One year later, I'm in Queretaro for our three-month language, cultural, and technical training. After only being here for about a week, I can say that I'm enchanted (common word in Spanish) with the rich Mexican culture. The people are incredibly friendly, with an unmistakable sense of patriotism and cultural pride/identity. I think Mexico would be considered a 'developing country' not a 3rd world country. 75% if Mexicans acutally live in urban areas, and live quite similar to us in America...at least in this city.
September 16th is the country's Indepence bicentenial and Revolutionary centential (exactly 100 years apart--i think they planned the Revolution that way!)... decorations have probably been up for months & I'm sure more to follow on that later.
During our language training, we're learning how to introduce ourselves in Spanish and how to explain briefly about the Peace Corps and our roles. Most Mexican have no idea what the Peace Corps is (and might I add...neither do many Americans). So......the US Peace Corps is a govt organization that works with other countries on social and ecoonomic development Projects. In Mexico, the projects include Tech Transfer, Small Business Development, Sustainable Livelihood, and Environmental Education (allow me to go on). I have been assigned to the Environmental Education project in Gogorron National Park in the state of San Luis Potosi`. I'll be working the equivelent of the National Park Service, and will be working with the surrounding communities (focusing on Gogorron).
So, after I finish my three-month training, I get sworn in as a volunteer, and that's where I'll go!
First item on the Agenda will be to meet my running-mate/agency-counterpart, and get to know people in the communities in which I will live and be working. This will involve some traveling of course. After a few months, I'll have a better idea what the community needs are and specifics on what the National Park Service's (actually called National Council of Natioanl Protected Areas, CONANP) needs are too.
Today, we had a lecture from a University Professor of Cultural antropology dept. There are many underlying issues in Mexico, chief among them is the great divide between the poverty stricken and the rich. As an example, Mexico has more poor people than the entire population of Central America, while having mega-rich people eg Carlos Slim...the richest man in the world.
So government inefficiencies seem to favor the rich, and it would seem to penalize the poor. As a result, goverment involvement will likely be seen as mute & assosiciated action being perceived as jumping through hoops.
Essentially, he suggested that any projects/goals we might work on be small and attainable within short spans of time. I think it follows the Japanese ideaology to make changes incrementally...in a way that is almost unnoticable; and when possible, instead of implenting entirely foreign ideas/technologies, use more holistic approaches....ei ones that were likely used by ancestors. Also that the sustainability of the change should be considered, and that the communities should have buy-in of the change, so that the change persists after Peace Corps Volunteers are gone.
In the end, our jobs as Peace Corps Volunteers is to--promote, empower, and facilitate change. Not bad, huh?
BTW, Obama wants to increase Volunteers world-wide from 7,000 to 10,000 in 2011... seems like a good time to apply!