Mundo Maya Outbound Exchange

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The Mundo Maya exchange: We visit southeast Mexico

February 16-24, 2013, in Chiapas, Mexico

By Exchange Directors Anne and John Heard

We had 18 ambassadors in all on the exchange, including six from New Mexico (John and Anne Heard, David Hsi, Jim and Doris Maxwell and Kate Palmo) and 12 from other states, including New York, Arizona, Florida, Wisconsin, California and Texas. We all arrived on the afternoon and evening of Saturday, Feb. 16, in Tuxtla Gutierrez, the capital of the Mexican state of Chiapas, where we were met by our enthusiastic and welcoming hosts. Anne and John stayed with the Mexican exchange director for the visit, Yolanda Osorio, at her sister’s home in Tuxtla, Gutierrez, which was also the site of festive welcome and farewell lunches in her beautiful tent-covered garden, complete with sumptuous food, loosening libations and a lively marimba band for dancing.

The visit included four full days in Tuxtla with our hosts and three days on the road for an excursion to the magnificent Mayan ruins at Toniná and Palenque and the beautiful colonial town of San Cristóbal. While in Tuxtla we visited the Museum of Anthropology, one of Mexico’s best, took an incredible boat ride through the 3,000-foot-high Canyon de Sumidero, visited the town of Chiapa de Corzo, known for its high-quality artisan handicrafts, and saw the extraordinary Cristo de Copoya – a 48-meter-tall cross with Christ high above the town. (The town’s people take great pride in telling all visitors that their cross is taller than the Cristo Rey in Rio de Janeiro.)

The Chiapaqueños took elegant care of us in their lovely homes and demonstrated the typical warm and caring approach for which Friendship Force is known worldwide. Most of our group did not speak Spanish, and most of the Mundo Maya club had little English. This was not a problem, however, given the serious cross-cultural communication effort made on both sides.

Although we had hoped for more travelers from New Mexico, we were blessed to have the opportunity to get to know wonderful people from clubs around the U.S. and establish inter-club connections that may serve us well in future trips and provide opportunities to build interesting relationships.

In our farewell party our group presented the Mundo Maya club with $300 in cash to benefit a charity or cause of their choice. Many heartfelt speeches were made and hundreds of photos were taken of happy people from both sides. As is typical with Latin American exchanges, we were all hugged and kissed dozens of times and left knowing that we had established lasting relationships of good will and friendship. We all agreed that we should host the Mundo Maya club in the future, hopefully in 2014 or 2015. We think all would agree that this would be a particularly delightful group to host here in New Mexico.

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