Back for another hard look at myself

I am having trouble writing this post. I have so many feelings that won’t  translate into written words.

In Chiapas the people look at me as though they can read my innermost thoughts. How is it that they understand me and me – them? Is it maybe because we recognize that we’re all part of the same humanity?

Like me, the women of Chiapas want the best for their children, but what choices do they have? They need their eldest daughters to care for the younger ones; they must demand that their skinny 10 year old sons help them haul the heavy merchandise to the market stalls, and the smallest hands must be taught to weave little bracelets and fashion tiny clay dolls. The children must be urged to wind their way through the throngs of tourists, pleading with them to buy a trinket or two… Every bit of income helps.

I was not one of those hard-scrapple children and neither were my son and daughter ever subjected to want. Do I feel guilty? Not really… I feel helpless.

I wish I could do more but I know the solution is not in my hands. I can change very little. If I bought everything they have to sell in the market, this wouldn’t change much… not in the long run.

I admire those who live here. I respect the way they do their very best and I learn from them… After every trip to Chiapas, I am more grateful, I am happier and less focused on my own petty concerns.  Abstract concepts like faith, hope and love mean more to me.

Chiapas is beautiful but it is not the most beautiful state I’ve visited in Mexico. It has wonderful architecture, gorgeous handcrafts and gastronomic offerings that are awesome. But the people, especially the mothers keep me coming back… Back for another hard look at myself.

The pictures you see are of children I have met on this trip. I wonder what their children’s lives will be like?



Filed under Vida Latina, Writing

5 responses to “Back for another hard look at myself

  1. That’s a great summary of great sympathies, Joanna. I’m going to think about that for some time. But right now, it came as the perfect antidote to a hate-spewed bunch of posts I just read in response to a recent column of “Ask a Mexican.” I was so upset at the haters that I could not write a response! So thanks for the re-focus. Our common humanity is so compelling, isn’t it?

  2. Jacquie

    Thank you…your article speaks of the Universal Soul.
    We are all in it together.

  3. Kathe

    Like you, the women and children of Chiapas always draw my attention…until I just can’t look or think about them any more….I also feel helpless.

    In Guatemala in 1999 I decided that I would help one family to the extent I was able. I paid for the education of 5 children in one indigenous family. One is now a surgical nurse, one graduated with his diploma in hotel management but drives a truck for work, one did not finish because his novia was pregnant and he got married (they now have 4 children), one finished all but his last year because he got into a dispute with the teacher about course requirements and the last one did not like school so only completed through 3rd grade.

    So, 13 years into this, with the thousands of dollars spent on education, very little has changed for the family. Their house is larger and they have two pickups that they use to make a living hauling people to market and to school. They still only have chicken every once in a while (tortillas, rice, eggs and beans are their staple foods). When someone gets sick they have to borrow money to pay for the hospital. The grandmother receives meals from a wonderful organization called Mayan Families ( and the young men have tried to get to the US but got caught and sent back.

    I feel very helpless trying to make a change when the culture is as entrenched as it is. For now, I am helping Mayan Families…they really are making a difference. Kathe

    • Yes we feel helpless but we keep on trying to do what we can just as they keep on trying to make their lives better. I believe that changes happen slowly, but they happen and some improvement is better than none. I look forward to meeting with you Kathie

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