Henry Cisneros leads second trip to Chiapas with leaders from San Antonio, Texas to Strengthen ties between communities in both countries
P2P is a project of the Mexican American Leadership Initiative (MALI) of the USMF that links community and business leaders in the United States with specific communities in Mexico to promote collaboration and understanding between the two groups. The purpose of the initiative is to consolidate a long-term commitment with Mexico through a robust and coherent platform to improve conditions and quality of life in the target communities in Mexico. The program is based on the belief that we have a shared destiny as a region; that the ties we share (geographical, historical, societal, etc.) should lead us towards strong solidarity and concrete support.
Chiapas, México – From the 2nd to the 6th of March of this year, a group of leaders from San Antonio continued their active participation in several projects in Chiapas, following numerous meetings between them since their initial trip in November 2012. On this visit, the ties between the American and Chiapaneco communities were strengthened further and three projects saw concrete advances.
The ongoing collaboration and commitment to communities in Mexico by the San Antonio group is a hitherto unseen effort. Groups from the United States and other countries often travel to Mexico to support different community projects. What distinguishes this group from the rest is that all its members have Mexican heritage. Before this program, called “People to People”(P2P), there was no clear avenue for Mexican and Mexican-American leaders in the USA to systematically engage with communities in Mexico on the development of long-term projects addressing needs identified by the communities themselves.
“For me, P2P means linking the two communities beyond just one project, or a single donation, it means being able to communicate effectively to improve the lives of the people we’ve met,” says Mario Vazquez, President of the KLRN radio broadcaster in San Antonio, and the organizer of the group. Nadia Frazier, another participant in the San Antonio group’s visit, noted that “to me, People to People lays a framework for a relationship between the two groups centered on finding solutions, so that in the future the people we’re working with continue to make positive changes in their communities. The trip was very positive for me, it allowed me to learn about indigenous communities and it made me reflect a lot, especially when I saw the children’s situation.”
Unlike the last visit, this time, the 15 participants from San Antonio split up into three groups to focus their efforts on one of three initiatives—a market access project for Chiapaneca artisans; the construction of a community health clinic in Pocolum and broader health issues faced by the community; and the establishment of a community park in Majosik, Chiapas.
Aid to Artisans, Apoyo a artesanas
Members of the San Antonio group interested in working with female artisans in Chiapas met with “Aid to Artisans” (ATA), a program of the “Creative Learning” organization, to learn more about the textile production process and analyze possibility of setting up a product line in the United States. The group visited the homes of female artisans in San Andrés Larráinzar and Zinancantán, Chiapas, where they learned about techniques used in their craft, about their work, and their way of life. In addition to spending the day with these women, the group also attended an ATA workshop that taught local artisans about developing production and design methods to increase their access to different markets. This experience allowed the members of the San Antonio delegation to appreciate the value and meaning of their craft to these women artisans; as well as the benefits for them and their families of successfully marketing their wares.
Because of this experience, the members of the San Antonio group are interested in helping improve access to international markets for these women. Their next steps after the visit will focus on working with the artisans to identify one or two products that can be launched in San Antonio during an event this fall which will showcase the artisans’ craft.
Health Clinic Project, Pocolúm
In November 2012, the first San Antonio group was received with a moving welcoming ceremony and visited the construction site where they received a general overview of the public health situation in
the community. This last visit was much more work-oriented; with the group returning to the construction site with the architect responsible for the project and having in-depth meetings with community elders, the construction trustees and the community’s health promoters. The San Antonio delegation brought along donated medical equipment, such as a filing system for medical records. The M.D.s on the team had the opportunity to learn about health issues affecting the area in greater detail. In addition to their visits to Pocolum, the delegation met with state-wide public health officials and providers to understand the work being done in the region. An ongoing study on the Pocolum clinic’s viability will lay the framework for the San Antonio group’s next steps.
Majosik Project: “Sna Sik” Community Park
On the third and final work day, the San Antonio delegation visited the Majosik community in the Tenejapa municipality. The purpose of the visit was to evaluate the work begun a few months back on the design and installation of a community park, to be named Sna Sik (house of the wind, in the local tzeltal). This ongoing collaboration between students, families, community elders and the San Antonio delegation is shaping a plan to develop a new community space suited to the local environment and the culture of the families who will enjoy it.
Above and beyond the shared goal of completing the park, the People to People program is helping form supportive ties between the two communities. On this occasion, this deepening support was expressed through a donation of schoolbags for Majosik’s children by one of the group’s participants, as well as a donation of children’s books from the rest of Mexico presented by the San Antonio group.
The San Antonio delegation ended each of their daily visits with informational and planning meetings. In these meetings, concrete next steps were determined for each of the projects supported by the group. The USMF thanks the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, for making this program possible; the San Antonio leaders, for their time, talent, resources and commitment; and everyone in Chiapas whose support has been so valuable in making this project a reality.
MORE ON P2P
This second visit to Chiapas was a part of the US-Mexico Foundation’s (USMF) People to People program made possible by the support of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. The San Antonio, Texas group that launched the People to People program has deepened ties and strengthened alliances with the participation of new members. The group’s leadership has inspired other groups of Mexican-Americans in different cities across the United States to work with communities and civil society organizations in Mexican micro regions. The next group of P2P will be launched this year, sending a delegation from Los Angeles, California to Yucatan in Mexico.
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