In the isolated Montaña Alta region of Guerrero, in the poorest county in Mexico, is the community of San Miguel Amoltepec. Six hundred Ñu Savi Mixteca, known as “people of the rain,” live here. They have a rich culture of community service — mayordomas prepare community celebrations and, through the tradition of “faena,” people serve their community as volunteers. Community members count on each other for support; few outsiders come to this remote area and access to services is very limited.
Despite these strong cultural bonds, the realities of life are hard. On average, people have just 1.7 years of schooling and girls routinely get married at age 12. Heroin is grown here as part of the drug trade and violence is a constant threat. Climate change and soil degradation have made this community even more vulnerable — in 2013, a hurricane destroyed homes, farms and micro businesses, crushing their homes, sources of incomes and their hope.
Through the ongoing ministry of Manuel Acuña Velazquez, pastor of the local Methodist Church, things are starting to change. As Manuel’s relationships in the community led to trust and open dialogue, community members began to share their hopes and dreams for being a place where life is not so precarious, where safety and dignity are a given, where children have the opportunity to learn, and where families thrive. In response, Manuel connected the community to Amextra, a non-profit that fosters community leadership and organizing by listening, building relationships, facilitating community dialogue and providing technical support.
Over time, the community has committed itself to making their dream a reality. They are moving past relief and learning how to grow their own vegetables and fruit, raise chickens and run small businesses. Women have formed their own sewing groups and, with Amextra’s support, are selling traditional, handmade huipiles in Mexico City.
Through Amextra’s discussion groups, people are recognizing the importance of foresight – in particular, they want to be prepared for the next hurricane. Together they are learning disaster management techniques and have started planting trees and using environmentally friendly agriculture techniques. Slowly, they are finding the stability that they have dreamed of. Celia reflects, “My life and my family changed in 2013 after the hurricanes. From one day to the next, we lost the stability and tranquility that we had.” Income generating opportunities have made a huge difference in being able to provide for her 10 children and have given her the space to dream about what might be for the community. She shares, “With the money that I earn selling blouses and napkins, I can buy things to eat for my family, that motivates me and I feel supported.”