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Can walls stop migration? Maybe so, say Mixtecs

1 April 2010

We’re used to hearing from people in the United States about the need to build walls to keep OUT immigrants.  The arguments given by the wall builders in the United States are that the immigrants don’t contribute to society.  In Mexico, where the reasons given for emigration are that there is nothing to keep people at home, and they are forced to emigrate, building walls takes on a different meaning.

It’s not that the Oaxaca community René López writes about in  Correspondales Indígenas want to keep the world out … but that certain kinds of walls will bring the world in… and — more importantly — allow those who would be called by the would-be wall builders in the United States socially useless to become a valued part of the community.   Confused?  The students in one Mixteca community understand it, and are willing to give up their spring break to build the walls they need.

In my loose translation, I left the word tequio in the original, as there isn’t a good equivalent word in English for communal work projects undertaken by members of indigenous communes as part of one’s “membership dues.”

San Pedro Ñumi, Tlaxiaco, Oax .- To prevent further migration of young people to the United States this year,  construction has been stepped up on the San Pedro Ñumi Communal High School Project.  Forty percent of the community’s initial 400,000 investment in the school is to provide study space for students.  Between work by parents, tequitos and cooperative projects  foundations have been laid for what the school needs most:  a building.

San Pedro Ñumi’s municipal agent, Bernardo Sosa Chávez, said in an interview that now that there is a high school, more young people are staying in the community and need a place to continue their studies.  This year, instead of the thirty young San Pedrans who would be expected to migrate, only twelve left for the United States.

He said that times have changed because of the three year old school:  instead of emigrating, the youths are willing to work within the community, and contributing their tequios.  This year, students and graduates are  contributing their tequios to this project.  By the end of the year, there will be three classrooms, and by 2011 the Communal High School will have its own plant.

The communal assembly and the 52 students in the High School agreed that over spring break, the students and their parents will haul bricks, carry cement, pour water, wait on the delivery of industrial bricks and collect construction material and other resources the commune will need to finish the project over the next year.

The high school project involves not just the 900 residents of the commune, but the entire 5000 residents of the municipality, as was the case when the commune built a telesecundaria* four years ago.  Parents understand that the High School means not only that their children will remain in the community another three years to finish their studies, but that if they leave, it will be to further their professional studies.

The young people are responsible in their studies and in their community, an example for others in the Mixteca who do not want to be left behind while waiting for outside assistance, according to project directors Agustín Cruz Guzmán y Sara Simón.

*  Providing an adequate education was one goal of the Mexican Revolution that has been, for the most part, met.  It has always been a challenge to provide access to schooling in the rural areas, especially in isolated communities like San Pedro Ñumi.  While there are many dedicated and creative teachers, the problem has always been to find enough teachers, and supplies and equipment to staff every school, especially in small, isolated communities.  For these communities, the telesecondaria has meant rural kids are able to receive the same education as kids in Mexico City.  The teachers ARE in Mexico City, and classes are by satellite communication.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. 1 April 2010 6:11 am

    The community service in Oaxaca’s idiginious communitys is called “tequio” – not “tequito” and much less “taquita”. I think the autor was hungry and thinking of something else…

  2. 1 April 2010 6:15 am

    Even though the efforts by the community must be applauded this puts a spotlight on the failings of the public education system. Rural areas are forgotten.

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