Week 2 in Chiapas

Thanks to everyone who read my first posts! It’s my first time writing a blog so this is definitely a learning experience. On Monday, we had a meeting with Moi, one of the FCA staff, to reflect on last week’s visit to the municipality of Sitala. He explained the steps FCA takes in the process of working with rural underserved communities. First, the NGO approaches the leaders of the municipality and introduces its goal of increasing access to safe drinking water to reduce GI illnesses and improve the community’s health. Generally, the NGO identifies communities in Chiapas that have low rankings of  desarrollo humano (human development) and high levels of poverty. Once the municipality leaders give FCA permission to approach specific communities, the NGO visits those communities and makes an effort to raise their awareness about water quality and the negative health effects of drinking contaminated water. If the community agrees to work with FCA, the NGO provides educational workshops, trainings, and follow-up visits in an effort to maintain sustainable programs.

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                Hanging out at a cafe with GPP students!                                     Admiring the view with Moises 🙂

Moi also shared his thoughts about the interactions between indigenous communities and civil organizations/ NGOs in Chiapas. He explained that several challenges arise when the community members have beliefs, cultures, and customs that are different from those of the NGOs that approach them. Because some people are accustomed to drinking water directly from the source, such as a spring, their entire lives without considering the health effects of contaminated water, it can be difficult for orgs to change beliefs and behaviors related to water consumption. I also learned that some individuals may distrust NGOs, the government, and other outsiders and decide to maintain their current practices as a way of resisting el mundo occidental (the occidental world) that has been associated with the colonization and oppression of indigenous people. Our discussion helped me understand a different way of looking at the world and the use of culture as a form of resistance. I also learned about the role of biculturalism in our lives as Moi talked about how he and I adapt to different environments because “somos de dos mundos” (we are from two worlds); he grew up in an indigenous Mayan community speaking Tzeltal and now works in San Cristobal speaking Spanish, and I have lived in the US my entire life speaking English but would also like to work Latin America speaking Spanish.

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Sunsets in San Cristobal

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