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Trip Start Aug 15, 2012
Trip End Aug 15, 2013

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Flag of Mexico  , Morelos,
Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Hello dear friends! I have decided to include my January Newsletter in my blog. If you would like to receive my newsletter as a Word Doc just send me an email at Happy reading!

Come Walk With Me...
During my yearlong adventure as a missionary in Cuernavaca Mexico
Colleen Maki
YAGM Newsletter 1/1/2013

Condoms and Thanksgiving
You might be wondering what a YAGM does on Thanksgiving… My Thanksgiving Day didn't involve a turkey or stuffing, although all of the Mexico YAGMs got together the week after and did the Thanksgiving meal up right. Rather, I went to work at DDESER to put condoms in condom holders that included the instructions on how to properly use a condom. As I put them in, I had some time to reflect on the many things I am thankful for. Here is a list of just some of the things I came up with on that Thanksgiving Day:
  • Friends, both here in Mexico and friends back home
  • Family, especially my mom. My mom and I have had many great Skype conversations about my work and life here in Mexico and she has developed some excellent care package sending skills.
  • DDESER, my site placement, which, if you remember from my previous newsletter, is the Network for Sexual and Reproductive Rights in Mexico. My work at DDESER challenges me to think about what it means to be a family and how that might look different in other parts of the world. It also challenges me to think about how my faith plays a role in my beliefs about sexuality and sex education.
  • My church. I grew up going to church at United in Christ in Eveleth, MN with my mom, dad, brother, and grandmother. I would not have made it to Mexico with out their prayers and financial support.  
As I put those condoms in condom holders I had to chuckle at myself. Normally on Thanksgiving Day I am cooking or readying the house for a Thanksgiving meal with my family. Putting condoms in condom holders was a first for me on Thanksgiving but it allowed me the time and space to realize that I can take the time to be thankful every day of my life, not just on Thanksgiving Day.

Unfortunately, my host mom, Juanita, was sick on Christmas. I was still able to have a lovely dinner with my host brother, Carlos, and Enrique, a relative who visits often from Mexico City. I was also invited to a late meal with a fellow YAGM, Catie, and her host family. I arrived around 7pm and Elena, Catie's host mom, quickly gave me the task of cutting starfruit for the fruit salad. We started eating around 10:30 PM. The menu was quite diverse: turkey, bacon wrapped pork chops, fruit salad, artichoke dip, buns, potatoes, and champagne to celebrate. Being away from home for my birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years was difficult but as I ate with Catie and her host family I was overwhelmed with an amazing sense of calm and peace. I am a child of God and I am loved here in Mexico.

SARAR Transformation
Work at DDESER slowed down quite a bit around the holiday season so I had the opportunity to volunteer at SARAR Transformation with fellow YAGM Casey for a few days. SARAR is a consulting group that focuses on the promotion of ecological sanitation systems. It is located outside of Tepoztlan, a small town in Morelos. On the first day, I helped with landscaping at a model house SARAR is building to show clients how it is possible to build houses that do not damage the earth. The day started by watering many of the newly planted plants. This process took three hours. Next we took a break for lunch and I took a quick catnap in the hammock. After lunch we started digging holes for new trees to be planted. This process kind of reminded me of the book Holes by Louis Sachar. It was hard work but it was wonderful to be in the countryside (el campo in Spanish) and work with my hands. I dug about three holes with the help of the other workers. The holes had to be big enough for a tree and an old pot used for gradual water distribution. The next day, I worked in the garden, weeding. I had never really weeded anything before so it was in interesting experience. Honestly, I was not really sure if what I was pulling out of the ground a weed or something that was actually supposed to be there. In the late morning Casey and I started work on a new flowerbed. We filled it will different kinds of compost and finished it off by lining the edges with rocks, big rocks. Ok, so I guess you could say Casey moved the rocks and I just kind of stood there awkwardly trying to be encouraging. They were really big rocks! SARAR's work is so different from the work I do at DDESER. It was really fun to learn more about ecological sanitation and get my hands dirty.

In my last newsletter I promised you a definition of machismo. I took a feminist theory class last spring at the University of North Dakota and we touched on the subject, but after living and working in Mexico I have a new understanding of what machismo means. With the help of Eda, a fellow volunteer at DDESER, we have come up with this definition:
"Machismo is based off the patriarchal structure of society, culture, and religion and states that the man, "the macho", should dominate everything. This structure takes pride in stereotypical masculine traits and cements traditional gender roles, such as the man being the breadwinner and the woman the homemaker."

Machismo has a strong impact on Mexican culture and therefore plays a role in the work we do at DDESER.  Feminicide, the murder of women simply because they are women, is common in the state of Morelos because of the machismo culture. This culture allows men the space to hurt women as an act of “love”. This violence is seen as putting women in their place as a way of protecting them from the outside world. This act of “love” can get out of hand and lead to death. In my opinion, machismo is a systemic problem that will not be fixed by changing the mentality of machos but through evaluation and change of the parts of society, culture, and religion, which continue to reinforce gender roles.

Thank your continued support and for reading about my year as a missionary in Cuernavaca through the Young Adults in Global Mission (YAGM) program of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). My next newsletter will come out in March but if you would like to get more frequent updates please visit my blog at
In peace and love,
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