This is a guest blog post from Augsburg student, and Mary Witt Scholarship recipient, Nikol G. Nikol was able to go on the short term study abroad program, “Food, Justice & Sustainability in Mexico”, during spring break 2017. Thanks for sharing your reflections with us!
I had the opportunity to experience Mexico in a study abroad for 9 days with the Food, Justice and Sustainability class. I went as an independent study student, but I was lucky enough to be allowed to tag along with this awesome group. This trip was amazing and was a life changing experience for me. I have been to Mexico before on vacation with my family, but this experience was different. This visit I wasn’t there to hangout on the beach or sit by the pool. This time, I got to meet some amazing people. People that changed my thinking, and who changed me as a person. I would like to introduce you to a few of those people.
Ignacio “Nacho” Salome Torres-Ramirez is part of the Nahua people. He studied to be a veterinarian, but he is also a spiritual healer and guide for his people. Nacho is also a member of the Amatlan Community Land Council and he fights for land ownership for his people. He believes that the economy and culture of his villages has been corrupted by neoliberalism and NAFTA. Products from companies such as Coca-Cola and Frito-Lay, sell in shops in their community, contributing to the downfall of their traditions and culture. The government sees the indigenous people as a group that they want to see in their traditional clothing with their traditional objects in a museum behind glass. They see them as bugs. They don’t provide the education, health care, etc. that they deserve. They fight now to keep their community and their traditions alive. They fight for their land and they fight for their small farms. We met his 83-year-old aunt who still farms the land in their village. They work to fortify and improve their land. Their belief that the land is mother earth, also shows in their belief in the importance of the women in their culture. They fight to empower women and they feel that by empowering women they are working on making the earth powerful again. Nacho was amazing. His powerful beliefs and his fight for his traditions and culture were inspiring and heartbreaking all at once. He left us with a very powerful quote, “We believe in nothing and everything, be we do believe in organizing. Governments aren’t afraid of weapons, they’re afraid of people organizing”. I walked away with the inspiration to be more involved and more engaged in causes such as those that will help Nacho and the Nahua people.
We had the opportunity to stay on a ranch known as Via Organica. There we met Antonio. Antonio is an agriculturist and has been with the farm for a little over a year. What the farm is trying to do is provide a model that can be used all over the world. They are trying to find a balance between price and organic products because organic products are more expensive than other products as organic farmers have to prove their products are organic, whereas other farmers can use pesticides, GMO seeds etc. and not have to say anything. The farm was extremely cool. The whole concept of the farm is one that others could and should use. I learned about polyculture (many crops) and monoculture (one crop), and about a milpa (which is the holy culture or a minimum of three crops). In most of the farms that we visited the milpa is corn, beans and squash. Mexico is very flexible because throughout the country there are so many types of climates and many different ecosystems. What I walked away with from this experience was, even in my small townhome, I can farm. They taught us ways to have success and what we should be doing to be healthier in our lives. I, as a single mother who works and goes to school, cannot afford organic products. However, I can try and grow some things of my own. This inspired me and made me want to try it in my own home. Antonio was very dedicated and works very hard on the ranch to make it successful, as well as many others there.
On our last day at Via Organica, we met three women who are lobbyists for Via Organica and they talked about their politics and policies and their efforts to lobby the Mexican congress and better legislation. Not knowing a lot about the politics in regards to environmental issues, these women were awesome! They were funny, smart and were ready to take on big companies such as Monsanto, a giant agricultural company known for strong arming and trying to force the people of Mexico to grow their seeds. They inspired me to learn more and to become involved more in organizations in my own community and with my own government and those that lobby for better environmental rights. They were a group of strong women that I learned from and that motivated me for the better.
Last, we met Hermana Fabiola from the Benedictine Sisters of Guadalupe. She talked about her interpretation of the appearance of the Virgen of Guadalupe. Just learning the story behind such an iconic person in the Catholic faith for the Mexican people was interesting in itself, however, Hermana Fabiola’s sweet demeanor and her message of hope and love was a message that the people of Mexico look to. She encouraged us to show love and compassion to others and to help those that are suffering and hurt. This she said is how the world will be a better place.
I totally enjoyed my trip to Mexico. I loved the group of students I went with, the teachers that showed us around and took care of us and all the people that we were able to meet. The trip taught me a lot about myself and about those that maybe don’t get attention in our news media or other stories. I learned a lot of history and I learned things that I can use in my everyday life. I am grateful for the opportunity that I had to go and for those that gave to make it so I could go.
Augsburg Students can see the full list of upcoming short-term programs at our application portal, the “Global Gateway“