One of the little girls who came to Casa del Sol.

After weeks of listening to presentations by different organizations, filling out countless amounts of tedious paperwork, and having about 2.5 interviews, I finally started my internship this past weekend. I’m working with la Fundación Origen, which is a non-government organization (NGO for those of you familiar with the lingo) that collaborates with an indigenous community located in Xaltipan, Puebla, Mexico.

On Thursday afternoon we (2 Americans, 3 Australians, and a Canadian) hopped on a bus headed toward the city of Cuetzalan, which is about 4 hours north of Cholula. Upon our arrival, we had to take another “bus,” which was really a pickup truck with a cover over the truck bed, for an hour. By the time we arrived at the Fundación Origen headquarters, known as the Casa del Sol, I was exhausted.

Emilio, the organizer, had warned us that we would be “roughing it” this weekend, and he really wasn’t lying. The house had no running water. The bathroom was outside. And there were no mattresses so we had to sleep on the floor.

On Friday and Saturday we got to know the location a bit. Though the Mexican government has been trying to make an effort to help the indigenous peoples of the country for the past few years, most of their efforts have fallen short. The result has been extreme poverty, pervasive alcoholism, high drop out rates from high school, and numerous problems with domestic violence within indigenous communities. Xaltipan exhibited many of these problems. Many of the people walked around with no shoes, tattered clothing, and had teeth that were in very poor conditions. While many of these observations could possibly be attributed to cultural differences, I do not think it would be out of line to say that poverty had a great effect on these people.

I was frustrated a lot this weekend because it seemed like we were not really doing anything. One of the customs of this community is to invite visitors into their homes and feed them. There’s nothing wrong with free food, except when you get invited to three different homes in the spans of three hours and given a full meal at each. I had a bit of a culture shock moment the first time we were eating because we were served soup and not given a spoon to eat it with. Emilio explained to us that we had to fashion spoons out of the homemade corn tortillas that the people gave us. You would think it would be easy to make a tortilla spoon, but in reality it’s really difficult. You end up eating about 10-12 tortillas just to finish one bowl of soup. Needless to say I’ve starting exercising after this gluttonous weekend.

On Saturday, we had the opportunity to work with an after school program called Casa del Sol. I helped the six year olds with their math homework. Somehow math homework turned into drawing time, which led to a marker fight that ultimately resulted in me having marker all over my face. It was slightly frustrating, but I still had a lot of fun.

I still can't get over how beautiful Mexican open air markets are.

On Sunday, we went to the open-air market that was in Cuetzalan. It was your standard Mexican market except it was a lot larger than usual. After spending about two hours there, we made are way back to the bus station and headed back to Puebla. I’ll be going back during the middle of March.

Here's a picture of an indigenous woman doing business with a Mexican woman at the Cuetzalan market.