Tag Archive for mexico

Mérida Day Seven

This morning we headed to the once thriving and largest city of the Mayans, Chichen Itza. We were greeted by a tour guide who directed us to a map of Chichen Itza. He briefly explained the different architectures and its relationship to astronomy, religion and Mayan culture. Then, he led us to the entrance while we were filled with excitement and anticipation of seeing the monuments with our own eyes. Finally there it was, the Temple of Kulkulkan! This sacred pyramid caught everyone’s attention and we were in awe with this 75 feet tall marvel.

Left to right (back row): Camille Volper, Dr. Valerie Mac, Brianna Aalborg-Volper, Carly Hendricks, Tessa Shevlin, Lauren Higgins, Alex Alvarado, Ashley Pugh, Amy Yu, Roxana Chicas, Natalia Aranda (front row): Mary Schaeffer, Julia Spaar, Monica Schweizer, Megan Anderson, Tiffany Guo, Amanda Loyal, Dr. Vicki Hertzberg, Genesis Peniche

An impressive astronomic feature of the pyramid is that during the equinoxes each year, an illusion of a shadowy serpent created by sunlight makes it way down the platform. Another interesting element was that every time our tour guide clapped his hands near the pyramid, we heard a mysterious echo of a bird’s chirp. Specifically, we were told it was the sound of the quetzal, a divine bird to the Mayans. Several of us attempted to replicate this impressive sound; unfortunately, we could not execute the clapping technique correctly.

Surrounding the Temple of Kulkulkan were many other major monuments, such as the Platform of Venus, Temple of the Warriors, Observatory, and the Great Ball Court which had acoustic sounds of its own when the tour guide clapped his hands underneath the court’s rings. Again, we could not execute the clapping technique! Our final stop was the enormous Sacred Cenote –also known as the sacrificial Cenote to the Rain God, Chaac. Jewelry, weapons, tools, as well as humans, were among some of the offerings. It was clear that all monuments had social, astronomical or religious significance. Chichen Itza was a prominent ceremonial center for the Mayans. Being able to see the marvels that the Mayans constructed was definitely one of the many highlights of our Mexico trip. 

After walking around Chichen Itza in the hot sun for most of the morning, we were able to cool down and relax at the Xcajum cenote. The cenote was surrounded with amazing wildlife and a natural landscape. After spending over an hour and a half swimming around with the fish in the cenote, we ate at the cenote buffet which had some really great tacos. Following eating, some of us decided to hang out in the hammocks before heading back to the hotel.

On our way back, we decided to stop in Izamal, also known as the Yellow City. Almost every building in this city has been painted yellow.

In the center of the city is a convent and church, which was built atop a flattened Mayan temple/pyramid.  This convent boasts the largest atrium in the Americas and the second largest in the world following the Vatican atrium. Pope John Paul II visited Izamal in August of 1993 and performed a mass here during which he celebrated not only the Mayan indigenous population, but all indigenous populations across the Americas. The people of this town were very honored and erected a statue in his memory which can be found by the entrance of the church. Scattered around the city you can also find crumbled remains of Mayan pyramids that once were.

After returning to our hotel, we decided to make the most of our last night in Merida and explore the night life once more.  As some of us headed out around 9:30 pm, restaurants were just putting out their outdoor seating on blocked off roads inviting us inside. We found our way to Mercado 60, but not before stopping for the crunchy and extremely delicious marquestia filled with your choice of gouda cheese, nutella, or cajeta. Mercado 60 is an outdoor market with lots of food options and a live band.  As the live band played, people would go up and start salsaing with others to the music. Two of our very own found the courage to ask some of the locals to show them how to dance! 

Mérida Day four

This morning we headed to a second community called San Luiz, which is about five minutes from Emiliano Zapata Sur. Last year, the group focused on meeting the people in the community but this year, an important objective for us was the community assessment for San Luiz. Taking what we learned from Public Health Nursing, we explored the community limits with Victor and conducted a windshield survey. Along with Victor, other key informants that we interviewed were many mothers who have lived in the community for several years and a woman named Roquel, who coordinates visits with local members, such as Victor. We collaborated with the interpreters and received additional subjective data from the women in the community during our morning walking tour.

During the walking tour, we began to see the stark reality of their living conditions. We were able to learn so much about how cultural, social, political and economic differences structured their lives, as well as how it affected their approach to health care. The homes are temporary structures that were either built from scrap materials the families were able to find, or that had been gifted to them. The materials varied from sheet metals, wooden frames to plastic tarps. We also learned many families did not have permits to build permanent structures and that it would take several years for the government to approve their application. As a result, they are technically considered squatters. They vocalized their frustration at the fact that some of the lots were empty or contained houses that had been abandoned, but yet they were still not allowed to build on that land. Many of the families are close to one another and we could tell there is a strong sense of support for everyone by the way they watched over other families’ children, advocated for the homes in intense distress, and simply from their conversations with each other. Lastly, the families lack access and face numerous barriers to essential resources such as schools, healthcare facilities, clean water, proper hygiene and plumbing, hospitals, costly surgeries, fresh produce, healthy foods, and better paying jobs. Despite these conditions, it was evident that these families worked really hard to make a living and to provide a home for their children. We were amazed to see their craftiness in their decorated homes and gardens of plants and vegetables. With all that they had, they still managed to display a sense of ownership, pride, happiness, and livelihood.

The severe poverty in San Luiz sets people up for an unfavorable environment that creates unsafe conditions, health risks and concerns, and unnecessary struggles. As nursing students and advocates for healthy living, it was clear that Environmental Health and its implications in San Luiz was our main concern. Health starts where one lives, learns, plays and works. Our community assessment shows that the people in San Luiz Community face multiple and complex environmental threats to their health and wellbeing.

The main problem each community member described was the flooding and water damage in their homes during the rainy season. Their homes would fill up to two feet of water and due to the structure of the homes and the surroundings, their only solution was to let it dry. The standing water commonly contains microbial contamination which poses a risk of human exposure and the likelihood of infection. Bacteria, fungi, and parasites quickly harbor these breeding grounds as there is no plumbing system to eliminate the water. Consequently, a high prevalence of illnesses from microbes is present. For example, the most common hospital visits for the children expressed by the mothers were gastrointestinal illnesses such as diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. These illnesses are compounded by vector-borne diseases from mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas around the community. Furthermore, wet belongings in their homes can lead to fast growing mold that are hazardous to the community members and their pets. Spores can be inhaled through the air as family sleeps together in their unventilated, humid, small home. Because of these findings, we altered our plans for the rest of the week in order to address these environmental health issues.

Another environmental concern is the pollution and the practice of burning trash because there is no waste management system in place. Burned trash piles was common as we walked through the community. It contained leftover food, plastic bottles, plastic food wraps and electronics. This poses a health risk because air pollutants, toxics and compounds released from the trash are linked to lung and neurological diseases, increased risk for heart attacks and prostate cancer. In addition, shards of glass and rubbish scattered everywhere makes it unsafe for children to play around. We hope in future years to offer support through designing a waste management, composting, and environmental health program.

Multiple and complex environmental factors pose adverse health disparities and wellbeing to the San Luiz Community who are fighting to get ahead for their children and their future. Health concerns of several community members include deafness, blindness, congenital birth defects, cardiovascular diseases, dehydration, and gastrointestinal problems. Emotional distress and stress magnifies the health problems of the community members. These factors are further exacerbated by the social and economic disadvantages that the San Luiz’s children face. Such disadvantages and barriers include poor quality housing with fear of being kicked out, going to school that is several blocks away, playing around in a field of unpaved dirt with pollutants and contaminants, no running water, and having poor access to quality health care all add to the burdens of the community we encountered. It is essential that more support, programs, resources, research and individualized strategies need to be diverted to the San Luiz Community.