Food, Justice, and Sustainability in Mexico
Environmental and community sustainability has been central to the mission of the Center for Global Education and Experience (CGEE) since the beginning, and students not only explore issues through coursework and but live out the commitment through daily life on campus and in the community.
This spring break, eleven Augsburg students experienced that reality in during the inaugural “Food, Justice, and Sustainability in Mexico” course, earning credit for SWK 210 or POL 160.
At the CGEE Cuernavaca campus, students talked with staff and community leaders about the complexities of local and global food systems, illustrated most poignantly for students during a trip to Amatlan, a Nahua indigenous village. Walking through a milpa (corn, bean, squash field) and hearing stories of how culture, religion, socio-political factors, and economics influence agriculture gave students a lot to reflect on before they joined other CGEE semester students from Augsburg and Oberlin College and headed to Vía Orgánica, an agroecological farm in San Miguel de Allende. At the farm, head farmer Antonio highlighted growing techniques that are based on ecological principles, utilizing both local knowledge and research to grow organic food, educate others, and provide jobs that pay a living wage. Despite some illnesses and unexpected events, the students were incredibly reflective and engaged, using the experience to connect what they were learning to what they had learned on campus before leaving, what they know from other classes and their own experiences, and what they are hearing from dominant narratives about food, sustainability, NAFTA, and even immigration. Each student was more motivated to practice sustainability in their own lives upon returning, though none of them will be able to keep using the dry composting toilets like at the CGEE Cuernavaca campus (when can we get these in Minneapolis?!). They are also eager to continue exploring how to work for change in complex systems of inequity. As one student reflected, “The impact about hearing different ways of farming in Mexico and different struggles that farmers face in Mexico has shaped into more motivation for me to do work in terms of food justice and food sovereignty.”