Casa de los Amigos - Quaker Social Action in Mexico City
Quaker Social Action: Mexico City
by Chris Japely
In January of this year I was lucky enough to spend nine days in the heart of Mexico City at ‘“Casa de Los Amigos,” a Quaker Center for Peace & International Understanding.’ This wonderful traditional Mexican house has been involved in Quaker action since 1956, an offshoot of Quakers in Mexico dating from the 1860s (when pastoral/evangelical Friends arrived in San Luis Potosi in the north). The Casa was presenting a “Quaker Social Action Learning Tour,” and they had invited interested U.S. Quakers to come and see their various projects ranging from earth care to housing, feeding, and assisting migrants from Central America to the US and also deportees and “retornados” from the US.
There were seven of us on the visiting team (from California, New Mexico, Nevada, and New York), and we quickly bonded over meals, Meeting for Worship, and excursions throughout Mexico City and an overnight trip to a rural eco-village, Vicente Guerrero, in the state of Tlaxcala, (where we learned to survey land using a thousand-year-old indigenous method still in use).
Among other activities, the Casa introduced us to the following efforts they partner with Mexico City progressive groups: (1) a weekly artisanal market/barter exchange of home-made goods, (2) an urban garden teaching composting and indigenous plant companion cultivation, (3) a 25 year relationship with a women-run cooperative, Flor De Mazahua, selling shawls, dolls, and other products made by indigenous Mazahua women, (4) Tochan, a migrant shelter providing emergency housing and other services to people traveling north but “stopped” in Mexico City for health or other personal reasons, and needing support. (One resident, for example, had lost a leg on the infamous train that migrants jump on to get part of the way to the US border.) (5) A regular meeting place for Collective SubVersiones, the main independent media group in Mexico City (a dangerous and brave activity for all involved; Mexican journalists are assassinated frequently). (6) Meetings with “Los Otros Dreamers” – people who have been deported from the US or who have voluntarily returned even though they don’t speak Spanish and have lived in the US from infancy.
In addition, the Casa houses refugees from Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Haiti (through UNHCR), and gives them intensive Spanish language classes.
This trip was gloriously busy, upbeat, full of witness of Quaker action of great vitality and generosity, and we also enjoyed wonderful Mexican food, the best of all being three meals by a woman from Vicente Guerrero, the small eco-village. In our small bits of free time we were able to visit a major Mexican museum or two, and we spent one half-day visiting the pyramids at Teotihuacan.
Casa de los Amigos is a wonderful Quaker center to keep in mind for visits (extremely affordable basic accommodations and walking distance to Zocalo, the city center) and future learning tours. It is also the home to the Mexico City Friends Meeting (unprogrammed), and you may very well bump into Friends you know from far-flung places. (I bumped into two Friends I knew, one I’d met in Sweden at Nordic Annual Meeting and the other here at 15th St.) I encourage everyone to consider a visit and to also contribute a bit of money to them (your money goes far there, and will greatly aid them). Please contact me if you want further information.
Christine Japely/ [email protected]
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