On Thursday, we went into Amealco to buy some supplies. On my way to the store, I ran into a religious parade in the streets! All roads in the city center essentially closed, and the police lined the main road to protect the crowd.
Religion at MIT pales in comparison to the prevalence of Catholicism and Christianity here; in fact, the main songs throughout the parade were about god, saints, and their protection over Mexico. Clearly, the separation of church in state, regarded so important in the United States, is less distinct.
The most interesting thing about the parade was the diversity of Mexicans that came together—older women in traditional clothing, men in straw hats, younger mothers carrying their children. Despite generational gaps, the emphasis on religion and culture was a constant.
Friday was our first day of greenhouse construction with the students!
The next day, a major presidential candidate for the municipality of Amealco, in which Chiteje de Garabato is located, visited the community. The campaign event included clowns, free food and ice cream, and jingles containing the candidates’ names. The better part of the village came out for the afternoon, typifying democratic politics that actively engage community members. At the same time, I couldn’t help but feel that the celebratory spirit of the event was masking the major community issues—high unemployment, poverty, domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse—just as did Roman “Bread and Circus.” While “Gil” promised to improve these community problems during his term, I wondered how much progress would actually be accomplished, and how much power he actually had to transform the community. At the same time, I am glad that he acknowledges the necessity to tackle these issues and hope that, through joint initiatives between government, NGOs, and community members, that positive changes will occur in Chiteje over the next term.