American volunteers deliver aid to villagers in the mountains of Chihuahua

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Children’s faces lit up when they saw pickups carrying bicycles, balls, and toys pull into the village of Siquirichi, Chihuahua, Mexico. But what lifted the spirits of Genoveva Cruz were the jackets. That meant the children at her school would no longer be shivering on cold days and nights.

“They are very useful for the kids because they feel the cold in the dormitories and then in the cafeteria in the morning. The (walls) are stone, so they are cold when the children go to the cafeteria and when they go to sleep,” the teacher at Miguel Hidalgo Elementary said.

The gifts arrived just before Christmas from a group of American volunteers from Colorado, New Mexico, El Paso, Fort Bliss, and Horizon City. It is a bond that is slowly growing beyond a once-a-year visit. The group brought foodstuffs because the fall harvest turned out thin and there’s talk about coming back to build decent bathrooms for the school.

“If we could build bathrooms inside the dormitories, they would not have to walk outside (in the cold) to the latrines. It’s a long way,” Cruz said. “Also, there is no place to bathe […] We have a lot of needs in the dormitories, in the kitchen because the children stay at the school, they live with us here. And blankets. We need new ones because they are old and the children suffer the cold.”

The school, the village, and the region are home to hundreds of Indigenous Tarahumara families. The 2020 Mexican census identified 110,000 people in Chihuahua who speak Indigenous languages, including 86,033 Tarahumaras. Most of them, up to 84%, live in poverty, according to nonprofits. Many live in isolated communities in the mountains of Western and Southern Chihuahua.

The school takes in children from half a dozen outlying villages several kilometers away. Some families place what they treasure most – their children – in the care of Cruz during school days. Others are content to let them walk back and forth every day.

Heriberto Bautista Palma was happy to get a sturdy blue bicycle from the volunteers. Now his commute to school will be cut in half.

“I make one hour coming to school. With the bike maybe 20 minutes or half an hour. I come to school very tired, I don’t want to do anything because I’m too tired,” Bautista said. The young man concurs with his teacher that the school is a second home and somewhat of a lifeline for children in the region.

“We don’t have too much food (at home). At school they give me food,” he said.

The adults and some of the older children welcomed their visitors by performing traditional dances in full ceremonial garb.

For Luis Trujillo Olaya, a native of Colombia now living in Greeley, Colorado, delivering food, clothes, and toys to the village is both humbling and gratifying.

“It’s very satisfying to see all the kids and the adults – the happiness they show when they receive their coats, their food. It is a drop in the bucket to improving their quality of life,” Trujillo said. “One gives them gifts and they are bashful at first, then you see they are happy. You can see their innocence and that is beautiful. We leave with a better knowledge of their culture.”

Karol Escalera, a student at the University of Texas at El Paso, explained that the volunteers spend part of the year soliciting donations for the Tarahumaras, then make the 10-12 hour drive to deliver them.

“We feel thankful for the people of Juarez and El Paso who helped us a lot. We met our goal, we exceeded the goal. To come here and see the faces of all the kids and families who (spent) a good Christmas because of those donations is beautiful,” she said.

Source: Border Report

The Chihuahua Post