Just a quick recap of our (Ellie and Rob) mission trip to Mexico. We were part of a group of 28 kids and adults from Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Minneapolis. We left on Sunday, July 12th and returned on Tuesday, July 21st. The purpose of the trip was to get a better understanding of the people who live on the margins of both rural and urban Mexican society. We spent the first two and a half days in Mexico City. One day was spent in Tultitlan, a impoverished community on the northern outskirts of the city. Amextra, the group who was coordinating our trip, has a community center there that serves the area. Ellie spent the day working with some teachers preparing for summer school. I went out in the community and helped install a rainwater cistern and filtration system. The next day we toured the Aztec Temple museum, the Presidential Palace (with the wonderful Diego Rivera murals), the Metropolitan Cathedral, and visited a craft market.
The first part of the trip was in an urban setting and the second part of the trip was spent in a rural setting. On Wednesday, July 15th, we took a 14 hour bus ride south to the town of Palenque in the Chiapas state. We exchanged the cooler temperatures and the higher altitudes of Mexico City for the tropical rainforests, heat, and humidity of the Chiapas. We stayed at Pej'Pem (http://www.amextra.org/pejpem-transformation-center/), an environmental learning center that concentrated on sustainable agricultural practices. When they say sustainable, they mean it. There was minimal electricity (The hardest part was to ration our cell phone power... first world problem, i know), and minimal running water. The food we ate was all local and everything was either composed or recycled. The scenery reminded me of something out of "Jurassic Park." While at Pej'Pem, we experienced big spiders, hot weather, outdoor bathrooms, and friendly people. In addition to working and learning at Pej'Pem we went to an apiary (where honey is harvested), swam at a beautiful waterfall, and explored Mayan ruins.
The most moving part of our time in Palenque was our experience at the migrant center in town. The center is run by the Catholic church and serves as a resting point for people from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador as they move north to the US. Ellie and I met with a couple and their seven year old son and eight month old daughter. Ellie translated the Spanish like a pro. The father explained that they were in the center because he had witnessed a murder on the bus he drove in El Salvador and was given six hours by the gang who committed the murder to get out of the country. There was hope to their story because they had gained asylum in the Chiapas state and were working toward gaining asylum in the rest of Mexico. The family's ultimate goal was to join the husband's brothers in LA.
We left Palenque on Monday, July 20th and took a 15 hour bus ride back to Mexico City. It was a tiring but great trip. Please check out some of the photos I added in the photo section.