Building in the San Quintin Valley

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Whatsup! My name is Josh. This is my first hero holiday and below is a little about my trip to Mexico.

The first thing that really struck me on the trip was the similarity between us, those who have come to build from Canada, and the local people. I’m building for Paula, Silverio, Estefania, Karina, and Israela but there are always a lot of locals around the site helping us out and watching us work. I expected a rough divide between us, however I’ve come to realize that every similarity, no matter its positive or negative implications, serves as an indication of the importance of the humanitarian efforts to bring human dignity and equality.

On Sunday we assembled the house with the help of local grandmas, men, children, and mothers. We raised the four walls under the careful direction of our fore-woman Kelly. As we began to paint the house we noticed a thick, dark rain cloud advancing towards us. Soon the rain started, showering everyone in these big cold droplets, and we scrambled to put our tools in the back of the bus. It wasn’t until we were pulling away on the bus that we noticed our fresh paint streaming off the house and a group of locals caught out in the cold. We could leave the site in the comfort of our bus, but they were still on the muddy hill where we were building our house, lacking strong roofs or warmth. Still they smiled, showing resilience familiar to those who struggle to meet their basic needs. On the bus trip back, there was mostly silence and the low murmurs of those voicing their discomfort with leaving the site and abandoning those who we had come to help. It was just too easy for us to drive away. What would happen when we left Mexico altogether? How can we live in comfort when others around us have so little? It’s always easy to oversimplify these situations and live detached in an illusion of helplessness.

On Monday, I was fortunate enough to have a long talk with one of our translators. He outlined the workings of the Mexican drug cartels and their relationship with America. The cartels, he explained, smuggle the drugs into the States, fulfilling the demand in the North. Doing runs for the cartels pays unfathomably better than working in the fields picking fruit or vegetables; when it comes to the point where a family is struggling to feed their small children, there is often no other option. Our translator explained that the media has severely distorted the violence that occurs in the country. Legal efforts against the cartels have often led to a power vacuum that brings violence. However in general, the cartels’ presence is minimal. The money that the drug cartels bring in can often be used positively in the community. However as a whole, the Mexican drug trade is part of Mexico’s role as a satellite economy that is dependent upon the consumerist culture of Canada and the States. It’s doubtful that drug cartels in Mexico will dissipate before the Northern demand ceases. In short, we should be critical of our escapist culture, which is fixated on luxuries and mind-altering substances, instead of turning our anger towards Mexico.

It’s hard to put the sentiments associated with this experience into words. It’s frustrating to try to put something so big into words. I hope what I’ve written gives some sense of this trip and what the volunteers are doing.

Josh – LiveDifferent Volunteer, Mexico, Christmas 2012

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: January 3rd, 2013