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Guatemala & Mexico – Spring 2007

Final Reflections

Now that all is said and done, what have we gleaned from our 4-month sojourn through the beautiful and diverse terrain and cultures of Mesoamerica? It is impossible to summarize all the learning, all the struggles and all the triumphs, but perhaps we can begin by naming the challenges and accomplishments of each main phase of our trip.

Guatemala City

Challenges

  1. Learning Spanish
  2. Relating to host families in lower middle class neighborhoods.
  3. Learning about Mayan culture, the Conquest, and modern issues of poverty, violence, neo-liberal economic policies and immigration.

Accomplishments

  1. Much improved Spanish, many Guatemalan friends
  2. Latino hospitality rocks!
  3. Learning how involved the US has been in the internal affairs of Central Americans.

Cholula/Puebla Mexico

Challenges

  1. Community service assignment.
  2. Relating to host families in upper middle-class homes.
  3. Experiencing the beauty of Colonial Puebla, recognized by UNESCO as a “World Heritage” site for its churches, azulejo (tile) and brick constructions and its monasteries.
  4. Spending time on a Latino university campus without getting too homesick.

Accomplishments

  1. Befriending lonely kids; learning flexibility.
  2. Latino hospitality rocks Part II! Celebrations are important passages in life.
  3. Learning how Mexicans value their heritage.
  4. Stereo-types of Mexicans totally blown out of the water! Unexpectedly found a vibrant economy (12 th largest in the world) and a thriving culture that somehow balances indigenous spirituality with modern secularity.

Chitap, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala

Challenges

  1. Preparing a tree nursery for 4,000 new trees in a re-forestation project.
  2. Relating yet again to host families in very rural, marginalized homes.
  3. Learning a third language and culture.
  4. Learning to get by without what most consider necessities.

Accomplishments

  1. Seeing the fruit of our labor.
  2. Latino hospitality rocks Part III! They offered their food and homes out of their poverty, not out of their abundance.
  3. Understanding the value of accompaniment.
  4. Gratitude; not taking for granted the material gifts and heritage we have.

Overall Accomplishments

  1. Broader understanding of other cultures and learning to deal with our own ethnocentricity.
  2. Broader worldview; world-centric understanding of the history of Mesoamerica in contrast to a US-centric one.
  3. Broader understanding of ourselves and our culture by examining it through the lenses of other cultures.
  4. Broader understanding of God’s revelation to humankind in general and to each one of us in particular.

- Don Clymer, faculty leader