Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Mexico lindo y querido

I'm back on Mexican soil. I still feel in a daze--not exactly sure where I am or what time it is. The journey back home has been full of reflection. During my stay in Kenya and especially during the last days of the trip I met some amazing Kenyans who have opened my eyes and heart. The children are pure love, and I can't count the number of times that locals made it a point to say "Welcome to Kenya." I was blessed to make some deep friendships with people there who have shown me as poet Maya Angelou says, "we are more alike than unalike."

It was interesting to hear some of the ideas that Kenyans had about the US and Mexico. Some thought Mexico City was in the US, others quickly identified mariachi music and films such as Desperado. Some saw my conference name tag which read, "Nancy Flores--Mexico" and immediately asked if I was catholic. The catholic community in Kenya is strong, in fact, next to our hotel there was a huge catholic bookstore the size of any Barnes and Noble. Some thought that college graduates in the US had a job in their field was lined up for them. But perhaps the most surprising was that Mexican novelas air on Kenyan television. Kenyans often identified soap operas such as "Camila" and "Esmeralda." I kept trying to assure them that we are really not as dramatic as those soaps make us out to be!

Issues of poverty, crime and HIV still plague the country, but I met so many hardworking and dedicated community organizers working within the movement toward social change. Homosexuality in Nairobi is illegal, and couples can be arrested for any public displays of affection. I met some gay/lesbian organizers who had to name their advocacy groups something generic to avoid any unwanted attention from the authorities. Advocates from Uganda told me this had led to many suicides, especially among young people. They told the story of a girl whose classmates began spreading rumors about her sexuality. She had come to talk to the organization about what it meant to be lesbian and was trying to understand how to handle the situation. But rumors at her school became vicious and one by one her friends were abandoning her. Eventually she decided to overdose, leaving a sad note behind about coming to terms with her sexuality.

I'm not sure that conferences such as the World Social Forum offer answers to the struggles of peoples. But I know that it definitely sparked discussions that are necessary in order to take a first step toward solidarity.

I'll be catching up on some blogs from the trip in future posts since I didn't have regualar Internet access during my last days in Nairobi.

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