Category Archives: Mexico

Sep 12 2011

How CFCA projects worldwide celebrate Christmas, part 1

Even though it’s only September, it’s never too early to start thinking about sending your sponsored friend a Christmas card! Because mail can be slow, we recommend scheduling six to eight weeks for a letter to arrive at your friend’s project.

We interviewed several CFCA projects around the world about last year’s Christmas celebrations for sponsored friends and their families. Here are the answers from three projects: Merida, Mexico; Santa Ana, El Salvador; and Bogota, Colombia.

Sponsored children select their own gifts in a CFCA Christmas celebration in Bogota, Colombia

Sponsored friends buy their own gifts during CFCA Christmas celebrations in Bogota, Colombia.

How do you select the types of gifts for sponsored children?

Merida: When Christmas approaches, one thinks about cold days coming. Those lucky enough to live close to family take this time to meet, and those who are not as close spend time with friends. The point is to spend time with those around us.

But while this season fills us with smiles, snow, warm clothing and abundant food, Christmas is a moment of reflection. Christmas is the date when Jesus Christ was born.

Christmas is a moment of humility that fills our hearts, but not with chocolates, stuffed turkey or Christmas carols. We must open our hearts to peace, love, happiness, contentment, and give back for all the blessings we have received. Read more

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Jul 15 2011

CFCA inspires Austin sponsors to create their own path to change

As they commit their trust, hope, resources and willingness to grow, CFCA sponsors find pathways into solidarity with families living in poverty. Jack and Martha Kern are two sponsors who exemplify this relationship of solidarity. CFCA Communications Intern Marie Biggs had an opportunity to speak with the Kerns about their commitment to help young people achieve their potential through education.

Martha and Jack Kern, CFCA sponsors

Martha and Jack Kern

Jack Kern’s Catholic faith, interest in studying Spanish and time spent in Latin America made sponsoring through CFCA a natural choice for him and his wife, Martha.

With some inspiration from their experiences as CFCA sponsors, the Austin, Texas, couple later helped found a nonprofit organization that provides support to a small village in central Mexico.

Jack and Martha began sponsoring through CFCA more than 10 years ago after seeing a sponsorship table at their church.

In 2002, Jack went on a mission awareness trip to El Salvador to visit their sponsored child, Marta.

“The desire to make more of a personal connection with Marta was one of the things that prompted me to sign up to visit her in El Salvador,” Jack said in his recently published book, “Weavers of Hope ñ Una Familia Humana ñ One Human Family.” “I wanted to learn more about her life and how she and her family lived.”

In the book, Jack describes his experiences founding the nonprofit and the people that encouraged him.

Jack wrote that he felt inspired by the joy and happiness he saw in the midst of difficult living situations in El Salvador.

He was also impressed by the CFCA staff members he met and their focus on education as a tool for overcoming poverty. Read more…

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May 25 2011

CFCA scholar overcomes shyness with public speaking

Marcela is a CFCA scholar earning a business administration degree at the Instituto TecnolÛgico Superior in Felipe Carrillo Puerto, Mexico. Monthly meetings with other CFCA scholars and a group of mothers empowered her to grow comfortable with public speaking.

Marcela, CFCA scholar in Mexico

Marcela, CFCA scholar in Mexico.

In your letter, you said you were afraid of speaking in front of a group of mothers. Explain how you gradually lost your fear.

When I first entered the CFCA community, they presented me to a group of mothers. I was very nervous. I did not know them or how to deal with them.

Afterward we had another monthly meeting. I remember that the mothers formed into groups and then I went from group to group and talked to them.

Then we arranged sporting activities with the sponsored children in which all the scholarship recipients gathered on the soccer fields to play a game with the sponsored children.

After we finished playing we went to buy refreshments at the store. We talked and were very happy.

At first I was very shy and almost didnít talk to my fellow scholarship recipients, but slowly I got to know them. From then on, every month I had to prepare my monthly meeting with a partner.

The CFCA coordinator constantly asked us to have our meetings and to visit the house of each one of the sponsored children to get to know them better.

After these visits, I began to change. Now I can express my ideas freely without having to worry about what anyone might say.

Read more

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Jan 11 2011

CFCA in Mexico: ‘You want me to be your sponsor?’

Omar Zuniga of the MÈrida, Mexico, project staff sent us this heartwarming report of a friendship that began on a recent mission awareness trip in MÈrida.

The hour-long crossing that the bus was about to begin from Chun-Y· to Carrillo Puerto, Quintana Roo, made Lillian NegrÛn, sponsor of 10 children through CFCA, decide to get off to stretch her legs.

It was an impulse that, she commented afterward, was of divine origin.

Alfredo and Lillian

Alfredo, left, and Lillian meet during a mission awareness trip in MÈrida.

On getting off the bus she met Alfredo, a scholarship student from the CFCA project in MÈrida.

Alfredo has been a scholarship student for a little more than six years and has helped each sponsored child to write their letters and Christmas greetings with the dedication displayed only by teachers who work wholeheartedly at their jobs.

His dedication and excellent work for the MÈrida project has earned him a double scholarship, and he is able to support his family members in a better way.

He has been able to supply his younger brothers with shoes, school uniforms, as well as all their basic needs in the home.

Lillian asked him about his dreams and aspirations, while she was waiting for her bus to leave for its destination.

Alfredo told her that he wanted to finish preparatory school to study for a degree so that he would be able to help his parents and his brothers to have a better future.

To do this, Alfredo would have to stay in Carrillo Puerto and rent a room for students.

If he were to commute daily from his community to the city where the nearest university is, it would cost him about 110 pesos (approximately $8.93 U.S.) a day and would take him an hour and a half each way, plus all the extra expense on days when he would have to stay late at night doing homework and research.

Lillian listened to every point. Finally she surprised the young scholarship student by asking him, without further ado but with her good will, with only the least introduction of greetings and with no more contact than a glance, ìAnd do you want me to be your sponsor?î

Alfredo is an excellent scholarship student who, in the MÈrida project, had excelled and had earned the love and respect of each and every one of the staff members.

He has learned to take advantage of his talents and to focus on a future that has no limits.

Today, Alfredo is a sponsored member of the MÈrida project, and, thanks to Lillian NegrÛn, he will be able to pursue his dreams.

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Jan 6 2011

Celebrating Three Kings Day

Two CFCA projects explain the Three Kings Day celebrations taking place on Jan. 6:

Mexico

In most parts of Mexico, they believe that the Three Kings, or the Magi ó traditionally Melchor, Gaspar and Baltazar ó visit the homes at dawn on Jan. 6 to leave gifts for children who have behaved well throughout the year.

Children write letters to the Magi asking for the toys they would like. This tradition is based on the Biblical passage where the three kings brought the child Jesus gold, incense and myrrh (Matthew 2:11).

Kings Cake

Children in Cuernavaca, Mexico, wait to partake of the traditional ìRosca de Reyes,î or Kings Cake ñ a bread with sugar and crystallized fruit.

Days before Jan. 6, parents buy gifts and hide them from the children so they are surprised and believe the kings brought the gifts.

On Jan. 6, the children wake up early, impatient and thrilled to find the gifts left for them. The children play with their toys all day long with their siblings and friends.

Families, offices, schools, neighbors, friends ñ in short, everyone ñ partakes of the traditional ìRosca de Reyes,î or Kings Cake, which is a bread in the shape of a ring decorated with sugar and crystallized fruit.

Various small plastic dolls about an inch and a half long are hidden inside to represent the baby Jesus.

Each person cuts his or her own piece of cake, and those who find a doll inside must bring tamales to everyone present on Feb. 2, the day when Mexican families bring the statue of baby Jesus to the church for a blessing.

According to the Bible, that is the day when Mary and Joseph presented Jesus in the temple.

This tradition is practiced primarily in urban and suburban communities, because families in rural areas do not have the economic means to do so.

-Written and edited by: Daniel Luna, Alicia Garza Ramos and Angelica Lozada at the CFCA project in Cuernavaca, Mexico. Martha Meireles, Cuernavaca project coordinator, sent us this report.

Dominican Republic

The celebration of Three Kings Day is one of the biggest traditions in the Dominican Republic.

The celebration starts Jan. 4 when children write letters for the three kings describing the gifts they want and put them in Christmas trees, on beds or give them to their parents.

On Jan. 5 in the afternoon, children find grass, water and food, and place them under their beds for the camels and wise men to eat and drink and eat when they visit at night.

On this day, children go to bed earlier than usual. Once the children are asleep, parents place the gifts under their bed or at the Christmas tree and take the food away to let the children know the three kings visited them.

At dawn, you can hear in the street whistles, laughter and the sound of bikes, children running and playing with their toys after opening the gifts.

The celebration is extended to the community because the children visit their neighbors to show them their gifts, and the neighbors usually give them other gifts left for them by the wise men.

This tradition turns a normal day into a magical day and offers an unforgettable memory that will last all their lives.

This beautiful tradition is full of faith and love holding a magical world of fantasies uniting families and communities.

-Nelson Figueroa, CFCA project coordinator in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, sent us this report.

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Dec 12 2010

‘Mother of all Mexican Catholics’: Feast Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe

Mexicans celebrate the Feast Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe on Dec. 12, beginning one day before in the shrines of our Lady of Guadalupe or the chapels that bear her name. There are Masses, confessions, dances and readings of the story of her appearances on Mexican soil.

Here is a Q-and-A with the CFCA project in MÈrida about the feast day.

In MÈrida it is a tradition that at the shrine of Saint Christopher, pilgrims are received a month before from all corners of the state of Yucat·n, neighbor states, guilds, schools, companies and diverse institutions. There is also an open air dance all night long on Dec. 11.

I have been told that some people participate in a pilgrimage to MÈxico City to celebrate at the Basilica of Guadalupe. Can you tell me about this?

The pilgrimages are carried out by groups with torches, families and even entire towns, who arrive at the basilica, to ask or give thanks for favors from the Virgin, or as a promise from a family tradition (sickness, births, etc.).

Do any members of the CFCA community participate in these pilgrimages?

People from the CFCA community participate in these pilgrimages, walks or Masses. It is a celebration in all of MÈxico for Catholic families on this day.

Virgin of Guadalupe

CFCA scholar Jes˙s Federico displays a picture of the Virgin of Guadalupe.

The pilgrimages vary, depending on the distance from the start to the final place. It can be 1 day and up to 15 days for the long ones. All are supposed to arrive on Dec. 12 to hear Mass and receive the benediction and then return.

Those pilgrimages are done on foot, on bicycles or running on one’s knees, depending on the promise offered. The Virgin of Guadalupe reminds us the promise of the mother of God to be with us in difficult moments.

She presented herself as a mestiza, with indigenous and Spanish characteristics, to include everyone under her protection.

Any other information or commentary that you would like to add?

The Virgin of Guadalupe is the mother of all Mexican Catholics by tradition. There is a faith and fervor that exists within us for her that is inexplicable. To us, she is miraculous and if you ask her for something and you have faith, we are sure that she will honor you.

Jes˙s Federico is a 15-year-old CFCA scholar. He is in the first semester of computer science and also serves in the Church as an altar boy and catechist.

Why do you participate in this pilgrimage?

It is a way of showing my faith and gratitude to the Virgin of Guadalupe, and it motivates me in my personal life to move ahead, and it is a family and community tradition.

Since when have you been participating in this pilgrimage? What is your route and distance covered?

This is the second year that I am going to participate. We go from the community where I live with a group of 30 people: family and friends.

It is about 180 kilometers (112 miles) away and we are going in a group, in which every person runs for about 20 minutes and then is replaced, and that is how we cover all the distance.

On the way we meet a lot of people who offer food to the whole group as part of their offerings to the Virgin. They give us water in the communities we pass along the way and they treat us really well.

We are always careful because we could be prone to highway accidents.

It is an unforgettable experience and all because of our dear Virgin of Guadalupe.

During the trips we sing chants to the Virgin and everyone takes offerings and promises to be fulfilled in the future. Also, a few days before the trips we have meetings in the Church where they explain to us the significance of the pilgrimage and about the love that we should have for our Virgin of Guadalupe.

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Sep 27 2010

2010: The year of the bicentennial

Many Latin American countries where we work celebrated their bicentennials this year: Colombia, July 20; El Salvador, Sept. 15; Mexico, Sept. 15-16; and Chile, Sept. 18. Here is a compilation of field reports about what the bicentennial means for CFCA communities in Mexico. This year, the rising violence from drug trafficking has unfortunately affected some of the celebrations.

Mateo and his grandchildren

ìItís good to remember the heroes who gave us freedom, but it isnít good they spend so much money on the celebrations and parties when there is so much need and poverty. Instead of spending money on parties, they should perform services for those in need.î
ó Sr. Mateo, grandfather of the sponsored children pictured: Carlos, Gabriel and Luis Antonio

Note: The ìGrito of Independenceî is a traditional ritual performed every independence day. The Mexican president appears in the ZÛcalo, or central square of the capital, and shouts, ìViva, Mexico!î The crowd responds, ìViva!î

Q: Can you tell us about Mexicoís Independence Day?

A: [Cuernavaca] The bicentennial of Mexico celebrates the beginning of the rebellion against the Spanish colonial system. 2010 is a big year in Latin America. In 1810, local rebellions were taking place against the Spanish in diverse locations throughout Latin America.

A: [Guadalupe] The period known as Independence began, strictly speaking, on Sept. 16, 1810, when Miguel Hidalgo gave the ìGrito de los Dolores,î or ìCry of the Sorrowfulî and ends Sept. 27, 1821, with the arrival of the ìEjercito Trigarante,î or ìArmy of the Three Guaranteesî to the city of Mexico. The idea behind this revolutionary movement was to free the people from Spanish rule and throw off the viceroyalty. This phase ended the colonial period of Mexico.

Q: How is the country celebrating?

A: [Santa Catarina] The country celebrated with large parties: at the national level in ZÛcalo Plaza, in the Avenida Paseo de la Reforma and in the Monumento del Angel de la Independencia. Then locally, each city and town had the Grito of Independence and public festivals. In the ZÛcalo, President Calderon performed the Grito of Independence, after which followed fireworks for more than a half hour in one festival.

A: [Cuernavaca] We are celebrating with many activities, many of them cultural and civic. There will be parades, theatrical representations of the historical events, school festivals, concerts, dancers, fairs, etc.

A: [Guadalupe] There is a bicentennial torch that will travel through the 32 states of Mexico. The entire country will celebrate the military parade they have every Sept. 16. Finally, the government has created a web page devoted to the bicentennial.

Q: Are you planning special activities for the sponsored members and their families? If yes, please describe them.

Yesira, a sponsored child in Mexico

Yesira, a sponsored child, joined her grandparents for dinner on Sept. 15 and watched the bicentennial celebrations on television. They continued celebrating until early Sept. 16.

A: [Cuernavaca] The communities where the sponsored members live are planning Mexican nights ó parties with different Mexican music, dance and food organized by some families or neighbors, but most of the activities are organized by schools, municipalities or local authorities.

A: [Guadalupe] On Sept. 17, 2010, the CFCA community in Hogar Quinta Manuelita will gather for a public street party, with people bringing traditional Mexican snacks.

Q: How have the celebrations been affected by the news reports about drug-related violence in certain areas of Mexico?

A: [Cuernavaca] There are two sides: one in favor of celebrating Mexican liberation from the Spanish conquistadors and honoring the martyrs and heroes; and another side against the celebration in the midst of violence that has occurred.

A: [Merida] Although itís very calm in Merida, the heaviness is from what people hear in the news. There is fear that at any moment in the near future, this instability, this violence, can reach Merida.

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