Living

Happy Love Month!

february-coverHappy Love Month! This is my editorial from The Eye magazine this month. For those of you who don’t me personally, I am the editor of an English-language magazine in Mexico called The Eye, in addition to owning a restaurant and a cooking school. The magazine really allows me to explore different aspects of life in Mexico and connect with amazing writers and of course our readers. You can check out current and back issues online at http://www.TheEyeHuatulco.com or if you are fortunate enough to be in Oaxaca or Huatulco you can pick up a hard copy.

 

Editor’s Letter | Beach, Village & Urban Living in Oaxaca

“I need to be alone. I need to ponder my shame and my despair in seclusion; I need the sunshine and the paving stones of the streets without companions, without conversation, face to face with myself, with only the music of my heart for company.”

― Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer

I am feeling very exhausted. Everywhere people are bubbling over with their opinions, demanding their right to be heard but it seems we are so busy talking that the entire planet has actually stopped listening. All mouths are open and everyone I meet is ready to let me know where they stand on the state of world politics – by this I mean American politics – since WWII, America has prided itself on being the leader of the Free World and the consequence is that much of the world feels totally within its rights to weigh in. Add that to the fact that America has rarely hesitated to weigh in on the politics of other nations – and we all carry our opinions about those actions – layers and layers of ‘I thinks’ and ‘I believes’- each of us holding onto these values, believing that they have come to define us.

Strangely for me, an outspoken feminist, the day of The March did not incite in me the feeling of power it seemed to for the rest of my contemporaries. As I looked through my social media feed and saw photos of many people I respected taking to the streets, I felt sad rather than exhilarated. I felt even sadder when I read comments from those who were against the march. I asked myself… ‘Can I respect people whose opinions are so offensive to me and different from my own?’

Here’s what I realized. The wall has already been built. Without laying a single brick we have completely divided ourselves by allowing our beliefs to define and separate us. None of the issues being presented at the moment are new; access to abortion, equal pay, sexual assault, immigration reform, gay rights, police brutality. These are not just issues concerning the USA – these are issues we need to be concerned about worldwide. Human rights are a problem worldwide. There are many people around the world who do not have the privilege and freedom to attend a march or have access to rant on social media. If you are even reading this, you are most likely a lot ‘freer’ than the rest of the world.

If we really don’t want a wall, we need to stop talking. We need to stop shouting at people to love more. Shhhhhhh. Enjoy the silence. Listen to your heart beating inside your body. Before your gender, your culture, the randomness of the country where you were born, the religious and political beliefs you were raised with- before all that, you were just a beating heart, in the bubble of quiet of your mother’s womb. It was safe. You were most definitely loved.

Can I respect people whose opinions are offensive to me and different from my own? If I really want to be a part of the change I want to see, then I am going to have to learn to.

Happy Valentine’s Day,

Jane

Food, Living

It takes a village… the building of our Chiles&Chocolate Cooking School

picmonkey-collageI have been involved in several building projects while living in Mexico but none has been as exciting or as rewarding for me as our Chiles&Chocolate Cooking School. Located in the village of Zimatan, I wanted the building to fit in with the architecture of the buildings in this rural area. Most of the houses in the village are rectangular with small windows and galvanized metal roofing. Since our cooking classes showcase the beauty and dignity of Oaxacan cooking, our building needed to be a testament to that as well. In the same way a mole recipe evolves using the ingredients of a particular area, our building needed to use materials that were found around us; river rock, stone, wood and I felt the same should be applied to labor.

Village life is very gender segregated. Women in my village are not even permitted to attend town meetings unless they are the ‘head of their household’- meaning they have no husband. So I was more than a little nervous as this project was my first time building without a husband to negotiate and deal with decisions such as where to put the septic tank.

Blandino, the mason, and his two sons, who live in the village, collected rock from around the property to build our retaining wall and patio. In other projects I have been involved with we always ordered our cement blocks already made from the hardware store. Blandino mentioned that Andres, a man in our village, made blocks, so we decided to make them on-site. This decision led to us having a higher quality block, it was about the same price as buying the ready-made blocks, but we also created a job.

Seeing Andres make blocks was amazing. All cement was mixed by hand, poured into molds and then set in the sun to dry. When it came time to get a door, the metal smith in the village made one and the electrician who installed the lights lives just a few doors down.

In the cooking classes I talk a lot about the dignity of what we term ‘women’s work’- cooking, housekeeping, child rearing. My experience of being a stay-at-home mother in Mexico during my daughter’s early years was life changing and forced me to reevaluate my own ideas about gender. It was the beauty of this time that led me to want to give cooking classes.

I always have thought of the cooking classes as a way of shedding light on the dignity of ‘women’s work’ but as I look around the cooking school it dawns on me that the building is truly a testament to the beauty of ‘men’s work’.  Much in the same way it takes a village to make a tortilla; men to grow the corn and women to grind, form and cook it on the comal, our cooking school is the product of a long line of tradition.

For more information about our classes: www.HuatulcoCookingClasses.com

Living

Supporting Girls’ Education

PicMonkey CollageFifteen is a magical age- in Mexico it is the time of quinceañeras and celebration as girls teeter on the brink of womanhood. It is also the age of high teen pregnancy rates- especially in lower income areas. The report — “Maternity childhood” Population Fund United Nations (UNFPA) revealed that Mexico is the leading nation in teen pregnancies with the alarming rate of 64.2 teen pregnancies per thousand births. Generally speaking, teen pregnancies are associated with poorer living conditions and the girls receiving lower levels of education. Girls with a higher education level, with a dream for the future and with a hope of success are much less likely to get pregnant.
A few years ago I met Johanne Lalonde in one of my cooking classes. In my classes I talk a great deal about the magic of the tiny village where I live- just 25 minutes from a world-class resort area but a world away- with no telephones, internet and many households still cooking on open fire, growing their own corn and maintaining an incredible amount of self-sufficient living. The village has a kindergarten, an elementary school and a secondary school (grades 7, 8 and 9)- making it possible for children to be educated within the village until that magical age of 15.
I started to notice that while some girls continued studying to high school even though their families now had to cover transportation costs to attend the high school in a neighboring village- many did not. Many got pregnant.
While some studies point to the lack of contraceptive education or acceptance with regards to teen pregnancy. I firmly believe that education, visualization and hope of a future are much bigger factors. Young women and girls need to proactively choose their future.
From this idea, Johanne and I started a program we named ‘Sigue Estudiando’ (Keep Studying) with the goal of keeping girls in school. One girl from each grade in secondary school would receive a scholarship towards her future educational needs.
Unicef reports in their study on gender equality ‘Providing girls with an education helps break the cycle of poverty: educated women are less likely to marry early and against their will; less likely to die in childbirth; more likely to have healthy babies; and are more likely to send their children to school. When all children have access to a quality education rooted in human rights and gender equality, it creates a ripple effect of opportunity that influences generations to come.’
When we support girl’s education we are supporting not only the individuals but helping communities to break the cycle of poverty. We are in the second year of the program currently have 6 scholarship recipients and while it is early to track the success of such a program, I have no doubt that it is having a positive effect. I asked last year’s recipients to write a letter to Johanne and I was very moved when one of the young women succinctly wrote that the biggest gift, more so than the money, was the knowledge and encouragement that came from knowing someone was caring for their education.
If you are interested in helping or getting involved please contact me through The Eye.
theeyehuatulco@gmail.com
Currently I am trying to get laptops for this years recipients- if you would like to donate one or have a gently used one that you don’t use, please let me know.