This experience has been more than I could ever express in words. From the people I have met and created strong bonds with, to Oaxaca itself and all its beauties, there is no doubt I am returning to this magical place. The more I write about this place, the more I fall in love with it! Back home, the reverse culture shock is real, but to me it is great proof of the amazing things I have discovered that I would have never found if I had not gone on this great journey. This trip is proof that doing what seemed impossible at first just encourages you to begin other unexpected, great journeys that make you a better person every day and help you grow.
This last week has been full of nothing but great things. I am feeling all types of emotions, for I miss my family and friends but I will truly miss the people I have met in Oaxaca. Many have become family, and I know for me it is just a temporary goodbye.
At the horse therapy site, we had an awesome time helping out the last couple of days and made sure to exchange information to keep in touch from New Jersey. I really look forward to continuing the work we have done there, especially by expanding it and helping them move forward.
For the last day, they had farewell party at SURCO with great music, great food, and great company. We danced plenty and shared our last moments together as a whole. The whole month has been a unique experience that I will never forget, and it shows how valuable and important studying abroad is! The connections I have been able to make are very valuable and the new relationships I will cherish forever.
I don’t want to leave! Oaxaca and all the places we have been to keep surprising me with all the wonders, beauties, and surprises it holds. Capulalpan especially still has me in awe from the Temazcal, the hike and the view, to the people, the coffee, and the food. I realized what a magical place it is and has been even before it got its name as a “Pueblo Magico.” We hiked to the top of the mountain where the village extends full of houses, churches, parks, health centers, and more. The hike was pretty nice especially with a couple of new four-legged friends. They stayed with us until the end and made the trip even better. Sadly, there are many stray dogs in Oaxaca, more than I have seen in Puerto Rico or New Jersey, especially since it is also common to see a lot in Puerto Rico. It was shocking, and since I will definitely return to Oaxaca either for study or work, I want to dedicate time and efforts into improving this aspect.
Another surprise from Capulalpan was the water! In any other place, they would have told us to drink only bottled water, but Capulalpan has one of the best water systems in Oaxaca, and we could drink water from the tap. I wish this was the same in other places both in Mexico and in other parts of the world. Again, it shows the many benefits of the political system of Usos y Costumbres and the mindset the community holds. They have what many other places are missing, which is the decision-making process that takes into account the future and the future generations to come. Each person there wants the best for them as well as for their children and their children’s children, and so on. We have learned how powerful and educational storytelling can be, and I will definitely share their stories and the history of Capulalpan with those back home.
Capulalpan, known as a “Pueblo Magico” (Magical Village), is my favorite place so far. They have a political system called “usos y costumbres” where the community is essentially able to sustain itself. There are voluntary jobs (which are more obligatory than voluntary) which are required to move up and for example, become the representative of the village. Even though a person holds this position, he or she cannot make a decision by themselves without the consent of the community as a whole.
There was a political activist that came in tonight, and he told us about a few of the events and conflicts he faced and was involved with while living in Capulalpan. His words were truly inspiring and I aspire to do the work that he accomplished and will accomplish as a member of his community. I look forward to sharing all that I learned from him and Capulalpan as a whole. I say this because I see this place as a role model for communities within the U.S. that could adopt this political mechanism and way of living successfully.
This coming week was a bit stressful after the incidents in the Istmo (the largest region within Oaxaca) and in the Zocalo (the heart of the city of Oaxaca), where the teacher protests escalated and led to multiple deaths of teachers as well as others that were not teachers but were in the community. There is and has always been controversy and arguments from different perspectives, yet listening to many of them has given me a larger perspective on the incident. I listened to opinions from families in Arrazola when we visited Monte Alban, from our Spanish teacher, from the teachers and directors in SURCO, from our professor, from our homestay moms, from the news, and many more. They all made really good and important points, which led me to understand why the situation has been going on for a while and why it is so complicated. This year was said to be even worse than 2006, and unlike in 2006, the federal police got involved and used violent measures towards the teachers. I believe we can make a difference here and back at home, first by continuing to educate ourselves about the culture, the many political conflicts that are going on and have been for a while, about the history of Oaxaca and Mexico as a whole, and by carrying this with us and telling the story back home. I think no matter what perspective one holds about the situation, we can all agree that we have one thing in common: we all want peace. We can all work towards that no matter what. No matter where we are, we can always make a difference both at home and abroad.