Friday, November 30, 2007

Starting Our Ministry

Please be thinking about and praying for us this week as we begin our homework club with the kids from the neighborhood where our church is. We are excited and nervous. We will update you on how it goes.

I (Leah) went home this past week because my grandmother passed away. I felt really blessed to be able to be with my family, to grieve and share memories, laugh and cry with them. The trip went really well and I am excited to be back here in Mexico.

Starting Our Ministry

Please be thinking about and praying for us this week as we begin our homework club with the kids from the neighborhood where our church is. We are excited and nervous. We will update you on how it goes.

I (Leah) went home this past week because my grandmother passed away. I felt really blessed to be able to be with my family, to grieve and share memories, laugh and cry with them. The trip went really well and I am excited to be back here in Mexico. :)

Friday, November 23, 2007

Happy B-Lated Turkey Day

We spent the holiday apart this year as Leah is in the States this week. For me, it didn´t feel much like Thanksgiving in the morning. The parade wasn´t on and the noise of clanging cooking dishes didn´t wake me up. I had no football to look forward too and the leaves on the trees aren´t changing colors. Plus, everybody around me was heading to work or school. But it was a Thanksgiving celebration for us. All the local LAMers got together in the northern part of the city and feasted on turkey, cranberry sauce, salad, rolls, pumpkin pie and almost all of the T-Day greats. It was a nice time. I forgot when I was accessing the internet to wish you all, our family and friends - our supporters, a very Happy Thanksgiving.

I give thanks that Leah´s flight made it safely to the States; that our ministries are beginning to pick up some steam and we are delving right into them; and for you, our friends and family ' our supporters.

Happy day late!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Politics and Populace - Mexico

Title: Politics and Populace - Mexico: Reflections on an Hour´s Observation (Generalized and Oversimplified)

First the background. Leah is on a woman´s retreat for all the women in the Free Methodist Church of our Missions Conference in Central and Southern Mexico. That left me alone to make it to our project out in the north end of the city in the State of Mexico (an entirely different city than D.F., but it is really difficult to tell the difference. Kind of like Living in LA). I left an hour and a half earlier than I needed to get to the project, and got to the metro station in record time. After two stops my metro sat and waited. This happens from time to time. 20 minutes later we move. Yeah. We stop at the next stop, and all is smooth. We go to the next. Whamo, another 20 minute break. I´m about to get off here then it starts to move. So I jump back on. Another 15 minutes later a police officer tells us all to get off, that it is not going. So I make a huge detour in the Metro system to try to catch the metro at another stop farther up the line. 30 minutes later I find myself at a blockade with the police saying, ¨Alta!¨ So no go. At this point I don´t know the city well enough to get to my stop and don´t have the money sufficient for a taxi, so I had to abandon the journey (I´m still trying to get ahold of the person I´m supposed to help. I think she was stuck as well.)

That said, I decided to head down to the Zocolo or El Centro, the heart of the city and the heart of Mexico. Here stands the old parliament building, the great Cathedral that is built over the Aztec ruins of Tenochtitlan (sp?). Everything happens here, and on this weekend eve before the celebration of the Mexican Revolution something was happening.

I call this blog politics and populace because it struck me how different the populace of Mexico is compared to the States. To give an example, my Mexican brother agreed with a statement I read him from a book that elaborated on the fact that Americans do not really have any good political commentary movies and really can´t do political satire well. Interesting, I thought. Then today in the center of Zocalo was a troop of males dancing as nudos (naked) blocking off the street. The police just stood there to direct traffic. These men were naked and only hidden in the front by a picture of a Senator here in Mexico that they are protesting. Not the way I would want my political career to be remembered. The few old women that accompanied this troop of men were completely naked, baring all and collecting money for something. Interesting.

I don´t remember too many displays so large while living in LA, except for the immigration protests (led by Latin Americans and a huge majority of Mexican immigrants). Here it is a regular occurance for one of the largest streets in the city to be shut down for a protest and most of the time the police passively direct traffic. Another thought, when Bush narrowly beat Gore in the election, people were pretty ticked off (and some still are), but Gore didn´t have his people shut down the majority of DC for 2+ months! Obredor did.

And lastly, as I was pondering the difference in politics, which is highly important in this revolution weekend, I thought about political t-shirts. The States certainly has its supporting shirts or more likely joking shirts about the current president or people running, but we never wear shirts with the picture of Washington, Jefferson or Lincoln. In fact, like Mexico the youth are more likely to wear a Che shirt. But here, people wear Zapata or Pancho shirts and their pictures are everywhere. They are both third to that of Che and Bob Marley here in the city. Why do our youth not remember our rebel leaders? Is politics just not that important?

Here ends the ramblings of cultural learning for the day. I head off to call my supervisor another time, and hope that somebody made up to the north for the jovenes. Luckily at this point I´m not a vital piece or big help as I´m learning the project and the language.

Monday, November 5, 2007

The Basilica of the Virgen of Guadalupe

On Friday we visited the Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalupe. The Virgin of Guadalupe is of incredible importance for most Mexican Catholics. The story is that the Spanish priests were not originally making much head way with converting the indigenous people. One day, one of their indigenous converts, Juan Diego, was walking on a hill when he saw a vision of the Virgin. She asked him to build a cathedral in her honor on that spot. When he returned the priests did not believe him, they asked for a sign. Juan Diego returned to that spot and saw the virgin again and she gave him flowers as a sign. He put the flowers in his cloak and when he presented them to the priests the image of the virgin appeared on his cloak. In Mexican Catholocism the Virgin is worshipped and remembered almost more, if not more than Christ. The basilica below was built in the form of the cloak. There are several other structures on the complex that were the the cathedrals they had before this newest one.
A view from the top of the hill.

Me, Stephanie and Michelle in front of the old cathedral.

A depiction of Juan Diego's discovery of the virgin.

The old and the new.

There is a strong divide between Catholics and Protestants here in Mexico. Please pray that the influence, or impact that we might have here would transcend this divide.

Dia de los Muertos

Dia de los Muertos is a huge celebration in Mexico. It is a combination of a pre-hispanic practice as well as a tradition that the Spaniards brought with them when they conquered Mexico. In a nut shell Dia de los Muertos is celebrated on the first and second of November. On these days many Mexicans believe that their dead come back. In order to honor and greet the dead ofrendas are constructed. The ofrendas, or offerings, usually include flowers (especially marigolds), pictures of the departed, candles, food (sweets for the kids and more substantial food for the adults), and water (because of the long journey). One of the most popular decorations during this time of year is the skeleton, particularly the skull, or the calavera. While this may sound morbid and a little scary to some, here it is a joyful celebrations. We walked through the graveyard (panteon) near our home and found groups of people gathered around grave sites while mariachi bands played. Children also dress up as children in the US do and have a little pumpkin basket. They go around asking people for money or sweets, but mostly money. One of the typical foods on this day is "pan de muerto"or bread of the dead. It is really yummy. It sort of has a lemony flavor. Death is certainly viewed very differently here than back home. There is a difference, however, between the Catholics and the Protestants here. The Protestants as a rule do not celebrate the day, choosing to focus instead on the resurrection of the dead only when Christ returns. On Friday night we visited the Zocalo, which is in downtown Mexico City where a variety of ofrendas had been set up in the square. It was fascinating.
A metro stop, a panteon is a cemetary.

An example of an ofrenda

It is hard to see, but this was a giant Lucha Libre ring with skeletons acting as the luchadores.
(Lucha Libre is basically equivalent to WWF)

This was a display showing an ancient tradition of the Aztecs to display decapitated heads.

Another ofrenda, these are skeletons in front of a bread store.
(The ofrendas in the Zocalo were more generalized, others throughout the city were for specific people.)
This is made entirely of seeds.

Another made completely of seeds representing Frida Kahlo, a very famous Mexican artist.
A large ofrenda in the Aztec tradition.

The entire square was completely full, you could barely move let alone see the ofrendas.

Our family gave us our own little "calavaritas"which are commonly used to decorate the ofrendas.


This weekend we went to visit Teotihuacan which is an archeological site with pyramids. Many people think that the Aztecs build them, but they were actually built by a group predating the Aztecs (this group existed here from around 100 BC to a little after the birth of Christ). The Aztecs came across the site after it had been uninhabited for hundreds of years and it was their belief that this is where the gods had dwelt. When they built their city, Tenochitlan, or modern day Mexico City, they modeled it after Teotihuacan. It was a really fun day, we went with Reina, Obed, their son Isaac, as well as Nereyda and Jose.

Here we are in front of the pyramid of the sun.

All but Kevin, I realize you can barely see us, but that gives you an idea of how gigantic this pyramid is.

On top of the world!

Reina and I coming down the steps.

The Indigenous group that lived here was incredibly skilled in stone carving, pottery making and many other arts that aren't shown here. One of my favorite things I saw were all of their miniatures, the detail was amazing.

We made it!
For any and all who come to visit us this is definitely a great place to visit. As we get to know a little bit more of the Mexican history I feel as if I am better able to understand the cultue today.