have been very brave as they face the challenges. On Wednesday evening, we had a presentation about “Los Otros Dreamers” with a scholar who has just published her book of that title, and four former US residents who faced difficult times over the past few years because of the immigration policy, or lack of one, in the United States. Since that is the part of the trip that most covered my own activity lately, I was particularly moved by their presentation.
Thursday and Friday:
We all left the Casa and traveled to Vicente Guerrero, a (very) rural eco-village in TLAXCALA. We saw firsthand, in this campesino, about the need to stop Monsanto seed-production and monopoly. The members of the 1000-person community use environmentally sound techniques to keep fertile soil, and to produce authentic and pure agricultural products. Once Monsanto is introduced with chemicals to kill the flora and fauna that is part of these communities, it will destroy the fabric of the community and leave us eating unhealthy foods. The community itself is inspiring even beyond the corn crop. The cooperative donated land and told the government to build schools. Done. Then, the community decided to provide a free breakfast to all the students in the village. They do this every day. They are wise and involved in making a wonderful, active community. We spent the night in dorms. On the second day, we hiked around the fields and learned about the necessary steps for erosion control. The “A-Shape” used was taught to these farmers by Guatemalan farmers in the 1960s.
We traveled to the Teotihuacan Pyramids, the third largest pyramid in the world. Many of the group climbed to the top. After visiting the spectacular pyramids, just an hour away from downtown Mexico City, we returned home to the Casa to wrap things up.
We spent as much time together as we could and then started peeling off to catch our flights home to the US.
The Social Action Tour was wonderful because we were all determined to get the most out of the trip. We were Quakers so we have core beliefs about unity, simplicity, integrity, cooperation, peace, integrity, etc. And, being Quakers – we were all so VERY different. We Quakers do think that the expression, “Herding cats,” refers to trying to get Quakers to move at the same pace in the same direction.