Friday, July 25, 2014

International Business and Global Citizenship

CGE is pleased to announce an addition to our fall program offerings in Mexico - International Business and Global Citizenship.

Over the past five years, we have offered many business courses and, most recently, these business courses were part of a specialized academic track within CGE's Crossing Borders fall study abroad program. Recent enrollment has shown that these courses are some of our most popular, so we decided to strengthen the courses even further - and offer an intentional International Business and Global Citizenship program!

The following business courses are offered in this Mexico study abroad program

  • Accounting Theory & Practice I (Accounting 322)
  • Business Spanish (Spanish 220)
  • Global Business Management: Mexico and Other Emerging Markets (Business 461)
  • International Business (Business 362)
  • International Marketing (Marketing 466)
  • Internship or Independent Research (Business/Marketing 399/499)
  • Vocation and the Meaning of Success (Keystone 490)
As with all CGE programs, experiential learning outside the classroom is a critical component of the International Business and Global Citizenship semester.  Students will tour the facilities of multinational corporations, discuss trade issues with political representatives, meet with business leaders in both Cuernavaca and Mexico City, and explore emerging trends in corporate social responsibility.  Homestays and group living at our study center are both components.

Visit our program page and apply online.  You can also contact Jessica Haas at for more information.  

Art for Social Change and the Environmental Problems in our Backyard

This week we took the summer students on two very interesting visits: one to the workshop of Alejandro Aranda, a local artist, and an ecotour of the ravines and waterfalls in the San Antón neighborhood (where the CGE study center is located and where most of our students are living with host families).

Alejandro Aranda greeted us in his beautiful house, which is full of his own artwork, from paintings and prints to a wall that he painted with his daughter to look like a pre-Hispanic cave painting.

He also showed us the workshop in his home where he creates all of his art, and he let us use the printing press to make copies of a print he had made.
Alejandro shows Nora how to use the printing press
Alejandro shows Sari how to use the printing press

Nora showing off her print
Alejandro talked to us about how he became an artist and how he uses his art as a tool for social change. He grew up in a small town in the nearby state of Guerrero. He didn’t have access to art museums or galleries, so his first contact with art was in the local Catholic church, where he spent hours admiring the frescoes, paintings, and sculptures. As a teenager, he moved to Cuernavaca to study art, but he says that an equally important part of his education at that time was his involvement in social movements—movements for workers’ rights, indigenous rights, etc. He thinks it’s important not to create art just for art’s sake but to use art for a social and political purpose. His art depicts the current situation in Mexico, rooted in Mexico's historical context, and his art treats issues like immigration, environmental destruction, and globalization. In addition to the messages portrayed in his artwork, he has used his art in concrete ways to contribute to social movements. For example, he sold some of his art and donated the proceeds to the Zapatista movement for indigenous rights in Chiapas (southern Mexico), and he also created a variety of posters and pamphlets for the Zapatistas’ marches. He recently created a painting of the U.S.-Mexico border to be used on postcards that a low-cost legal immigration services agency in the D.C. area sells in order to raise funds for their organization. Our students really enjoyed hearing Alejandro’s perspective on Mexican history and politics and seeing his art and his workshop.

Students with Alejandro in his living room
In addition to learning about art and social movements, we wanted to help our students understand some of the environmental issues that Cuernavaca faces, so we had a local guide, Emmanuel, take us on an ecotour of the waterfalls in the neighborhood. Emmanuel has long been involved in environmental movements in the area and even helped start a recycling program in the San Antón neighborhood when he was a teenager. He’s also an important community leader in San Antón. He talked about the main environmental issues plaguing Cuernavaca: poor city planning and contamination of the rivers and ravines. Cuernavaca has many ravines, and the poorest people tend to live at the bottom of the ravines, where they do not have access to trash pickup. Businesses and residents also often dump trash in the ravines, contaminating the streams and rivers. Something I’ve noticed while living here is that people often litter because trash cans are few and far between, or bags of trash are left on the sidewalk for days at a time because trash pickup is spotty at best. And while there are some recycling centers, they are not common, and recycling isn’t an ingrained habit as it is for some people in the U.S., and it's not easy to find a recycling bin (unless you're at the CGE center!). 

Emmanuel showed us the Salto Chico de San Antón (the Small Waterfall of San Antón), which used to be open to the public for swimming and relaxing, and you could also walk on a series of hanging bridges. It’s now closed, and it’s full of trash that ends up there after floating down the river. It’s really a shame, because this waterfall could be a beautiful place for families to swim and relax, but now it’s completely contaminated. Emmanuel said that the government, because of corruption and apathy, does not seem motivated to address these environmental problems, so citizen groups have had to step in and take measures that the government should take, but they don’t have the power or the resources to make changes on a large scale. 

- Grace Lundergan, International Residential Assistant

Friday, July 18, 2014

There's a Baby in the CGE Community!

Past students may remember Karla Vargas, our wonderful Latin Dance teacher. In addition to being a great dancer, Karla is patient and enthusiastic when teaching complicated new steps to students who may have no dance background at all. Our students from this spring probably remember her giving classes while she was quite pregnant, so we wanted to give everyone an update on her baby. On July 15, Karla gave birth to Angel, her second child. Ann, our director, went with Cristi Vargas (Karla’s aunt and a CGE host mom, masseuse, etc.) to visit the new baby, so we have a few pictures to share.

Cristi with her great-nephew Angel

Ann with Angel

Karla with her daugher Yelena and her son Angel

Karla with her husband (Israel), her daughter (Yelena) and her son (Angel)
Please join us in saying “Felicidades” (Congratulations) to Karla and her husband!

-Grace Lundergan, International Residential Assistant 

Monday, July 7, 2014

Puebla, the City of Churches

This past Saturday our students had the chance to visit Puebla, a town about 3 hours from Cuernavaca, as part of their art history class. Puebla is the fourth-largest city in Mexico. It’s known for its churches and beautiful architecture, and it’s a popular place for study abroad students from the U.S. During the colonial era, Hernán Cortés vowed to build 365 churches in Puebla—one for each day of the year.  No one is exactly sure if all of these churches were built, and it’s clear that not all of them have survived, but both Puebla and the nearby town of Cholula are full of churches.

The first church we visited was in Cholula, which is known as a Pueblo Mágico (“Magical Town”), a town that attracts tourists because of its architecture and therefore receives special designation from the government as a site that must be protected (somewhat similar to a UNESCO World Heritage Site). This church is called Santa María Tonantzintla, which means “place of our little mother” in Nahuatl. Tonantzin was the earth goddess in Nahua culture, similar to a Mother Earth figure. The church was decorated in the Mexican baroque style, and every inch of the interior is decorated with ornate designs. Carlos helped students recognize the indigenous symbols that were cleverly ingrained in the designs.

The exterior of the Tonantzintla church -- you're not allowed to
take pictures inside. 

Next we went to the Great Pyramid of Cholula, a site where the Spanish destroyed part of an existing pyramid and built a church on top of it. The pyramid was one of the largest of its time. We weren’t able to enter the church because they were having a special Mass—people from a nearby village had brought a cross to hang in the church, and the cross bearers (all women) were dressed all in white. It was interesting to observe part of the festival, and we were also able to enjoy great views of Cholula and Puebla from the church.

Nuestra Señora de los Remedios, the church on top of the pyramid

Summer students, intern Grace and Professor Carlos

views from the church

the church on top of a pyramid
As we were leaving the pyramid, we also got to see voladores (literally, flyers). This is a pre-Hispanic fertility ritual that originated in Veracruz: traditional dancers climb to the top of a pole, tie themselves to it, then launch themselves off the top, upside down, and spin in circles. It's not for the faint of heart -- just watching it makes some people nervous!

the voladores

We then went to downtown Puebla, where we had some time to explore and try the cuisine Puebla is famous for (namely, mole sauce, and also tacos árabe, which are tacos made with pita bread, as well as cemitas, sandwiches stuffed full of meat and cheese). We also visited the Capilla del Rosario inside of the Templo de Santo Domingo. The chapel is made entirely of gold, and it is quite impressive. As we were leaving the church, we saw a teenaged girl arriving for her quinceañera Mass (a Mexican coming-of-age celebration) with her attendants in a Hummer limousine! 

Capilla del Rosario
Capilla del Rosario
quinceañera limo outside the Templo de Santo Domingo

This was my first time visiting Puebla, and I really enjoyed it. It’s a really beautiful city, and the downtown district is very well laid-out and pedestrian-friendly. The trip gave students the chance to see a different Mexican city, learn more about Mexican history, and observe both pre-Hispanic and contemporary cultural traditions. 

-Grace Lundergan, International Residential Assistant

Monday, June 30, 2014

Summer Learning in Cuernavaca

Last week our summer students heard from Xochitl Ramirez, who works for Atzin, a community development organization. Atzin does a lot of work in the isolated rural community of Tlamacazapa, which is located about 2 hours from Cuernavaca in the state of Guerrero. Xochitl shared with us the many problems that Tlamacazapa faces—extreme poverty, lack of jobs, domestic violence, low literacy levels, alcoholism, polluted drinking water—as well as the important work Atzin is doing to improve the situation, such as empowering women and girls, training teachers, and creating income-generating projects for women. Xochitl also shared her own personal story with us, explaining how she overcame a difficult childhood and escaped an abusive husband through the help of Atzin. She has since earned a college degree and her next goal is to earn a master’s degree.

In addition to hearing from inspiring speakers like Xochitl, our students have also had the opportunity to see important cultural, archeological and architectural sites in Mexico through their art history class. They recently visited the huge, world-renowned Museo de Antropología (Anthropology Museum) in Mexico City and Taxco, a town known for its architecture and silver products. 

Volkswagen taxis in Taxco

the main cathedral in Taxco
Some students took advantage of the trip to Mexico City to spend an extra day in the city and do some sightseeing on their own. Mexico City is one of the largest cities in the world and is full of museums, markets, restaurants of all kinds, theater, and nightlife. It is only 1.5-2 hours from Cuernavaca, and buses leave downtown Cuernavaca for Mexico City every 15 minutes, making it very accessible for our students. 

Collin in front of the Cathedral and the Templo Mayor in Mexico City
Jessie Leigh relaxing in a café in Chapultepec Park in Mexico City

- Grace Lundergan, International Residential Assistant

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Taking in the Summer Solstice at the Xochicalco Pyramids

Last week our summer students and our travel seminar group from the Methodist Theological Seminary of Ohio were able to visit the ancient pyramids of Xochicalco, located about an hour south of Cuernavaca. In addition to seeing the pyramids, we visited the observatory (basically a man-made cave), which was built so that during the weeks leading up to and including the summer solstice, you can see the sunlight coming in at noon and lighting up the cave. It was quite a spectacular sight that is hard to describe in words.
The light you see in this observatory is not a flashlight or the flash
from my camera, but rather sunlight!
Four of our summer students at Xochicalco
The Summer Spanish group

one of the seminary students enjoying the view at Xochicalco

Another highlight of last week was hearing from a mother and daughter (Erika and Eloisa) about their experiences of immigration. The family had first been separated by migration when Erika’s father went to the U.S. to work and stayed there for several years, only coming to Mexico to visit occasionally. Later, when Erika and her two siblings were grown, the mother found herself in a desperate financial situation and, without telling her kids, went to Texas, where she lived with relatives and worked two jobs for three years. She put a positive spin on her story and said that she met many nice people in the U.S. but also mentioned that the work she did (in a hotel and at a restaurant) was very difficult. Many of the speakers we have who tell their immigration stories are men, so it was interesting to hear a women’s perspective, and to hear how it feels to be the family member left behind in Mexico.

The seminary students also visited Colegio Buena Tierra, a private school for at-risk kids, and heard the principal’s personal story about why she was moved to found the school. The group also heard from a base Christian community (a grassroots Christian group) that functions as a women’s cooperative, and visited the lovely home of a Mexican businessman who talked about his values as a businessman and how he gives back to society. 

Recently our students have also been able to enjoy the Feria de San Antón (the Fair of San Antón). The CGE house is located in the neighborhood of San Antón (Saint Anthony), and last Friday was the saint day for Saint Anthony. This was celebrated with a parade with chinelos (traditional dancers from Morelos), people wearing huge papier-mache costumes (as you can see in the photo) and lively music. The street was full of food vendors, games, and rides, and it was even more lively at night. My favorite part was the flame throwers’ show—it was quite impressive! The fair lasted for a few days, and one downside of having it so close to the house was the constant sound of firecrackers and church bells at all hours of the day! 

the flame throwers
-Grace Lundergan, International Residential Assistant

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Methodists in Mexico

The group visits the studio of a local artist, Marcial Camilo
We are currently hosting a travel seminar group from Methodist Theological School of Ohio. We periodically host short-term groups (which may be church groups, college groups, etc.) who come here for 1-2 weeks to learn about a specific topic, and sometimes their trip is part of a class and they earn academic credit for it. This group is learning about cross-cultural ministry by learning about Mexican culture and Mexican religious life. They are hearing from theologians, activists, artists and scholars. For example, a local indigenous artist who has paintings in the Smithsonian showed us his studio and talked about his work and his inspiration. Feminist activist Alicia Arines talked about her community organizing work and how she overcame a difficult childhood and an abusive husband and is now working towards her high school diploma. 

one of Marcial's paintings

crafts made by Marcial's family -- traditional indigenous pottery
as well as U.S.-influenced skulls
On Sunday we took the group to a traditional festival in the small community of San Pablo, near Mexico City. It was Pentecost Sunday and also the feast day of San Pablo (Saint Paul), and people from other villages (including Amatlán, where the group will do a one-night rural homestay) made a pilgrimage to San Pablo. It took us a little over two hours to drive to San Pablo—about an hour on the highway and then an hour crawling up the mountain on a smaller road, delayed for a little while by a tree that had fallen in the middle of the road—but those who did the pilgrimage from Amatlán walked for 7-8 hours.

In San Pablo, we went to Mass, and the students were able to observe the cultural concept of polychromic time firsthand. In polychromic time, time is more often governed by seasons and weather than by a clock, and many activities can happen at once. 

the interior of the church, decorated for the festival

the outside of the church, where the festival was going on
While we were in the church, straining to hear the priest, fireworks were being set off and an entire festival was raging just outside the church. Later, we were able to walk around and take in the sights and sounds of a festival—pastries and other snacks being sold, games and pony rides for kids, bands playing, traditional dances being performed. 

a traditional dance
We also went to several families’ homes to eat. These families had opened their homes to people from Amatlan and set up lots of tables to serve delicious meals, from chicken with rich mole sauce and tamales to traditional drinks like tequila and pulque. In order to avoid refusing food when we were full (and offending our hosts), we brought Tupperware containers with us so that we could bring home leftovers. (This is perfectly socially acceptable and seen as much more polite than refusing food.) It was a chilly, rainy day, but the group really enjoyed the day and said, “Thanks for inviting us to this great party!” They were also able to observe the traditions of a mostly indigenous town and see how indigenous beliefs are fused with Catholicism.

Tomorrow we will take the MTSO group and the Summer Spanish students to see the pyramids of Xochicalco at a special time of year when the sun hits the pyramids in a certain way because of the Summer Solstice. During the rest of their trip, the MTSO group will hear from migrants and church leaders and will spend a few days in Mexico City staying at a Methodist seminary and visiting a migrant shelter and various churches.