Journals from Oaxaca, Mexico
2012-03-21 Group Leader Update
I hear that the rain up there is never-ending - I can't say I'm missing it much. We've started the hot season down here in Oaxaca, and it's absolutely great (almost too hot, but I'm not complaining).
We've had an extremely busy last few weeks down here. Our classes are really getting going and we're getting more and more involved in things in the city as well. Two weeks ago we were able to head up to a small town (pueblo) called San Pablo Macuiltianguis. Only after weeks of practice have I been able to pronounce some of the names of these places we're visiting, and I still get corrected nearly every time I try to say the name. We went as part of our course on Oaxacan anthropology, the focus of which this week was immigration. In this town, there is a year-round population of about 370 people. There are actually almost a thousand residents, but the rest of the population is constantly in flux, as many alternate between living in Macuiltianguis and migrating elsewhere for work - either to la Ciudad de Oaxaca, Mexico City, or the U.S. Once we navigated the extremely curvy mountain roads, we went to a park a little ways outside of the town for lunch, which was delicious. The park is meant to draw tourists, as it has cabins and picnic areas and a pool, among other things, and was located in a beautiful wooded area - reminded me a lot of Oregon, actually. We were lucky enough to have our lunch made right there for us, and we ate memelas and quesadillas in the park, which were delicious. I was able to try my hand at pressing and cooking a tortilla, but failed when the tortilla broke when I tried to put it on the grill to cook. It was a great experience though. Afterwards, we were able to interview a man who had been to the US many times for work, and shared his personal experiences with us. It was extremely interesting to hear about immigration from another point of view, since we hear so much in the US about it practically all the time. He discussed the dangers, problems, and necessities of migration, as well as how it affects the towns that people leave. Next we were able to visit the town's language classroom, where they currently give classes in Zapoteca, the maternal language of much of the population. They are worried that their Zapoteco culture will die out one day, so they work hard to continue teaching new generations the language and the customs of their indigenous culture. The kids learning were really excited to talk to us and share their lessons with us. It was great.
We spent this past Friday in Tezoatlán, a little less than 4 hours from the city of Oaxaca, where we had an opportunity to give presentations on health-related topics to groups of students and their parents. We presented information about obesity, nutrition, oral hygiene, and diabetes to a pre-school, a grade-school, and a high school. It was quite the challenge, as the groups were very diverse and we had a lot of information to get through. We were able to adjust fairly well each time we gave a new presentation, and if we present again we will be able to make many adjustments that will make the information even more relevant and easy to understand. One of the biggest challenges was that we gave the presentations in Spanish - something that would not be an easy task in our first language. The group did well though, and I think it ended up being a valuable experience for everyone. This was part of our community interaction course, were we are working with community organizations (community service, essentially) throughout the semester. Veronica Herrera, who is working on her own independent study on public health, did a wonderful job organizing the entire trip, and we appreciated that she allowed us to work with her on her project.
Those are some of the main points of the past few weeks. There is a lot going on, but we're finally getting into the swing of things here and having a great time. Exams are coming up fast though, so we'll see how we're doing in a couple of weeks. Hopefully still going strong!