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Social Illusionism in Mexico

Brief Background on Social Illusionism

“Social Illusionism” is an innovative, international approach to participatory community work. In Mexico the work began over five years ago with the collaboration of social workers, architects, professors and neighbors. Most of our work is carried out in two marginalized communities called Estacion and Texcal (as well as work that is carried out in an indigenous community called Ocotopec). Estacion is an illegally-formed “shanty” town invasion around the former train station of Cuernavaca. The bountiful natural lands of Texcal for the past two decades have been slowly disappearing from the hands of communal-land owners to municipal housing construction projects. The 17 year old apartment complex of Texcal, as well as Estacion, by most Cuernavacans is recognized as poor and infected with crime and drug violence. However, beyond the crowded, small spaces and graffiti marked walls, lies a world rich in community life and were space is creatively converted into gardens and green walls.

Activities Carried Out in July and August

This past two months for the Mexican “Social Illusionism” team has been marked with many activities. In Estacion, participants of a Community Center Renovation Project have been taking advantage of the neighborhood patron holiday to share what they have been doing: recycling campaigns, educative trips to parks and an old train station, and art activities. The Community Center has existed for over 13 years, providing breakfast services to over 150 children. The Karitas Foundation is sponsoring a renovation project for the center. However, participants are also looking for ways to renovate their community. In a creative and provoking manner, residents have posted wishes on traditional festival figures as a means to dig deeper into serious issues, such as alcoholism, with their neighbors.

Texcal is also undergoing renovations towards an even greener apartment complex. In the past 8 years Rocio, and with the support of her housewife neighbors, every week have organized an informal recycling center. Even though there are over 60 families participating, we are networking with a nearby University, city officials, communal land owners and the residents to have the rest of the apartment complex participate. In the meantime, more hands-on ideas have been surging from the people. Agustina, for example, taught her neighbors how to make a Virtual Plant, an arrangement made out of recyclable material. Texcal and Estacion residents are taking ownership of this plant activity, involving different community members and using materials that are at hand. Together with the people we are reaching for the impossible! For example, with increased interaction between community members, their will be a stronger sense of commitment in supporting and providing employment for the youth who face a harsh reality of poverty, drug, violence and disrespect.

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