Last year, Catherine Suarez traveled with Global Exchange on our annual Day of the Dead trip to Oaxaca, Mexico from October 29 to November 6, 2014. Catherine is a Spanish Instructor at Las Positas College in Livermore, California, and she has shared some of her thoughts with us here about her experience. This year’s trip will take place from October 28 to November 5, 2015.
Our trip with Global Exchange to Oaxaca, Mexico was more than a typical educational opportunity. The participants were able to actively participate in many authentic aspects of everyday Oaxacan life associated with the preparation for the Days of the Dead. In addition, the group experienced social processes and was able to participate in meetings and workshops about sustainability, indigenous people’s human rights and the historical importance of corn in the Valley of Oaxaca.
Our group leader, Juan de Dios Gómez Ramírez, a Doctor of Sociology, provided us with much more than the basic information about the Valley of Oaxaca, its people and their social struggles. The level of information and the way in which it was delivered resembled a college-level course. I purchased a notebook in the Mexico City airport “in case I needed to take a few notes”. By the end of the study/travel program, I had completely filled the notebook with information that I cannot wait to incorporate into my lessons and future presentations.
We met with several authors and also attended a week-long Book Fair in the Zocalo where we were able to take part in workshops, presentations by authors from different states of Mexico, Cuba and South America, and search for rare and difficult-to-find books. For example, I have been researching Afro Caribbean Peoples, including Afro Cubans, Afro Puerto Ricans, Afro Dominicans and Afro Mexicans. I was able to purchase several books about Afro Cubans and Afro Mexicans at the fair. The Book Fair was dedicated to the memories of Mexican author José Agustín and Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez.
At around midnight on November 1st, while we were in the cemetery, one observer commented that he “will never view death the same way again.” I think that he spoke for many of the people in the cemetery that night. If I could edit his quote, I would add that our group will “never think about human rights and the importance of sustainability, especially corn, for the people of the state of Oaxaca the same way again.”
There are still spots remaining on this year’s Day of the Dead trip to Oaxaca, from October 28 – November 5, 2015! Space is limited, so don’t delay if you want to experience one of the most famous Day of the Dead celebrations in the Americas.