Somehow I have ended up on a plane back to the USA. It always comes more quickly than I expect. I suppose that a very important part of this literal and educational journey we’ve shared is the return home and how we process and implement our experience.

This was such a rich, full week. I’m so grateful to the many different people who shared their luchas (struggles) and their pursuits of justice; it takes some grace and trust to open their homes or hearts to share of themselves with the strangers from the norte. We heard some very graphic recounting of incidents- rapes, beatings, low-intensity warfare- and yet it was really wonderful to reflect with our small groups today on those places we are seeing the contrast– hope and life despite these oppressive forces.

My group created colorful images and phrases to pick out their various points of “light”- smiles from people, national and international volunteers committed to working with the communities, the strength and inclusiveness of communities like the Zapatistas, Artisans Cooperatives like the women in Cuentepec and the Artesans Unidos, and more. These images were arranged in a caracol (shell), bearing many symbolisms from our week here.

The Zapatistas have regional centers cities called caracoles from which they listen to peoples’ needs and communal wants and then start to work towards meeting them. With the Zapatista (a majority of whom have indigenous roots) connections to the earth and the related spirituality, this represents a bigger picture of the path of life learning a discovery.

While the rest of the general population tends to look at things from a linear perspective, a Zapatistan essayist explains their view of it as a caracol, a spiral shell where it continues and links and grows. So, too, would be those images of hope and life we saw, connected and continuing.

This has been a great team of students, from many different niches in the university and life experiences. And that made such a difference to have representation of those varied perspectives; I know it helped enrich my interpretation of these new ideas. I look forward to our sharing event and planting more seeds- by sharing our amazing week and by educating our friends and neighbors.

The strength of these people fighting for social justice is moving and I hope to be able to emulate their willingness to sacrifice and raise their voice when it matters. And I think it matters all the time. ¡Que bueno- una semana inolvidable!

– Stine Odegard