This semester, Innovate@BCSW is following the experiences of four BC Social Work students who have embarked on international field education placements in Latin America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. The first blog post of 2017 comes from Samantha Williams, who is working at Universidad Iberomericana in Mexico City.
Getting Here, in Traffic
Mexico City, 5am, Monday, January 16th. I was thinking that at this hour I would breeze through immigration. Nope, there are A LOT of people in CDMX—as the city is now called—30 million of them! So, I waited, bleary-eyed, in an amorphous “line” of a few hundred people for about an hour and a half.
At about 7:30am I arrived to stay with some lovely friends of friends who are filmmakers. I slept about an hour, and at 9am left for my first day of internship! My field placement is at the Universidad Iberomericana (La Ibero), outside the city in Lomas de Santa Fe. In case you were wondering, the campus is incredible!
However, HOLY TRAFFIC! They told me it was nuts, but you really haven’t seen it til you’ve seen 30 million people all trying to get to school or work or wherever. Although I was staying just 9 miles from La Ibero, the bus commute took an hour and a half each way. On the upside, the ride either lets me satisfy my sleepy or my geography nerd side. En route you can see a stark contrast between the ritzy, heavily Americanized suburb of Santa Fe, the informal commercial district of Observatorio, the more touristy neighborhoods of Roma Sur and La Condesa, and the small hilltop neighborhoods and shanty-towns in between. However, after one week with the filmmakers, I wanted to be closer to the bus to La Ibero, and found a long-term room in the neighborhood of Hipódromo, which borders the artsy, international, touristy La Condesa. Next mission: learn more about the neighborhoods I pass on the way to my placement AND figure out how to do some art!
Inauguration Day Adventures
I am sure my fellow Global Practice colleagues had unique experiences the day of Trump’s inauguration, but I got to do what my friends and I like to call Protest Therapy. I found out about a protest happening outside of the US Embassy in Mexico City, and when I got there, the crowd was a really inspiring mix of workers’ rights groups, liberal political parties, US and Canadian citizens, spanning all ages from teenagers to octogenarians. In all, about two thousand of us marched from the embassy to the Zócalo (or central square), about 3 miles, shouting things like “No US intervention in Latin America!,” and “La clase obrera es una sin fronteras!” (The working class has no borders!). When I expressed awe at the conflagration, the person I was marching with said, nonchalantly, “Yeah, that’s pretty much how these things always end…” (wow!). It makes total sense that there is a huge movement in Mexico in response to the election, but it was really something to see it firsthand. I was feeling both so close and so distant from things happening back home, and being in this crowd was a formative important experience for me to have had my first week here. It also just goes to show that all eyes really are on the United States, and that we as representatives of our country, our field, and our school, have to hold ourselves to a high standard and be able to engage in the tough conversations with people who, rightfully, want some answers.