This week has been a week of exploring, meeting with people, and experiencing some of the history and culture that Mexico has to offer. Something I have been thinking about since orientation is how to have a well balanced trip. We talked before we left about how we would feel if someone came to Canada on a learning tour and just looked at everything that we feel vulnerable about in our country, such as First Nations relations or homelessness. That put our trip and our historical and cultural adventures this week into perspective for me. It made me realize the importance of learning more about Mexico and getting a broader perspective of the country, instead of just looking at the negative aspects of migration. This week we got to experience the Ballet Foklorico at the Palacio Bellas Artes. It was a beautiful performance of some traditional Mexican dances, and the dancers did a brilliant job. We also went to the pyramids of Teotihuacan and climbed the pyramid of the sun and the pyramid of the moon. Unfortunately we did not count the stairs, but my best guess is that it was over 400! It was a lot of time in the sun, and a few of us resemble lobsters just a bit more than when we left, but we had a blast exploring and climbing around on the ancient ruins. We also got to explore the Palacio Nacional, where the president sometimes stays in Mexico. It was an expansive building and we also got to see some of the murals of Diego Rivera inside that told some of Mexico’s history. We did a lot of walking and riding the metro, the metrobus, trains, and taxis in the city. I think we are all a lot more comfortable on public transportation after this section of the trip! One evening the metro was so full that there were literally people and limbs hanging out of each of the doors before they closed. We had to get six people onto the metro, so we split into groups of three, picked a door, and pushed our way on like we were told to. It was very squished and hot, but we did it, and I would say we are one step closer to being seasoned public transporters (is that a word?) in Mexico City. We also went to Casa Tochan, as Thomas mentioned in his blog, and learned more about migration. We watched a documentary called “de Nadie” and also visited another migrant shelter called Cafemin (calf-eh-meen). The documentary was very sad as it followed the true and sometimes tragic journeys of some Central American migrants. It was also hard to hear stories from some of the people at Casa Tochan, and to think of what they have experienced in their lives. I talked with two guys there who were migrating; one who was 23, and another who was only 17. I can’t imagine what they have experienced already before even reaching 25. I can’t speak for the whole group, but I was starting to feel discouraged and overwhelmed with the whole idea of migration. As Arturo said earlier in the week, migration is a huge issue stemming from so many root issues and involving so many countries that there is no easy solution.
Visiting Cafemin was a breath of fresh air for me. It was a large space, which was different than any of the places we had previously visited. It is a migrant shelter mostly for women and their families, but they also house some single men. They had all kinds of programs to teach the women to sew, bake, run computer programs, fix computers, make crafts to sell etc… They also had a clinic in the shelter where a doctor comes to offer services free of charge. It was neat to feel the hope that was so evident in the shelter. Some little girls came out and tried to sell us bracelets that they had made. We could not resist their super cute little faces, and many of us purchased some bracelets to support them. They were full of joy and hugs that warmed my heart. It was really neat to see a place making a difference in the lives of so many people.
One of the women there, a migrant from Honduras who has been there for about two months, offered to share her story with us. It was a hard story about her and her family leaving their country because of the gangs’ threats to their children. They were robbed along the way and endured many hardships on their travels, but they had made it safely to Mexico city. They are currently awaiting asylum here. It was really hard to hear her story, but also encouraging. She kept saying that she is happy despite her circumstances, and glad to be safe. She talked about how her young boys keep asking to go home and how she misses her mom in Honduras. She also helps in the kitchen at Cafemin, and talked about how that is her way of giving back. She wants to give back what she can because the sisters at the shelter have helped her and her family so much. It was so encouraging to hear her story and to see the hope that she had and the attitude that she maintained despite her terrible circumstances. It was a visit that gave me hope.
Another glimmer of hope is the women called ‘Las Patronas’ who give food to migrants who pass by on the train (called “La Bestia). They don’t have much to give, but they give what they can when they can.
It is really encouraging to see people who are doing what they can to make a difference in the lives of others. I was also challenged to not feel overwhelmed about all that could be changed in the world, or to feel guilty for the situation I am in. All I can do is use what I have to affect others in a positive way to the best of my abilities. I don’t know what that looks like yet, but I intend to continue praying and asking God how I can apply the knowledge I have gained on this trip. He is the only one big enough to understand and deal with migration, and if I wait patiently, he will reveal what my role is in small amounts so that I do not become discouraged and paralyzed at the thought of what needs to be done.
Sorry about the length of this blog, being concise has never been my strength! More blogs and thoughts to come from Mexico City and the North.
PS: prayers for health would be appreciated as there is some sickness going around the team, and some stomachs aren’t accepting food so well as of late. Thanks!