"A friend asked us 'What are you going to do in Mexico?' We replied, 'We 're helping to build a restroom.' 'Oh!' they responded. Little did they understand that this has been so much more than that. It has been about friendships forged with both the villagers and the people of Cuetzalan and Xiloxochico, and with our fellow travelers." —GCN trip participant
High in the Sierra Norte region of the state of Puebla in Mexico lies the market town of Cuetzalan. Outside of Cuetzalan about 20 minutes by local minibus is the village of Xiloxochico. This is a Nahua community, an indigenous group descended from the Aztecs that have maintained their customs and their language and speak Spanish as well. GCN has a long standing partnership with the Nahua people of Mexico. In 2005, the first GCN team was invited to join the women of Sital Siwame and began digging the foundation for the future of Xiloxochico’s art home. The people of Xiloxochico have requested that our teams return to their community to support the needs of bilingual education. Chayojkila Xiloxochico is an indigenous elementary school for youth. Founded in 1999, the school was created by a group of parents with the support of teachers from CONAFE, Mexico’s National Council on Educational Development. There are 11 indigenous linguistic families distributed throughout the country. While there are national laws outlining the rights of indigenous languages in Mexico, indigenous language speakers face discrimination in their communities, including the school settings. GCN teams will work side-by-side with parents and school leadership to build additional classrooms, rest-rooms and a playground space.
The team will meet at the Mexico City Airport and travel together to Puebla by charter bus. Puebla offers a lively zocalo, or central plaza, as well as terrific restaurants and shops to explore. The next day the team will travel by bus approximately three hours to Cuetzalan. There are many things to explore in Cuetzalan, including one of the largest indigenous markets in the region. In Cuetzalan, participants will stay at Taselotzin, a cooperative eco-lodge run by Nahau women. The eco-lodge has indoor plumbing, hot water, and electricity. At the end of the trip the team will walk down into town to the bus station and travel to Mexico City.
A Day in Community
The morning starts with the crickets and cicadas of Mexican gardens serenading the team members. The sun rises over clouded banks that fill the mountain-lined horizon of the Sierra Norte region as the team begins their day with a breakfast of hot chocolate, pan dulce, fresh pineapple and melon, and coffee. After a scenic bus ride the team is welcomed into the Nahua community with open arms as they begin the day’s work. Some tasks include digging, painting and installing windows at the bilingual school, alongside community members. Taking a break for a lunch of handmade corn tortillas, team members have a chance to talk with the community or play a quick game of soccer with the kids. After lunch the team continues on with the work on the community project or visits with the community members. Team members arrive back at the eco-lodge and are greeted by the smells of soup and beans made from scratch. Tea with orange blossoms picked fresh from the garden in the backyard, along with tortillas and fresh avocados make up dinner. After dinner, team members have time for conversation and reflection by the hotel's fire before returning to their rooms.
Program fees cover on-site accommodations (lodging and meals), in-country transportation, orientation materials, a donation to the project, emergency medical and evacuation insurance, and a team leader to manage logistics and facilitate your cultural immersion experience. Airfare to/from Mexico City and costs relating to activities outside of the village are an additional responsibility of the individual participant.