Notes from Mexico Trip- Johnny Monsarrat Mexico Trip

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 11TH, 1999 -- CHICHEN-ITZA (CONT.)

On the road, we keep passing trucks with kids sitting in the back, and floral decorations, usually with a huge picture or sheet with the Virgin of Guadalupe. These teenagers are "pilgrims" who are going to the festival in Merida on the night of Dec 11 and the day of Dec 12th, The Fesitval of the Virgin of Guadalupe.

We stop at a village on the way back & visit one household. There's a grade school nearby the government built. That where they'd go if there were a big storm. School is 8am-2pm, and includes adult literacy. The villagers live in poverty, but are often happy because they don't know there's anything better. The lady who is head of the household goes to Merida to earn $30 a week to clean house and cook for a middle class family.

People in the village are friendly to one another. They have a "plastinak"(?), a big plastic container to store clean water, which trucks deliver. The government has supplied these, and the lights we see, too. They paint the walls white because they're in the jungle -- you can see tarantulas and snakes on the walls more easily.

These villagers collect seeds from the squash they grow, and go sell them in the city. They give the squash to their pigs. It's a really filthy shack. It's not a hygienic, sanitary environment to raise kids in. Trash all around.

I ask our guide, "Why don't they clean up? Are they lazy?" Well, he says, 100 years ago these people were basically slaves. So relatively speaking, they're doing better. Jorge says they do care about trash, but they're too busy surviving to find time to pick it up. This is just the way they were raised. There are always government education campaigns, "wash your hands", and the government gives out free vaccinations and education. There's a very high rate of death for babies aged up to 5 years old.

They have electricity, but no telephones here. They have elementary schools in a village like this with 10,000 people. Only a few high schools outside Merida (not none). But University only in Merida. High school and University are free, but it costs money to live in the city: room & food. The first generation to leave the village and make a career has it very hard -- but it is possible for them to go to college straight from the village. Sometimes, parents don't want their kids to go to high school: "Stay at home, we need the money, and help with pottery, embroidering, or farming."

They have evening school for college and high school in Merida. Many people go and work during the day and take class at night 7-11pm. Someone who has done this could, by the age of 30, afford to bring his or her parents from the village into town and get them decent living conditions in an apartment.

Our guide, Jorge, once met a doctor who told a story about growing up in a village. Apparently there was a famine and they were so desperate for good they used to chop up the husk of a corn cob to make soup.

Jorge has never met his own father, who used to be a shoeshiner and was able to study. Jorge and his mother went to live with his Uncle. Jorge's mother was an alcoholic (apparently a common problem for the Indians). Even in the middle of their poverty, Jorge says he was a happy kid. He used to play a lot & have friends. He used to have a series of stepfathers who would slap him. But Jorge managed to study Accounting. He started working from that moment on, and started giving money to the uncle he lived with in a straw village hut much like the one we'd seen.

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