This is a guest blog post from Augsburg College student, and recipient of the Mary Witt Scholarship, Samantha C. During spring break 2017, Samantha was able to join the short-term program “Food, Justice & Sustainability in Mexico”. Thank you for the reflection!
See. Reflect. Act. We visited the women of Luz Y Libertad halfway through our trip and spent only a few hours with them and reflecting on those conversations, yet these three words sum up my all of my experiences in Mexico. Each organization and community member we spoke with all lived and worked by these words whether or not they did so intentionally: they saw problems in their community, brainstormed creative ways to address those problems and made their solutions a reality. When I think back specifically to our visit with Luz Y Libertad, they spoke of seeing the need of providing the women of their community with agency. Selling handmade crafts and cooking are the most common and accessible means of income that women can provide for their families, and the women at Luz Y Libertad decided to help empower their fellow community members to do so. They shared with us different struggles that they’ve faced as women in their community, and something that was deeply related to each individual struggle was the struggle of poverty. They spoke both of global issues influencing their financial stability like NAFTA, as well as personal experiences like domestic abuse, and while both are valid, I’d like to spend more time focusing on those personal experiences, as I feel that relates more directly to my vocation and requires reflection beneath the surface.
The most impactful personal connection I found between the people we spoke with in Mexico was between their cause and their faith/religion. For some, like Nacho, this connection was more obvious: his was deeply rooted in his cause to help educate people on the principles and practices of his indigenous faith while also protecting his community. He has hosted many groups like us to share his experiences both in reclaiming his indigenous faith and sharing those sacred ceremonies, and he has represented the Nahua people in major policy decisions that would have been detrimental to their community. For others, this connection was not as tangible: the women at Luz Y Libertad, for example, utilized a space that the Catholic Church could provide with the understanding that they would also help carry out the church’s duties. As religious women, this was not an unfair request, as the bible studies they lead for women in their community also help to empower women spiritually as they recognize that they have more purpose than to just bring in more money. For the Professor who took us to the pyramids, his connection between indigenous faith and history is so intertwined it is hard to see where one ends and the other begins. He helped break down not only the sacred images we were seeing, but helped to provide context to those pieces and explained what really pushed these people out of their homes was climate change, a very real problem we are dealing with today. Understanding this is imperative because we are doomed to repeat history if we don’t learn from our mistakes, and we actually have the technology to help us when they didn’t to help them. At Via Organica, this cause-faith connection was perhaps the least obvious and the hardest for me to pinpoint. I think, though, that this connection comes to light when assessed through the “mission statement” of Luz Y Libertad: they saw a problem of processed food hurting the health of their community, researched newer, inexpensive ways to farm organically, and have now been successful for a few years. They also engage with the community by providing workshops and site visits like the one that we went on to educate others on how they can bring this knowledge back with them and spread the organic movement.
This isn’t to say that a stronger connection is a better connection because each serve such different, much needed purposes. In fact, the connections that were harder for me to find really forced me to think more critically about my own experiences in my faith journey in relation to what I have learned in Mexico. Despite attending a Lutheran college for the past four years and being required to take two religion courses, I’ve never personally connected to any religion or faith until my time in Mexico. While this is naturally an ongoing journey of self-exploration, this time has encouraged me to ask big questions of myself. I’ve used the word “vocation” to describe my passions and goals throughout these years, but I’m only really starting to discover what that means for me and what a calling is for me. I know I’m called to serve, but what exactly that looks like I am not yet sure.
Augsburg Students can see the full list of upcoming short-term programs at our application portal, the “Global Gateway“