It’s been almost a month since our return from Chiapas, Mexico. Now that the busyness of classes, jobs, and life are back in full swing, it feels like a perfect time to reflect back to our trip: the initial goal we set, what we learned, and how we are seeing that play out in our new community of LCM leaders.
Last fall as we were deciding where we would travel, what community we would explore, and what goal we would set, we were feeling heavy. Heavy with the recent shootings, heavy with all of the social injustice in our community and around the world, and heavy as a community of predominately white students trying to figure out our role in the midst of it all. We decided to explore a community that had experienced a history of violence, with the goal of learning how to maintain a sense of hopefulness in the midst of violence and struggle. We landed on the community of Nuevo Paraíso – a community in Chiapas that had experienced a mass shooting at the hands of the paramilitary and a history of struggle in the midst of the Zapatista movement in the 1990s. This community had quickly gone from a place of relative security, to living on the side of a highway without any land or resources to support themselves. Now after connecting with an organization called Amextra, they are making payments on their own piece of land, building their own homes and planting crops as a community.
After a filled week of spending time in Nuevo Paraíso, talking with community members, exploring Chiapas outside of Nuevo Paraíso, and trying to fully process everything we were experiencing, we were able to identify three specific things we had learned. The first was the importance of genuinely checking in with others. It was a busy and complex week, and as much as we wanted to keep going and going, we had to remember to take a step back and ask each other how we were doing – for real. The second was the importance of investing time and energy into a community. On our last morning in Nuevo Paraíso, one of the community members stated that just feeling seen by people from outside of the community was hopeful for them. Finally, we learned the importance of vulnerability, honesty, and acceptance in a group. Things do not always go as planned and life can get complex, but existing in a community that accepts brokenness and pain, and being comfortable bringing those difficult things to the table is hugely important.
We unfortunately were not able to travel to Chiapas with the entire leader team, but it has been awesome already seeing these things we learned play out amongst our community of leaders. The community this year has already embraced our LCM value of being “real”. People show up how they are, bring their true selves to the table, and genuinely ask each other how they are doing in the midst of challenges and stress. This community also holds each other up by investing time and energy to each other, and really caring for one another. It feels that LCM returners and newcomers alike feel welcomed, valued, and hopeful when students invest in one another. Finally, this community of leaders is embracing the importance of being vulnerable, honest, and accepting. Vulnerable about what they know and still have questions about, honest about their opinions, and accepting of those who think alike and those who think differently.
We recognize that the learning and processing does not stop here. We need to continue processing as a community what this all looks like for us in the context of the broader Twin Cities community and our world, but for now, are energized about the passion of each leader and growing together as a community.
Kaitlin Mork and Emily Mentz