Mexico


Lynda Nyquist

Good Linda Nyquist feels discouraged: "My personal discouragement is related to my own diminishing resources and inability to help those I see who need so much more than I could hope to provide. In December, for example, when in Oaxaca, I was in the Civil Hospital and saw the most tragic case. A young woman (24) was in the intensive care unit in critical condition secondary to carbon monoxide poisoning. She was going to live, but the extent of her injuries (and possible brain damage) was not clear. She had been married with 2 little children. In her Zapotec village it very cold, so she and her husband had closed the little house as tightly as they could and left the open fire on all night. The husband and 2 children died, and she was found near death in the morning. The family were desperately poor, as you can imagine. There are no resources for her or her ongoing care, either medical or psychological. She was receiving care at the Civil Hospital for her acute injuries, but then what was to become of her?

Her family was dead, her home had burned to the ground, and she was critically ill. I returned to the hotel and thought and thought about this poor 24-year-old girl and decided that if I could afford a trip to Oaxaca, certainly I had some kine of moral obligation to help her. Thanks to a home equity line of credit, I arranged for her to have psychological counselling, clothing, durable medical equipment if she needs it (a walker/wheelchair), a small bank account (administered by a trustworthy doctor in Oaxaca) and money for the construction of a simple 1-room house in her village when she recuperates.

Could I afford this? Absolutely not. Could I not do this? Absolutely not. Perhaps the solution is not to travel"

RH: For one Linda Nyquist there are hundreds of animals called students having fun in Cancun. Instead of running stories about these animals, why doesn't TV tell the story of Linda Nyquist? Can anyone help?

Dwight Peterson says: "I have been "sparring" with Linda Nyquist for years on WAIS because we are almost never politically compatible, but she is a compassionate person with deeply felt needs and desires to pursue her quest for what she perceives as social justice. I applaud her efforts!! God Bless you, Linda. I admire your perseverance in the face of incredible odds. Reasons for helping the oppressed mean nothing; your actions and their results are what count. I am in awe of your dedication".

Cameron Sawyer says: "I think it is actually somewhat monstrous to compare Rob Gaudet's charitable tourists, with their mix of compassion and fun, to Linda Nyquist's borrowing money against her own house in order to save a particular, desperate person. How many people care enough about other people, not their relatives or close friends, to make such sacrifices? I daresay not many. This is something altogether different from charitable tourism".

Christine Bennett, a close friend of Linda Nyquist, writes: "I can't pass up this opportunity to tell you about the program that I run each summer! Students nowadays are very interested in service learning, i.e. learning through service. Some years ago, I visited several cities in Mexico looking at Study Abroad Language Programs that could be linked to service learning opportunities. On my return, I offered students the opportunity for both, and found that far more of them were interested in service learning than in language study!!

So, with the requirement that they have at least one year of university level study of Spanish under their belts, they join me each summer to put on a two-week summer camp for the children of a very poor parish on the outskirts of Guadalajara, where there are no activities for children during the long summer months. What we offer is minimal in light of the need, but it does make a small difference to about 160 children between the ages of 6 and 12, many of whom return each year. I will be taking the fourth group down this summer. While I feel that our students get as much, if not more, out of the experience than the children we serve, it is a win win situation. All our students live in the barrio with ;local families who speak no English, thus they are completely immersed in the culture. Those with only one year of Spanish certainly struggle, but they all return with glowing evaluations of the experience, feeling that they have been challenged in many ways to stretch beyond the existence they take so much for granted here in the US. We take the local bus to down town Guadalajara about twice a week so that they see other aspects of city life, and we also spend a weekend in one of the lovely colonial cities, such as Patzcuaro or Morelia, so the while experience is one of combined service and learning, working and relaxing. Although the time is so short, it does a great deal to open up our students' minds to the ways of another culture and language and whets their appetite for more. Much as I would love them to spend a year immersed in the language and studying at a university somewhere in Latin America, this is what our students have gravitated towards, and it is a step in the right direction. Since I have your attention, I will even attach a brochure!"

RH: I am moved to tell my experience among the poor in the area around Guadalajara. I attended a cocktail party in Guadalajara, and told some well-to-do Mexicans about the poor in nearby villages. They angrily denied there were any poor, so I took them in my car and we drove around these poor villages. At the end, I waited for their comment. "They will have their reward in heaven", Passing the buck to God, Good God!

Speaking of Linda Nyquist's charitable work in Mexico, Rob Gaudet says: "I wonder if this is a new trend in American travel. It seems that there are a number of Americans with kind hearts, like Linda. I have a friend who's a
lawyer in Washington. He plans an annual trip to Cambodia. It involves plenty of fun, travel, and beach leisure. He takes his friends. But it also involves a lot of charity work on behalf of poor children in Cambodia. He takes food, clothes, and other items for them. Linda's charitable work in Oaxaca is reminiscent of this. It seems that only a
few organizations have hit upon this unique mix of compassion and fun in an institutionalized way. One example is Habitat for Humanity. It plans two-week (or longer) trips to foreign destinations where work crews build homes and donate money to the cause. It's fun, interactive, charitable. Tourist agencies should organize more trips like these. They should be spun into educational programs, and a cross-section of Americans (doctors, lawyers, civil service workers, laborers, etc) should be invited to learn and,hopefully, to contribute their own skills, ideas, and/or resources to the local destination".

RH: Why can't universities organize something like this for spring break or summer vacation? The Peace Corps has similar aims, and it attracts many students. Perhaps Linda should get in touch with President Carter.

Randy Black says: "Many universities do organize charitable trips in lieu of Cancun drunk fests. I am certain that if you look around, you will see these efforts. My lawyer's daughter and 50 of her classmates from the University of Texas have gone to Guatemala for the past two years instead of laying on the beach. The media around here recently featured a group doing home repairs in Central Mexico and other projects over Easter, during Christmas break and throughout the summer. There are a plethora of such activities going on. Stanford, MIT, Cornell and dozens of other universities have student groups that volunteer all over the world, not only at Easter, but throughout the year. Look up "engineers without frontiers" on the web for starters. The list of students involved in such activities is endless".

Los Olvidados

RH: I attended a cocktail party in Guadalajara, and told some well-to-do Mexicans about the poor in nearby villages. They angrily denied there were any poor, so I took them in my car and we drove around these poor villages. At the end, I waited for their comment. "They will have their reward in heaven". Christopher Jones comments: "This sounds like the scene at the premier on November 20, 1950 of Luis Buñuel's film about the poor of Mexico City, the unforgettable Los Olvidados (The Forgotten Ones). As the audience filed out in silence after the film ended, the wife of the painter Leon Felipe came up to Buñuel and shouted: "Worthless, trash, those children aren't Mexicans! Hooligan!" Made in the neo-realist, semi documentary style that was pioneered by Italian directors like Roberto Rosselini, the film was about Mexico City's pre-teen street kids. John Baxter noted in his great biography of Buñuel the amazing contrast between the medieval world of the poor in Mexico City against the skyline of skyscrapers. Los Olvidados, like Linda Nyquist's experiences in Oaxaca and your experiences in Guadalajara, reinforce Buñuel's picture of a land devoid of any optimism. Buñuel examined reality without recurring to corny myths: it won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival in May 1951, and for me is one of the greatest films ever made. All WAISers should see it".

Commenting on the movie "Los Olvidados", Randy Black says:"As a former full time travel writer, I spent a lot of time in Mexico. During my travels, I had the good fortune to meet several American ex-pats who live "south of the border" permanently, for economic reasons. One fellow saw me giving money to a street beggar, a child perhaps nine or ten years old. He gently suggested that, instead of money, that I hand out candy. "The boy is sent to the streets to beg by his father who will likely spend the money on booze. Give the child candy, and at least he has something he can enjoy." On the Isle of Cozumel, I noticed that many of the shops along the water front have signs in the windows saying in effect, "Do not give money to street children. Promote education." I asked a local about those signs and he said the village leaders figured that the tourist handouts were encouraging kids to drop out of school because the money was so good from begging. If they can get the tourists to stop handing out money..... well you get the picture".

Linda Nyquist says: "The children begging in Mexico really present a dilemma. They are put out by their families to beg, and yet they are hungry and what is the solution? Personally, I hand out pens, pencils and little bars of soap - lots of bars of soap.

Which brings me to my latest outrage. President Fox announced yesterday that in 2006 Mexico will host a conference on water. The "suits" will get together to discuss potable water. Good grief. Is this never going to end? They will spend thousands and thousands of dollars to discuss a problem that our WAISers son in the Amigos program could solve in a summer with the help of the government/millitary: dig wells, pipe the water, stop the introduction of dirty vessels into the water supply and build and use latrines. Must they discuss this for about the millionth time in another two years, while thousands more infants and children die of infectious disease?

Two days ago I was really discouraged. Then I was really happy when the WAISers posted all the nice things about various activities in which people were engaged to help. THEN I see this posting about the water conference. As my mother would have said, "Oh Lordy!".

RH: Linda has a point. People love to get together at someone else's expense, and yak,yak, yak.

Linda

Mexico's Poor

Linda Nyquist says: " I wrote the message with the Oaxaca story in it in such a hurry that I forgot the most important fact: why I was discouraged. It is because of all the money in Mexico and all the wealth. And in other parts of the world, so many national and international programs. It is hard to believe that everywhere I turn there are all these people with tremendous needs and no access to services. Where is the money going? Who has it? Who is administering it? In some cases, I can name names, but out of respect for personal relationships, it would not be appropriate to do so".

RH: I had already thought of that. There are some extremely wealthy people in Mexico (like Linda, I will not name names), so why do they leave it to ordinary Americans to do what they should do?

Hank Levin writes: "For a decade, Pilar and I had a home in a gated enclave near Cabo San Lucas. We spent considerable time going to the rural villages in Baja California Sur to ascertain their needs and see how we could connect them with U.S. sources. Also, our son Josh was a volunteer for Amigos de Las Americas, a wonderful organization for high school and college youth, who go to villages in Latin America for a summer or longer, with specific development training to prepare them for particular tasks. Josh went to a village about four hours inland (in the mountains) from Oaxaca City. It was a very small and remote village where most of the older people spoke only Zapotec, a language that Josh learned at the street level. He helped to design and construct sanitary latrines that would not contaminate the wells and water supply. Most of these skills were learned in preparation for the trip. Amigos also provided the materials.

At the same time, we met many wealthy Mexicans in the Cabo area who did not seem to work at all because of their special ties to the government. Our neighbor across the street took his Suburban each morning to the local country club for golf and tennis and an alcoholic lunch with other relatively young men of leisure. He had got the franchise for cable TV in the area from the government, and the government had also lent him money to construct the system. Apparently, others were in charge of doing this. I talked with him about poverty, but he referred to those people as lazy and shiftless, seeming to ignore the fact that his riches came by connections, not hard work".

John Wonder says: "The problem bothering Linda is so ingrained in Mexican society there is no way out of it, in the near future anyhow. The Mexican family, and particularly the pater familias, is so exclusively concerned with his own welfare and that of his immediate family that he thinks the state (whatever that is) should take care of th concerns of the wider society. The society outside of his family is not his concern. In a parallel fashion, the politicians are concerned only by the welfare of their political cronies. Where does that leave the mass of the people? To make matters worse, there is no tradition of entrepreneurship in Mexico, although the example of the U.S. is staring them in the face". RH: Well, there are some important Mexican entrepreneurs, but the spirit is not widespread. Mexicans who pay a coyote as much as $5,000 to get them illegally into the US could spend the money starting a business in Mexico.
A previous posting lamented the behavior of US students on spring break at Cancún, Mexico. Randy Black says: "Traditionally, Americans tend to vacation "north and south," as opposed to east and west. Thus, students and vacationers from the mid-west go to South Padre Island, Texas and to Cancun or Cozumel, Mexico. Those are the closest warm water, nice beaches destinations from the mid-west gateways". RH: Today Mexican TV ran a long report on students on spring break at South Padre Island, Texas, next to Mexico. Again, it was a sickening picture of people "having fun". It involved a murder, rapes, drunkenness and drownings. Almost identical scenes at both ends of Mexico, Cancún and South Padre Island. The Mexican saying goes: "Poor Mexico! So far from God and so close to the United States". Think of the impression these TV stories make on Mexicans.

I said: "For one Linda Nyquist there are hundreds of animals called students having fun in Cancun. Instead of running stories about these animals, why doesn't TV tell the story of Linda Nyquist? Can anyone help?

Christopher Jones says: "No. Because TV is run by a bacteria called producers, editors etc. who are completely deranged. In fact, I object to the use of the term "animals." The great and noble creatures of our planet like lions, rhinos and giraffes shouldn't be compared to the low life that inhabits TV studios or parties in Cancun (you could add Mallorca as a European equivalent) I feel much more sympathy with a rhinoceros or a Bengal Tiger than a perverted, uneducated moron on television. They are more comparable to an ectoplasm".

RH: Whatever the shortcomings of TV, one cannot blame it for the behavior of these "students". There is a novel about Dartmouth called The Animal Farm. There are WAISer graduates of Dartmouth. What do they think of it? My impression is that the whole student body should not be condemned because of a herd of animals.

Tim Brown expresses his opinion of TV. "Which stories TV runs is dictated not by their producers' or editors' personal preferences but by what producers and editors understand the general public wants. And if judged not just by what runs in the US but by what runs on TV in almost every country, most certainly in places like Western Europe, modern Spain, and Brazil, to name a few plaves, people want to be titillated or even pandered to with over-sexed soap operas, hyped up "news" stories and National Geographic documentaries that feature bare breasted women, self-mutilation and bizarre behavior. Don't believe me? Watch the National Geographic channel or Brazilian soap operas or Mexican novelas. I remember a table conversation with Rotarian friends in Las Cruces. When one said he watches Spanish language TV all the time I blurted out; "But you don't speak Spanish!" At which everyone at the table laughed and said, "So?' Who cares? The girls are gorgeous." Is this right? That's a value judgment. But is it "real? Absolutely. That's just a fact of life". RH: I dislike this rush to the bottom which is a characteristic of modern society. I am seriously afraid that western society will fall off the edge when it reaches the bottom.

The Hacienda

Linda Nywuist is enthusiastic about Dick Hancock's plan to transform a Chihuahua hacienda into a tourist attraction:
"I'd like to suggest Banamex as a source of funding possibilities. It published that excellent book, The Haciendas of Mexico, full of very good information, that I mentioned earlier. The BBC has produced two excellent documentaries, "the 1900s House" and "The Manor House," followed by the PBS production "Frontier Valley." These were really very fine works done in conjunction with museums. It took lots of money to restore the properties (at least the 1900s house and the valley in Montana that was used for the frontier production) and all of the artifacts that went into authenticating the production. Probably a lot of this expense was borne by the movie production company. What about a Hacienda production, which would then leave the "set" all ready to go? So many of the southern Haciendas have been converted into luxury hotels (dude ranches of sorts). I love the idea of this hacienda being a kind of open-air folk museum/working museum where people could just step into history. Any project in Mexico would ultimately be more successful with the cooperation of Mexican local authorities, particularly those in the museum/university sector. There is a lot of money in Monterey, which is nearby. But what about the university in Chihuahua? This could be just a wonderful opportunity for graduate students. I can see so much fodder for dissertation material. And a working school? The history, anthropological and sociological departments would be naturals. I noticed that in the hacienda book published by Banamex, the Terrazas family had cooperated. They are presumably relatives of the Terrazas family to whom this hacienda outside Chihuahua belonged".

Trudy Balch likes Dick Hancocl's plan to restore a Chihuahua haciemda as a tourist attraction and asks "Might Mexico's Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia take an interest in participating at some point?" RH.That seems like an excellent idea. There must be a branch in Chihuahua. An obvious backer would be the government of Chihuahua.

Linda Nyquist comments on Dick Hancock's plan to restore an hacienda in Chihuahua, Mexico, as a tourist attraction: "This is an excellent idea and is long overdue. There is a hacienda open to the public near Puebla - the ex-hacienda of Cuautla. You can find a small photo on the internet. It is quite interesting. Not much information has been made available in English and it is not much promoted for tourism. There is a large artificial lake and gingerbread type house in addition to the main residence as the owner, Gillow, wanted to recreate Versailles. It is in a pine-forest setting and really quite beautiful. Fanny Calderon de la Barca in her Life in Mexico talks a little about life on the haciendas and it is fascinating. I understand that the large Jesuit hacienda in Mexico City even kept slaves during the colonial period.

This could be a most exciting project. Banamex published a beautiful coffee table book a few years ago called The Haciendas of Mexico with lots of photos. Have you seen it?"

Dick Hancock writes: "In regard to charitable travel, Nancy and I took our El Salvador Peace Corps Group (1962-63) to Chihuahua this past October. These ex-volunteers all are fluent in Spanish and are retired from distinguished careers pertinent to Latin American development. We spent five days touring Chihuahua and saw many interesting things. What impressed the ex-volunteers most was a visit to one of Luis Terraza's haciendas, El Torreón that is located about 30 miles north of Chihuahua City.

This grand old hacienda has been purchased and semi-restored by Chihuahua City, ie., it was re-roofed, and its deterioration has been deterred, but the current mayor of Chihuahua City has not developed a plan to utilize this hacienda. As with nearly all haciendas in Mexico, a small village exists on the site, made up of descendents of the original employees of the hacienda. This village has no source of employment other than ranch work and a few straggling small farms. The El Salvador ex-volunteers decided that they would like to adopt the Hacienda and the village.

I asked them to submit plans for the use of the Hacienda and they came up with the following:
1. Create a Museum of the Mexican Hacienda, and restore it to its original state, including the school once operated by the Hacienda. The restoration would include historical dwellings that originally housed the Hacienda employees, now housing their descendents.
2. A dude ranch
3. A conference center to be used also for educational tourism.
I have sent a copy of this plan to my guide and friend who is helping us on the books that we are publishing for Chihuahua, and I hope to discuss this with him and the mayor of Chihuahua City during our next visit.

The three suggestions could well all be combined into one, thus providing employment for the village. Ideally, the employees would be dressed in period costumes as is the case with some employees and volunteers at our National Parks. This seems like a project that would require outside funding, probably from a foundation.

It is time to give the hacienda its due place in Mexican history. It has not been popular to do this until very recently. There are st least three haciendas that have been completely restored by private owners in Chihuahua with period furniture, etc. They are beautiful but not open to the public.

Just as the family farm was the building block for the development of rural America so the Hacienda was for rural Mexico during 400 years of its history. The Revolution of 1910 changed all of that, but I think that people in northern Mexico would now be disposed to accept and support a Museum of the Mexican Hacienda. I would appreciate any suggestions of where we might obtain support for this project"º,


 

Ronald Hilton -


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