Mexico Trek!   Trekkers DISPATCH: September 15 Silvia's Log

How students become leaders

I have been many times now to the Zocalo (the central plaza) here in Mexico City. There is always so much activity here. Today I had the pleasure of meeting Cecilia Ramirez Guerrero and Raquel Mendez Cabello. They were spending time together at the Zocalo this morning, sitting and watching people walk by.Cecilia Ramirez Guerrero and Raquel Mendez Cabello

They are studying to be Veterinarians at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). They donít have classes until the afternoon, so we started talking. And I naturally got them on the topic of social movements and how youth can make changes in society!

Just a few feet away from us was the booth selling books about Chiapas and the civil war there, as well as handing out pamphlets written by the Zapatistas promoting their cause. (For more in the Zapatistas, see "Tragedy in Chiapas, Part 2.") Raquel tells me, "If it werenít for Chiapas, there wouldnít be any campaigns going on here. Rallying about Chiapas has become a fad. At the University thereís a collection center for clothes, food, etc. to be sent to Chiapas, and people hear about that, but thereís not a strong awareness of other issuesÖ people just arenít aware of whatís happening in our communities."

Why is it that students arenít more involved in community issues? "First people have to be aware of whatís happening, but here thereís a lot of censorship. Governments donít want citizens to be aware because itís not in its own interest. Itís convenient to have most of the population remain ignorant because that way itís easy to lead and manipulate the masses," Cecilia says.

"There should be preventative campaigns. We know there are droughts at certain times of the year, we know that certain provinces need foodstuffs. What we should do is send the needed materials slowly but continuously before a disaster occurs, and not wait until it blows up into an emergency." She then spoke of the 1985 earthquake that caused so much damage in Mexico City, and how the people organized themselves to help each other out. "Only in disasters do people spontaneously come together, itís as if the adrenaline rush is what wakes up everyone to help. Itís exciting to help in an emergency, but we need to CREATE LEADERS to have community involvement all along, instead of just when something extraordinary happens. We donít have enough leaders. They should give presentations, host debates, and invite people to help design projects," suggests Cecilia.

So how do we develop leaders in our societies? Raquel believes that "whatís most important is education. An educated individual has the knowledge to create whatever one wants to, given that one has the character to be able to do so and remained determined." Cecilia says that "children are sheltered from knowing what the real problems facing our society are. It is as though children are in their own protected world and only adults deal with problems. We should show youth what the challenges our societies face are so they can help solve themÖ [The learning] can be made fun, like a board game with pictures, so children will pay attention and actually learn something, not just pass time. Bring these societal issues to their level. They can understand. Children donít need to be so sheltered, they must know what happens around them because someday they will be independent."

For all of The Odyssey fans, Ceciliaís parting words are:

"From a young age, read and learn so others canít manipulate you. Thatís how you will become a leader as an adult and not be apathetic. Donít be another sheep of the flock, but dare to stand out. Study."
Remember what Raquel thinks:
"An educated individual has the knowledge to create whatever one wants to."

Questions to think about:
        What do you think makes a strong leader?
        How can you find out about the issues your community faces?
        Who is a leader that you admire and why?
Share your message on The Odyssey Message Board!

-Silvia

Related Dispatches: 
Silvia - How students become leaders
Silvia - The People Have Spoken... Finally


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