A Fiesta in Yucatán
Mayan women celebrate the success of a two-year school meals program
In Kunché, a small village in Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula, 90 women and their school-age children were treated to a fiesta recently celebrating nearly two years of a community breakfast program that has changed their lives.
Hosting the party was Compartimos Bienestar y Salud Para Los Niños Mayas I.A.P. (Bienestar), a Mexican nonprofit dedicated to the welfare and health of Mayan children.
The Mayans of the Yucatán, descendants of a mighty pre-Columbian civilization whose wealth astounded early European visitors, are among Mexico's poorest citizens.
The 150 Mayan families who live in Kunché—a Mayan word meaning wood pot—are subsistence farmers whose main crop is maize. In recent years, the harvests have been meager. The women have tried to make up for the deficit by selling traditional hand-woven hammocks, but that has not brought in enough income to feed their children. Local teachers noticed that many of the children came to school hungry. The luckier ones brought a thin gruel of tortillas ground into water and sugar.
After school, the children often didn't get much for dinner, either. "Sometimes there´s only enough money to buy two or three eggs, which have to be shared among the members of the family, generally five or six people," says Maria Jose Medina, Bienestar's president.
With funding from TPRF, Bienestar's solution was to provide nutritious foods to be prepared at Kunché's two schools every school day by the mothers of the community's 200 pre-elementary and elementary school students. The mothers, who share the work in shifts of six women each, are given fruit, vegetables, milk, eggs, rice, tortillas, beans, lentils, ham, cheese and tuna fish. Many of these foods were previously unknown to them. Under the guidance of the teachers, they have learned to make healthy, balanced meals for their children and themselves.
"Being free from hunger has given the children energy and changed their dispositions," Medina says. "They now take advantage of the classes much more."
Bienestar's fiesta was a way of thanking the mothers for their participation in the program. In addition to a feast, the party featured a traditional Mexican piñata stuffed with awards for the women as well as the usual sweets and trinkets.
"Many of them had never broken a piñata," Medina reports. "They were happy. Everyone laughed, ate and shared. Many thanks to TPRF and all of you who put so much love into your service.
Photographs of Children: Courtesy of Maria Jose Medina