What We Learned on the Quest Mexico Learning Tour
Quest Mexico is a learning tour that is offered at King’s to students every year. It’s a week long experience spent in Cuernavaca, Mexico during reading week. This year Kaleigh, Mckena, and I all had the opportunity to take part in the program. We would like to share what our experience was like! It was a very extensive program so it’s hard to capture everything, but we will do our best.
Quest was my very first experience outside of Canada and the US so it was very eye opening. During the trip we met with many locals, heard their stories, and became informed about Mexico, its history and the situations the people face there today. It wasn’t a trip intended for service, but to listen and learn. The people we met and stories we heard have challenged me to think about the way I think about so much, especially poverty. One of the most significant things for me during the trip was hearing from a man who has lived in a Mexican village for a long time now. He told us a story from when he first moved there. It was during the Day of the Dead which is an important time of the year, when the people remember those in their families that have passed. He told us that outside the chapel, vendors were selling candles and he saw people that were experiencing poverty buying them. He felt frustrated with the vendors for exploiting the people, and frustrated with the people for buying them when they barely had enough money for food. But a year later at the same time of the year, his father had passed so he had a candle to remember him. People were then asking him who his candle was for and he could ask them in return - it was a way of creating dialogue and community. This story made me think about how important it is to understand the cultures people live in. It doesn’t help to assume that we can solve everyone’s problems in ways that we think are appropriate. A lot of the time the best thing we can do is listen and try to understand. Ultimately, we aren’t big enough or powerful enough to solve all of the world’s problems, but we do have the ability to make people feel heard, loved, and cared for. I think that this is honestly more valuable than throwing money at the problems we see and attempting to bring solutions we see suitable. People are what matter and it is when we show love and understanding that makes a difference.
As Lindsay said in the introduction, so much learning took place this past reading week and it is nearly impossible to wrap it up in a short blurb. I would like to highlight a couple topics discussed that impacted me in ways I couldn’t believe was possible. We had the opportunity to hear from the indigenous community about their relationship with mother earth, and participated in a traditional ceremony at the base of a mountain. I was amazed at the connection I felt with the creation around me and the rest of the group. It was a whole new experience for me; I felt like my soul was connected to the soil we stood on. It is hard to put this intimate experience into words, but one thing that was said that really impacted the experience was that “we aren’t owners of the land, we are the land”. It is an interesting concept to understand, and I’ve been reflecting on it since hearing him speak.
The second thing that stood out to me throughout the trip was the constant theme of money and wealth. 70% of Mexico’s population are experiencing poverty, and live off of about 123 pesos a day ($8.53 CAN) – and that is only if they have an occupation. Many rely on selling hand-made goods which range from bracelets, to weaved palm, to necklaces. Throughout the trip it was really emphasized that in Mexico, “the rich are getting richer, at the cost of the poor getting poorer” (Miguel MacDonald). It makes you realize the power and privilege of money and wealth.
Though this is just two things that I highlighted, this trip taught me so much and I highly recommend it for anyone who is interested in social justice!
If I’m being honest, nothing I say is going to do the 10 days I spent in Mexico justice. The things I heard, saw, and felt, are difficult to put into words – it was a challenging, but a very eye-opening experience. I was deeply impacted by the whole experience, but one of most impactful things would be having my eyes opened to how our actions in Canada affect the lives of people in Mexico. Through free trade agreements, such as NAFTA and the WTO, we are pushing the people of Mexico further into poverty. These agreements have only worsened Mexico’s economy, and have only improved the economic situations of the wealthy. In Canada and the US, and other wealthy countries, we are benefitting from these agreements (well, most of us are). The consequences of free trade agreements was only one of the many difficult topics we learned about, another one was violence. The violence, especially towards women in Mexico, exists at a level that is incomparable to anything we see here in Canada. This was devastating to learn about, especially as a woman. It was definitely a heavy 10 days full of tough conversations and difficult stories, but I truly believe that education can be such a strong force for positive change. I am so grateful for the opportunity to learn and experience what I did, and I would highly recommend this experience to anyone and everyone!
Quest was such an incredible experience for all three of us. If any of this sounds intriguing to you, or if you want to challenge yourself and learn in a unique environment, we definitely recommend you participate in Quest next year!
Kaleigh, Mckena, and Lindsay