So it’s been a few weeks since my internship at Fundación Origen ended, and as my time comes to a close in Mexico I’ve been thinking more and more about that. One of my Mexican friends the other day was telling me that the new “in thing” to do among the Mexican elite (aka the students who go to the UDLA) is to go to an indigenous community for a weekend, come back and talk about how difficult it was over non-fat Moka-Frappe-lattes with extra whipped cream at Starbucks, and then forget about all the people you met during your experience the next week. I was slightly horrified when I heard this. Ok, so I didn’t chat with my amigos over Green tea frappes at Starbucks (I’m still too much of a hipster to set foot into one of those icons of capitalism), but I had definitely talked about my time at the Fundación like it was the most difficult thing ever, and then went on living my life like nothing happened. Ugh. Am I one of those sell-outs, who was just doing this internship to be hip? What’s next…am I going to join the Peace Corps or Teach for America not because I have an actual social conscience, but because it will look good on my future resume? I don’t want to be one of “those people.” I can’t be!!!
Now before I went off the deep-end into one of those philosophical self-inquiries, somebody reminded me of something. Ok, so I came back from my weekends in the indigenous community and talked about how difficult “their” lives were. Wasn’t that the experience I was looking for? I live a privileged life. That’s an undeniable fact. Going to work with this community gave me the opportunity to confront that privilege. I might not think about how easy I have it when I go turn on the hot water in the shower on Monday morning while I’m racing to class, but it would be too stressful if I was thinking like that all the time, right? Instead of unpacking my privilege and trying to collaborate with other people to help make their lives less stressful, I would be doing nothing but feeling guilty all the time. No thanks, I’ll pass.
If there’s one thing that I’ve taken away from this experience, then it’s the fact that I’m a lot more defensive of people who are less privileged than me. When we went to stay with my friend Ivan last week in Mexico City, we were driving around in his car and these kids, who couldn’t have been more than 12 and who were most likely of indigenous origin came up to his car and started washing his windshield. He gave them a peso for their work (the equivalent of about 10 cents). He complained that they were just lazy and should have gotten a real job. Normally, I’m kind of reserved about this things. However, for some reason that day I flipped out. The culture of poverty doesn’t teach people how to function in a normal work environment. Mexicans discriminate against indigenous people in the workforce all the time. Many indigenous people who go to Mexico City to work don’t speak Spanish. And why should these little kids be working at all? They should be having fun being kids and not dealing with the fact that the Mexican government and educational system has failed them miserably.
Whether you agree with me on this point or not, I think it’s clear that my outlook on life has changed because of my work with Fundación Origen. I’m not so sure that many people could say that about their internship experiences. Thanks for that Mexico.