In the State of Oaxaca, six hours from the capital city, down a windy, mountainous road, past villages where time seems to stand still, is the very distinct city of Juchitan de Zaragoza. Known as “the little waist of Mexico,” Juchitan is located in the Isthmus, a 120 square mile section of land that separates the Pacific from the Atlantic. It is recognizable for its fashion, made famous by Frida Kahlo — elaborately designed dresses, long braids, rings on many fingers, and gold necklaces. It is a place with a unique and fiercely independent spirit, famous for its liberal stance on women’s rights and LGBT acceptance, as well as resistance to imperialism and modern day globalization. It is home to a diverse mix of ethnicities, including Zapotec, Mixtec, Chinantec and Mestizo peoples from across Mexico. It is also home to the Selva Zoque, the largest remaining area of tropical rainforest in Mexico, which holds the majority of its terrestrial biodiversity. Sadly, such richness has been darkened by corruption, abuse of power and violence, further exacerbated by poverty and racial and economic exclusion. In Juchitan, it is always windy: both literally and figuratively.
In this context, Centro de Compartamiento (CDC) has deliberately set up shop. Translated as the Center for Sharing, it is a safe place for people to come together to know themselves and each other more deeply, to find meaningful connection and purpose, and to grow through community and service. Rather than succumb to the fear, anger and despair that whirls around them, CDC trains servant leaders to approach the world from a place of worthiness, to know that they are made in God’s image with a purpose, and to seek out that purpose in community and serve others.
Women from the broader community who desire to live and lead in a different way attend servant leadership trainings here, slowly giving rise to a cadre of leaders who will stand together to challenge the culture. Indigenous girls from rural communities live on site and have the opportunity to finish high school and go to college, something that typically no one else in their family or village has ever done. They too experience what it means to live as a community: sharing their stories and healing together and holding each other accountable as they strive to ascertain their purpose and become servant leaders wherever they are called to be.
As Maylit reflects, “CDC has played an important role in my life. They received me with love, protection, a home and a family. I arrived here broken, but now I’m in the process of healing. I have the tools to overcome violence and live with peace, harmony and dialogue, a very different vision than when I arrived.”