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Published: April 29th 2007
hello from maggie's world!
(sorry cameron. yes, i did copy and paste this from the email I sent you yesterday. hope you'll forgive me)
well, here i am in a town called Comitan. yep, i abandoned San Cristobal because it just wasnt working out there and here everything just seemed to fall into place. i am doing my 1 month independent study project with an organization called Educacion para la paz (Edupaz) and in particular about their Economia Solidaria program which gives microcredit loans to small cooperatives and groups. So far i've interviewed an ecotourism cooperative, a coffee cooperative , a carpintry group, a family with a chicken farm, two women with clothing sales businesses, and a man with a wood purchase/sale business - all groups that have received EDUPAZ microcredit loans. so many interesting stories between all of those, and just thinking of all the different challenges they face, on so many different levels. it reminds me a lot of my photo project with the immigrant farmworkers - after interviewing all these people i feel so compelled and obligated to tell their story and put my whole heart into doing that. the only issue here is that i
have to put in my analysis too, rather than just letting the words speak for themselves...
this analysis is particularly important after hearing mexican author and intellectual Gustavo Esteva's response to my question: "What is your opinion of microcredit?" His response is best summed up in his final sentence: "Microcredit is terrible." He says that he had a microcredit program in his own ngo and that people became addicted to the credit, at times selling their cows or chickens to pay off their debt...ending up worse off than they had started. He also explained it as another mechanism to pull the campesinos into the capitalist system.
i never thought microcredit was the solution from heaven, but imagine after hearing that response how discouraged i felt...i meant this was THE gustavo esteva, in person, telling me that what i wanted to research is terrible.
ok, but then i started to think about it, and realized that, hey, thats his opinion and his experience, lets see if it holds true, lets see what the true problematica of microcredit is. and then i found Edupaz, and they were already so critical of what they do, to the point where they
this was the first day of the "appropriate technologies" workshop and we had a blessing ceremony of the site. the 13 white candles symbolize our plee of pardon to the gods. the yellow candle and yellow flowers means the pillar of the universe, nature, weather, animals. The white candle and flowers signify death, the color of bone, the white barbarian northerner who always brings pain and suffering. the red candle and flowers is where the sun rises, or life begins, and the black candle (practically melted, opposite red) signifies where the sun sets and we cross over to a new life. the blue candle in the center means water, and the green, earth.
said "we aren't even sure what we are doing is the right answer". ademas, the organization itself is so much more integral than the other orgs i was looking at before. they have a traditional health program and an agroecology program. so i came here, and now i live in the apartment above the office. i've been doing a lot of transcribing, typing up my interviews today and yesterday because I did 7 interviews this week. and I also went to this awesome community called Tziscao near the Guatemalan border, where Edupaz was teaming up with Solar Energy International and IRRI Mexico to do a workshop called "Appropriate Technologies for the Developing World" about solar panels, solar cookers, water treatment, biodigestors, etc. - very cool! i translated the first day (sooo tiring!) and then just hung around a few days more, going to the lessons, and doing my interviews in the free time.
And now I'm here in the Edupaz office, analyzing and being pensive, until I have some more interviews this week with microcredit groups in a town called Carranza. The town was one of the first to receive Edupaz loans, and is still having trouble paying those
loans back (some groups are 2 or 3 years behind). So it will definetly show the challenges within the microcredit program. But before I do that, I have to go to San Cristobal tomorrow to renew my visa! woohoo. Supposedly it is a very annoying process (i think i have to make a copy of EVERY single page of my passport..yep, the blank pages too). But hopefully that all works out because I don't think i'm quite ready to come home yet 😉
all my love,
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