I feel like I have begun to find my footing in Guanajuato—by chance I found a local maternity and reproductive health center called CASA, where I am now volunteering part-time. It began as a midwifery school and now includes sexual and reproductive education, early-childhood care and domestic violence prevention – all on a need-based pay scale.
So far CASA seems well-organized and locally important: the organization teaches women about reproductive health and also trains many of the same women to become community health practicioners themselves, so that the impact, at least in theory, grows exponentially.
I am excited to work with CASA because I think it’s a great place to see first-hand how emigration has affected the lives of women in Guanajuato.
On Monday I went out in “the field” with an educator named Beatrice. A Kombi dropped us off at a small town in the middle of the desert…
We spoke with two groups of people: first, with fourteen and fifteen year old kids in public school and later, with a group of single mothers.
Beatrice greeted the school-room class and said that today we would be having a lesson on female sexuality. She opened a diagram of female anatomy and proceeded to explain the functions of various reproductive organs. I was stunned at first and found myself blushing, but then realized that most of the kids were listening quite attentively and I should probably pull myself together. The presentation was interesting and quite progressive: Beatrice said that CASA is the only group offering sexual education to these public schools and I was surprised when she told me that her best guess was that 75% of the fourteen and fifteen year olds with whom we spoke were sexually active…
During Beatrice’s presentation, I took a look around the room. There were two posters geared at English vocabulary, one was the days of the week in English and the other was a handwritten poster with select English vocabulary words: palabras extranjeras.
If you look carefully at the poster, you’ll see a word that you may not immediately recognize: migra. When I first saw the poster I was confused about why what seems like a Spanish word was on this English-language poster. Beatrice told me that it is short for inmigracion and migra is the Spanish word used to signify any government entity that enforces immigration laws.
Is the word migra on the poster because of mere association with the United States? Is it there because the teacher of this classroom thinks that it is an English word? Is emigration just that ubiquitious?
Later, Beatrice and I moved on to the mothers. Beatrice told me that the only work in this town is farming goats and sheep or scavenging the nearby dump for plastic to sell to the state for a recycling refund. Indeed, I saw sheep, goats, pigs and cows in the streets and women hauling carts of plastic garbage in the town...
Beatrice made the immediate logical jump from the shortage of work to the abundance of single mothers, explaining that there are the most instances of single-parent households in areas devoid of local work.