BootsnAll Travel Network

Friends In Oaxaca

Here in Oaxaca I think I know more local young ones than older ones.  Of course it helps that the younger locals often speak English even if just a little and between my Spanish and their English we do fine. And they are happy to practice English. In fact yesterday 4 young art students came to study using my free wifi. I gave them some beer and put on some New Zealand reggaton. It made them happy. And we practiced speaking a bit.

It’s really interesting to be able to get young views of Mexican culture vis a vis the different generations here. And what they think about Mexico and the hopes and fears they have for themselves in the future. Being young they are more open to discussing the more controversial aspects of the culture and the politics here with someone they feel safe with. I try to be as explicitly unbiased as I can and just listen.

Most of the younger ones I know are really into self-sufficiency. There is a round table at the Universidad de la Tierra that was established by Gustavo Esteva each week. A few years ago, he took about 25 students to four countries for a year…to study local self sufficiency methods…Thailand, New Zealand, Tanzania and the last being Oaxaca. And to stand their patronizing do-good mind set on it’s head. One girl from Texas I hosted almost had a breakdown on the program because it confronted her whole do-good world view. We spent hours debriefing. A couple years later she returned to Oaxaca with her Caribbean boyfriend and they stayed with me. Another one on the program was Malaysian who had been going to school in Maine and I got to stay with her and her parents in Kuala Lumpur and even meet her Chinese grandparents who had been quarantined during the war by the Japanese. I didn’t even know about the Japanese in Malaysia during the war!!!

Meeting those kids, because I hosted some of them through Couchsurfing, was so enriching because I already had been reading about the work that Gustavo and Ivan Ilych did together on “unschooling” when Ivan was still alive. Gustavo is in his 80’s now and not well so you don’t see much of him around. He has written extensively.

Gustavo has had a most interesting trajectory. Grew up in a Zapotec family in the Etlas in Oaxaca. Got a good education. Studied at Harvard. Worked as an exec for Coca Cola, got a high up job in the Mex govt…then one day he went back to visit his Zapotec grandmother and saw clearly for the first time how integrated or not the culture was with their economic survival in a neoliberal world. He did a 180 and has been fighting neoliberalism ever since. And opened Universidad de la Tierra in Reforma focusing on self sufficiency.

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