18 March 2009

i hope this finds you well as spring approaches

Yesterday marks the beginning of too-full bellies and struggling to sound halfway intelligible in Spanish as I talk to Elena, my new host abuelita and her huge extended family. The community here is located at the base of La Malintze, one of Mexico's largest mountains. "The community is close-knit and mainly non-indigenous campesinos. At least one member of most families migrates to urban areas or the US for work. The Consejo Nacional Urbano Campesino (CNUC) has a community center in Toluca [where we have class]" (from my syllabus). Tlaxcala reminds me of how I would imagine the plain states to be, or maybe like a much more temperate Arizona, only with more lushness and less cacti. The air smells like burning cedar and dust. For the first time on my trip I have my own room with a bed.

Oventic ended with the International Women's Day celebration. Indigenous and non-indigenous women from all over Mexico and internationals alike came to the caracol for the conference. We watched as women played all sorts of sports while men were in charge of cooking, cleaning, and childcare. I had left the day before the political speeches and other events, but I was pleasantly surprised to run into Gracie Janove who is also traveling in Mexico. I introduced her to my group and it turns out she knew one of the kids from middle school. ¡que weird!

I went to Oaxaca City and Mazunte this past week for spring break. Some highlights included discovering a new type of coconut that's green on the outside, swimming in too-big waves in the Pacific Ocean, eating tacos on the street in Oaxaca City, and discovering a dead spotted fish on the shore in Mazunte with mammalian-looking teeth: hard and defined, looking nothing like you'd expect on a fish. It seemed more like the teeth of a beaver, really. All week I ate tons of fresh fruit and fish, left with only a mild sunburn on my back, but an alarming amount of mosquito bites. I have so many bites that it's somewhat unsettling. I feel ok though, so I don't think I'm at risk for any sort of insect-born illness.

Once we got to Toluca de Guadalupe here in Tlaxcala, we introduced ourselves and were welcomed with a delicious meal of hot rice, shrimp soup (complete with shrimp heads with tiny beaty eyes) and pineapple juice. I was assigned my family and toured around the neighborhood with Lourdes and one of the other cousins who's name escapes me. After our walk I sat down to watch Anaconda with the family and ate a bag of cheetos con chili which was basically prepacked cheetos with hot sauce moistening each one, all slimy-like. Although the texture was so snot-like, I decided I liked these pre-soggied cheetos and ate the whole bag, not realizing Elena would soon offer me more food. I had a huge jelly-filled pastry with tea before retiring to my new room with hopes of writing my homework for the week.

Every day the women in the community prepare a huge, amazing lunch. Yesterday we had this soup made of tiny bits of spaghetti, zuccini, carrot, brocolli, tiny little k'nishes on the side, and whole pieces of chicken cooked in a salty, spicy tomato sauce. Handmade tortillas and limeade were served on the side. Host family situations is making me nervous, but I can rely on the fact that my Spanish is so bad that awkward conversation is inevitable, right?

Today we went to a worker´s center and learned about braceros. Most of us had an unusually difficult time understand the accent of the video, but the men there were super friendly and I look forward to learning more. Afterwards, Hannah and I went to the art museum here in Tlaxcala and saw some super early Frida Kahlo works. It was really cool to stumble upon such beautiful art in person.

01 March 2009

tart and sweet

Joakim holding one of the little chicks at Oventic (except he looks like he might be trying to love it to death instead)

I just came back from one of the markets with our professor Tom who lives with us some of the time and Maria. We were buying tons of vegetables which we will be preparing all day on Thursday to thank the caracol. We are making enough beef stew with tortillas, hibiscus tea and arroz con leche to feed 250 hungry people. I ate a guayaba and while I normally find it's impossible seeds and slimy texture unappetizing, this somewhat not ripe one was delicious. They taste like a hybrid between a pear and a citrus fruit, sort of tart yet still sweet. A kilo of hibiscus cost less than a dollar.

This week we visited San Pedro Polhó, an autonomous municipality and refugee center for those affected by PRI and paramilitary threats. The community is near Acteal, where the massacre in 1997 occurred killing 45 people, including many women and children, who were members of the pacifist group Las Abejas (“The Bees”). The massacre was the climax of tension between the Zapatistas and paramilitaries. We hiked up a small mountain and at the summit we saw Acteal.

This is our last week in Oventic. This weekend is International Women's Day and there is a huge festival here. Women are invited to take part in all sorts of activities and programs while men are invited to clean, watch children, and cook.

I've also thought quite a bit about my senior project and I think I may analyze the reception of Palestinian solidarity movements and Zionist organizations on college campuses from an anthropological perspective. Within the past two days, this became more of a reality especially when we arrived in San Cristobal yesterday. I was walking around, buying some groceries, passing the usual “SOLIDARIDAD” graffiti with stencils of a face covered by a keffiyeh (the traditional scarf worn in many Arab communities), with “solidarity” presumably written in Arabic underneath. Then, I saw “[Star of David] = [Swastika]” spray painted right near the pharmacy. My rationale dictates that I consider the recent occupation in Palestine to be wrong. I am constantly reading articles and having conversations with people about the meaning of land, of history. I can say I am confident in my own beliefs, but when I see that on the side of the building, my identity is completely threatened. I cannot help but feel angry, but it's not as easy to explain with the word “anger”. I am angry because those sort of messages only reflect violence and hatred, which are counterintuitive in the process of creating peace.

I feel connected to the Middle East in a way that the struggles from both perspectives resonate within me in a consuming manner. The Magen David (Star of David) is not simply a symbol for the “politicized” conception of Israel, projecting feelings of colonization, but of the Jewish people on the whole (the synecdochic Israel). But at the same time I still find myself pretty confused with how I can focus all these feelings into a year long thesis. We will see.

Disengaging with Zionism
(Issa Mikel, The Electronic Intifada, 13 September 2005)

Articles about Antisemitism Vs. Critiques of Israel from Jews Against the Occupation here.

autonomous school at san pedro polhó

marlena and I loving a chick