There are the city folks who’ve obviously up and moved from the countryside and are trying or have made a name for themselves in the city. What about the campesinos (Spanish word for a person who lives in the countryside) who move and shake? This post is dedicated to some of my favorite campesinos.
Out in the countryside, life is a bit more basic. More relaxed. At times, life is a bit too relaxed. Finding community leaders is a struggle. I’ve sat through several painful meetings in which some person, for example the treasurer, decides to step down from his or her duty. The result is that there is a void left in their departure. Those present at the meeting will sit, the last time for probably twenty minutes, going through a cycle of silence, throwing out a name of a potential person to take the position, him or her hemming and hawing then refusing, followed by silence. Eventually someone will accept the nomination and the meeting will come to a close. While I respect those individuals that finally step up, this post isn’t about them. This is about the people who jump at the opportunity to represent and lead their community, to make a positive change without being forced into doing so.
I’ve already talked about one community member here.
In the community, there are only a few groups holding power. This isn’t to say that there is some sort of a dictatorship but rather that groups for the most part are a process that is slowly developing itself throughout the countryside. Within my community, there are the parent teacher association, religious group, community representative for the government, and water committee. The first individual I’d like to mention is Gustavo, who is the leader for all four of these groups.
For the most part my interactions with him have revolved around the water committee and my water project. He has been the only community member who has shown up to every meeting and workday and the only time he has left early is because a family member was having a baby and he needed to head to the hospital. But he still showed up to the meeting! He’s a man that has demonstrated skills that would allow him to thrive in a larger community, but he remains and works hard to improve the living conditions of his neighbors. He is one of the people who I have relied on most as a crutch to get me through my service and not once has he failed me.
Women are a great resource in the community who work very hard to maintain the household but outside of the house generally do not have a voice. It’s a bit frustrating to have conversations where I address the room with a question, and the women will look to their husbands to answer. Only if he doesn’t know will she then answer. I’m glad to say, this is changing, especially within my host family. I’ve sat and discussed the next person on my list with my host dad and I fondly remember him saying that women do a better job in office.
Maribel is the representative of roughly 30 communities. When I think of elected officials, I see lots of false promises during elections and then nothing after they arrive to office. Maribel is quite the opposite. She has made visits to the hard to reach communities and does her best to help out all the communities she represents. I remember having a conversation with someone, I believe it was again my host dad, about her. I had said that she’ll probably work really hard to get a road and electricity to her community and the response was that no, she’s going to help everyone and over the past few months she has indeed done just that.
The third person on my list carries on from Maribel both by being a woman and by being Maribel’s sister, Annabel. Annabel is the health post worker in the neighboring community who obviously cares deeply about the health and well being of her community members and those from surrounding communities. She has also been essential in helping to set up community visits from Peace Corps and Engineers Without Borders. I respect that as a health care professional, she could move on to a larger town and earn more money but has decided to stay within her community running the health post.
I’ve met many other amazing campesinos across the country, leading amazing lives. I have much respect for them all and the work that they do to improve their respective communties.