The Youth of Mezcala de Asuncion, Clean Lake – Clean Home, Mezcala de la Asuncion
By Youth Environmental Hub team member, Selene Gonzalez Carillo.
In my perpetual search for communities who share the values of The Pollination Project with a commitment to social change through compassion consciousness, I was told about the indigenous community COCA (where the clay pots abound) of Mezcala, Jalisco. This community is located on the shores of Lake Chapala, Mexico’s largest lake, which is not only a haven for biodiversity but is only one hour south of the large metropolises of Guadalajara – putting its future in a precarious situation.
I emailed Rocio, a local leader who is in charge of the community kitchen, considered a safe space to go after school. She insisted I visit them to understand their community. A short bus ride south brought me to downtown Mezcala.
When I met Rocio and the 15 youth who come after school twice a week to the community kitchen to learn, hang out and grow in peace, I was astonished to learn of their rich history. The Indigenous community COCA of Mezcala Asuncion, known regionally as The Insurgents of Mezcala, received this name because they have successfully keep community control over their territory, not only from the current Mexican government, where there is now a relationship of respect, but for centuries from the Spanish Crown. They are a proud people and they love their lake. Their spirit of community and resistance can be seen and felt in their youth, who now take on their own struggle against environmental pollution that affects their community.
It is because of this sense of community, pride, and autonomy that I believe so strongly in these young people and their abilities to protect the lake. Often, when a location is marginalized and does not have buy-in from the government, society or institutions, their environmental projects have an upward struggle. But, here in the 9 mini-neighborhood of Mezcala de Asuncion, even the youth have a strong sense of community and place. We spend a relaxing afternoon together and they shared with me, in between laughs and games, how they want to do something to make their lake less dirty and their communities less polluted.
Simply put, they want to do something about the trash they see end up on the shores of their lake and on the streets of their territory. They want to set up 9 recycling centers on their different mini-neighborhoods, but they think they should be decorated with images and words that show what should be recycled where and give out information about helping the environment. They also have plans for that recycled material! One group wants to make recycled tire swings and maybe even a playground since they don’t have any and there are a lot of abandoned tires. The final group wishes to do something with the abundant potato chip bags, candy wrappers, plastic bottles etc. such as making wallets or picture frames to then be sold and raise funds for more environmental activities in the future at their local cultural events.
The kids have divided into 3 groups that will tackle/focus on different aspects of the project, Clean Lake, Clean Home. The names of the groups in order of the interest and phases are: Recycling Robots (focused on getting recycling container/centers setup in their community); The Ecological Innovators (focused on making a playground with recycled materials); and finally The JustRecycled (focused on making crafts from what is recycled to help finance their youth activist in the future).
I absolutely love that, for them, it was important that their recycling centers have a section exclusively for getting material to make playground in their 9 mini-neighborhoods!