Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Mexican Poor

You go to Mexico expecting to see poor people. And you do. But there is so much more to it than I ever imagined. For every person I see begging on the street I see a hundred more ambulantes--mobile sellers--hustling their wares every day on street corners, peseros and metro stations across the city. I went to Chiapas, and where there are some of the poorest people in the country there are also communities of resistance: Zapatista villages but also indigenous ethnic groups with their own tribunals and support systems, battling for their own right to live.

Today I was reading the NYTimes (as always), and came across an article on malnourished children in India. The pictures were extreme. It made me feel guilty, as I usually do, about not doing my part to help out in situations like that. Here I am, living in a country with soaring poverty rates in the middle of a recession and I am having the time of my life, traveling, studying, eating good food. But Mexicans, as with the rest of the global poor, are not just the passive victims they are portrayed as in the news, in need of a conscientious white girl to help them out. While the article highlighted the voices of experts and NGO members, it failed to show the efforts of the mothers, fathers, and community members working in their own way to deal with these situations. Of course, the indigent cannot simply pull themselves out of poverty--saying so is much like analyzing the poor without looking at the causes of wealth. But that being said, no one I know is as hard-working as the Mexican poor. And maybe in all this work there are some solutions worth listening to.

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