February 26, 2009

Still reliving the memories........

Even after 2 weeks at home, i'm reliving the memories of this "trip of a lifetime" to learn about Mexican culture. I'm very appreciative of the Augsburg staff who really set the tone for a trip that was truly an educational and life changing experience. I think often of our home stay family. I think Rosi and I learned that we can actually communicate quite well even without language. Our home family really helped me become more sensitive and "tuned into" family culture and how similar it is to my own. We are all much more alike than we are different. I still feel emotional remembering their parting comments that "when you are in Cuernavaca, our home is your home". Just a small amount of time spent with people can be very meaningful. We did spend small times with so many aspects of the history and culture of Mexico but indeed it was so meaningful and applicable to our work. I know that in coming weeks I will continue to be impacted by those experiences with my new experiences as I work with Latino families in SWMN.

February 25, 2009

Family Communication

I learned so much through our Mexico travels!! I was fascinated by Mexican history, architecture, and interacting with the people we met! I especially enjoyed the home stay experience, as we found the communication process to be so rewarding! I was able to practice my Spanish skills, and was actively involved in verbal and nonverbal communication....quite an experience. Our host family was so kind in helping us to communicate. Through the communication process, we laughed a lot, asked many questions and learned so much from eachother!!! We were even invited back for Christmas and any other time we would travel to Mexico. I learned the importance of communicating even if language might be a challenge, as we have so much in common! My travel experiences were so rewarding and fun! I will certainly look at everything differently in my professional and personal life. I hope to find further opportunities to practice my Spanish, llearn more about the culture, and find ways to share education.

February 23, 2009

A country so close but yet far away

Fourteen years ago I had the blessing of being part of the FD European Family Study Tour. Now I can add a uniquely different FD study tour to the resume. Both have enriched me greatly. This recent experience immersed me in a culture with an ancient history on the same continent that I'd not spent any 'quality time' in (a 2-day visit to Ensinada on the Baja 38 years ago hardly counts). I learned so much about recognizing the richness of the indiginous people and their melding with those that came from other lands. When I reviewed some of the printed materials we received prior to the trip, I know I didn't truly understand the meaning of 'liberation theology' prior to the experience. I know there's much more to learn but I'm beginning to understand what that is about. And it will be important to keep that in mind personally and professionally, when I work with a group who has newly migrated here. I'm also trying to find a personal life application of this awareness, probably through my faith community which reaches out to a large Latino population.

The Mexican Adventure

The study group to Mexico was an experience that I am very thankful for. The opportunities were so rich and I feel like I have learned so much. The structure of the learning process was very well thought out. Spending the first 2 days soaking up the history of the indigenous peoples and Cultures of Mexico prepared us for the day spent with Nacho, the spirtual leader at Amatlan. Hearing him talk about the the priorties of that Culture and the blend of the old with new religion was very helpful in understanding the importance of tradition, family, and community for many Mexican people. The shopping tour day was a great learning experience for me, both from the view point of not knowing language, money rate, or where I was going ; and also from the work we did in our groups of breaking down the true cost. To really understand the number of hours worked to buy basic food items was very helpful in understanding why so many immigrants leave family and risk breaking the law to come to America. Our session on the nutrition research project the Nutrition Center, and the Health presentation at Camel, told us so much about
issues of health and nutrition in Mexico. Lack of information, lack of insurance, and no school lunch are just a few of their concerns. I hope that we can use what we have learned about the Mexician culture and issues to make stronger connections with our immigrant community here in Mn.

February 20, 2009

Mary's entry

There has been so much written about the study tour and all that we learned. For me what we learned at the convent on the importance of the Virgen de Guadalupe to the Hispance people was very interesting and timely. As a Catholic, I had not heard of the Virgin Mary being seen in Mexico by an Indigenous person so many years ago. At the convent we learned a great deal about the significance of Mary showing herself to an indigeneous person, rather than a Spanierd, and all the symbolism pertaining to the picture we saw. We have a large Hispanic population in my community of Cold Spring. For a number of years, the Catholic church has had a type of community center for the Hispanic people in the area called Casa Guadalupe. I am making the leap that the name of the community center is tied to the Virgen de Gaudalupe.

Previously, the NEA has had some type of programming with the Hispanic youth at Casa Guadalupe. I would like to explore with the NEA possible nutrition education opportununities with the Hispanic adults in the community and possible summer programming with the youth. I also plan to provide training to the NEAs on what I learned on the study tour. The information shared with the NEAs should have a postitive impact on how they relate and provide education to the Hispanic people in our region.

February 17, 2009

What a life-changing experience!

I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to visit Mexico in the way that we did. I did not see the touristy side of things but rather the reality of things. That is so much better. I realize how little I know of the world and I definitely want to see more. Thanks for the memories!

Liberation theology and the Indigenous people

One learning that fascinated me and took me by surprise is the whole notion of liberation theology. While originally, liberation theology began with church members who were aghast at the treatment of the indigenous people and poor rural and urban populations, liberation theology (bringing justice to the poor, the oppressed through activism) appears to have permeated the collective consciousness of the Mexican people. We saw this in Diego Rivera's paintings and at the history museum, heard about it from Nacho the spiritual leader at Amatlan, from the sisters of Guadalupe (even in the story of Maria de Guadalupe), from taxi drivers to our home stay families. It was interesting how values of collective activism or solidarity as key to social justice was discussed over and over.

I am not sure yet how this will figure into my work...but I am definitely wearing a new lens (at least a much clearer lens) when exploring cultural issues and interpreting data from Latino families!

History... then and now

I was blown away by the pervasive sense of history I felt throughout Mexico. Starting with the ancient civilizations and their complex and fantastic societies to the stark, cruel colonial brutality. One of my favorite parts of the trip was seeing the Diego murals. They depicted a glorious and a terrible past that every Mexican carries with them. Mexican history parellels U.S. history in some ways, but our history is so much younger. I feel like the Guadalupe symbol is a thread that reaches through Mexican history that people can take with them wherever they are. It gives them hope. Now that I am back in Minnesota, I am taking notice of where I see this symbol. I learned about a shrine in Lacrosse, Wisconsin that I would like to visit sometime.

February 16, 2009


I think my most important learning from the Mexico Study Tour is about the complexity of the country, the people, the families and the culture. From my family's business and from working in Worthington and other communities, I had learned some things about the people, culture and immigration issues. I found many of those things either confirmed in preparation for or actually on the study tour. But, I also learned just how complex the issues are. I knew little about how history has influenced the Mexico of today. As we work in MN Extension, this means Hispanic families come from many kinds of backgrounds. We cannot assume their experiences are all alike. For example, how immigrants from a rural area approach things might be quite different from those who may have come from the cities.

Immigration is so complex. Although the immigrant panel members's experiences were about crossing the physical border, there are other ways to come to the US. Who comes here and why is also complex influencing what Family Development does. Do we need to have discussions about who we target? Is it recent immigrants and what does that mean? Or, do we also look at working more with families who have been here longer but are still marginalized?

Besides the complexity, I also realized how very little I know. I plan to learn more about different kinds of visas. I plan to visit the US Embassy website. I hope to learn more about NAFTA to sort out the varying viewpoints we heard. I plan to take more time to talk with Mexican Americans in my work. Some of these areas are not things that I directly work with via Family Relations, but I think due to the complexiity, I need to look at it as a package. All things are connected and that makes a difference for how we work with families. I have way more questions than answers right now.

February 13, 2009

Women's Cooperative

On Thursday, February 5, a group went to the Women's Cooperative. This was a powerful experience, as we learned about the Light and Liberty classes held for women with the support of their church. A group of about five women formed the cooperative about fifteen years ago, and provided non-formal education in nutrition, self-esteem, craft-making and bible study. The classes reminded me of the grass-roots educational programming done by the University of Minnesota Extension. They also served a meal as part of our presentation. They served foods they prepared in their nutrition classes on low cost protein sources. We were served tuna extended with TVP, a soy protein salad, gluten (it looked a lot like liver), and a dessert. Again, this reminded me of the work we do with the nutrition education programs in Minnesota.

Sara's key learning & follow up step

One key learning that I had was really a reminder that it is so important to spend time to get to know people individually to learn their story and history; and not to make assumptions or generalizations about groups of people. One individual follow up step that I plan on doing as a result of my participation --- in a big way is yet to be determined. I will definitely do my work through different lenses. I am a part of a group that is reviewing Antonio's "Accessing Higher Education" materials -- & I now have a greater understanding of where folks come from ... so am slightly more informed that I had been several weeks ago.

My Favorite Meal

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The Lesson of the Oven

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February 12, 2009

A close view of the countryside

Our trip to Amatlan was a journey farther than a 45 minute ride. Cobblestone or dirt roads to dirt yards, small homes the size of sheds in America, and dish washing outdoor stands with goldfish swimming in the holding tank. Horses were in the pastures contained by fences less extensive than Civil War era fencing in the NE states. Families cooked in what we would know as a "summer kitchen" on the farm.

Regardless, families seemed to work together. Several generations were involved, and extended families provided support to the enterprise. Children held a major role in the work, having jobs to do. I was surprised that one of the men was serving dishes of food, as that seemed odd in a renouned "macho" environment.

The sounds of the small village included roosters crowing, children laughing, men working and saws buzzing. Small bus' (vans) picked up mother's and bablies at the street corners to take them somewhere. And as everywhere in Mexico, homes and yards were surrounded by walls and gates.

Senora Naty and granddaughter Tania

Our gracious hostess Senora Natividad and her grand-daughter, Tania at the central plaza in Taxco, Mexico.