Friday, February 5, 2010

Born In A Cave...

02/02,03,04/10 (UNOFFICIAL) Field Report from Guapalayna, Mex. (pop. 420)

Rain, two days now, no sign of letting up, it's a cold rain. At first it cuts the dry dust then it makes a lot of mud. Surrounding the town are the mountains (the largest of which is "Cero Blanco") where the Raramuri live (exact pop. unknown, estimate is 2,000 on Cero Blanco and immediately surrounding mountains; total pop. throughout region est. much higher).

This morning we (Omar, a local health care worker - in whose mother's (Anita) house we are staying - Suzy, RN and MPH candidate who is here for six months to begin a maternal and neo-natal health care training program among the Raramuri, and me) hiked up the mountain (In the rain) to do a health check on a few families.

Footnote No. 1: In order to provide health care delivery to the Raramuri who live in the mountains, Omar has to hike up the mountain to do home visits. The average distance is about a 6 hour hike. He is on the mountain for 20 days per month.

Footnote No. 2: I am reserving bragging rights for the hiking which is pushing my fear of heights and for that matter general fear of injury to the limit - today's hike began at 8:00 AM and finished at 2:20 PM - 1,500 foot ascent - if you fall it's all bad run out (i.e. nothing to stop you if you go over the cliff).

Footnote No. 3: Anita's house could (maybe) be described (paradoxically) as "plush primitive" meaning it is both more plush and at the same time more primitive than one would expect (e.g. the house has toilets but no toilet seats.)

On the hike-in-the-rain we visited three families: One family lives in a one room adobe house, they sleep on the dirt floor on a blanket. The next family we visited live under two tarps with an outdoor fire-pit around which they were sitting (in the rain). The third family live in a cave (they have many children; the youngest a new born - one month old). These are not homeless people - these are their homes and they are not small families. The adobe house was dry and filled with smoke; the tarp home was useless against the rain; the cave was dry. The main apparent characteristics of the general living conditions of the Raramuri on the mountain are (a) inadequate basics (food, shelter, sanitation); what appears to be a very serious and extensive alcohol problem and what is called in urban America "babies having babies".

Footnote No. 4: The Raramuri make their own corn based alcoholic beverage known as "Tesquino". It is basically grain alcohol and it is everywhere.

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