Last month we shared the first part of our exploration to visit one of our student’s villages. Our two car caravan included Drew, CdK associate Pam, her family and a guest who came from Connecticut, USA.
The student is Eraclio, a young man in our program studying mechanical engineering. He comes from a mountain village of 15 houses and 97 people, that has no roads and no cars. So, there is no auto access! We considered this trip invaluable to help us understand the challenges that our students from remote villages face, such as limited access to education, modern culture, and job opportunities. But we couldn’t have imagined what we would discover.
We drove over mountains that were 9,500 feet in elevation, entered the jungle zone, then descended a steep rocky mountain for 30 minutes. At the bottom we parked along a wild river and loaded up our backpacks to cross the suspension foot bridge. Hiking through the misty jungle’s steep path was like walking into another world! Eraclio explained to us that everything the town needs from the outside world must be brought up that same trail–on their backs.
We hiked passed ancient ruins of the ancestors, and marveled at the view of the town perched on the mountainside. The path was soon lined by fruit trees leading to a magnificent waterfall. Eraclio’s family welcomed us warmly and helped us get settled. School kids gathered around to stare at us fair skinned foreigners that seemed to appear from some distant planet. They laughed as Drew made funny faces and tried to converse in Spanish, just to learn that their first language is a native dialect, and Spanish is their second language. This brief encounter made it clear that when students venture to the outside world, they are faced with many cultural differences.
We enjoyed several walking tours appreciating that the houses were connected by pathways. While some people had homes constructed from their homemade concrete blocks, others had simple wooden structures typical of tropical regions. Some residents had hot houses for growing plants and vegetables, and one man had a small trout fishery. We learned that most cannot earn cash there, as there are few jobs and businesses. Most families live off the land and use a bartering system instead of money.
We also enjoyed two nights of Posadas, a December tradition in recalling the Biblical account of Mary and Joseph searching for a room at the inn. Town’s people gather at night, carrying candles and singing going to a home asking if there’s room. They’re invited in for hot chocolate and bread. Young people miss this tradition when they move to distant cities.
While solar panels provide just enough electricity for the basics, new internet access is causing new societal issues to surface, that have never come up before. While some young people say they never want to leave, they will be faced with the same issues their parents deal with such as lack of cash for supplies such as rice, beans, meats, and other household needs.
In closing; Access to the outside world is shifting their expectations and causing a new dilemma. If they want a more comfortable life and be able to support their elders, they have to leave the village they love.