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A journal of social practice & professional engagement for the Antioch community

The Power of Support: Burke ’16 at Hogar Comunitario Yach’il Antzetic Midwifery in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Mexico

Hogar Comunitario first opened it’s doors 20 years ago when a Catholic woman, who after having many babies left on her doorstep, saw the need for such a community home to support young, indigenous, pregnant women and mothers. 20 years later, the population that Hogar Comunitario cares for is in no less need of the support it provides.

At it’s core, the mission of Hogar Comunitario is to provide a safe and supportive home for young pregnant women, often single, often indigenous, and often victims of abuse. However, it does not provide a long term home, but a place where women can come and live before, during, and after their birth. The team that currently makes up Hogar Comunitario consists of 3 midwives, a psychologist, a community outreach coordinator of sorts, an administrator, a gardener, and several volunteers whose roles and skills fluctuate.

The work that they do with women is quite expansive. They provide the women with the basic fundamentals of caring for them before, during, and after the birth, including prenatal checkups, workshops preparing for the birth, making of herbal salves, lactation consultations -all of it. For the women who live here, they get all of that and more: healthy food, a place to sleep at night, activities to do during the day, avenues to learn skills and make money through artisanal crafts or garden projects such as macramé and clay or the cultivation of oyster mushrooms. They make friends, get psychological support, and are surrounded by a community of women.

Beyond that, Hogar Comunitario provides access to midwives, workshops, and community support to many other women. They are currently working on expanding and continuing their trips to indigenous communities outside the city, where they do workshops with indigenous women and men studying to become midwives and health promoters and educators in their own communities.

For me, finding out exactly what my role here has been a bit slow process, slower still due to my struggles with language barriers- because I am still learning Spanish and know nothing of the indigenous languages most commonly spoken here -Tzotzil and Tzeltal. I have already been moving slower due to the fact that I am not a midwife, or a psychologist, or an indigenous woman with the same life experience. I am a 21 year old media arts major from South Carolina with a broken camera who speaks broken Spanish. (Oh yeah, a big thing I wanted to do for the organization that we talked about before I came, was make a documentary, but my camera broke practically the second I got here. It is still in recovery mode in Mexico City receiving repairs. This has also made my role here feel funny… that I want to make a documentary, and I have no way to do that currently).

Still, just being around the work here, and helping in small ways whether that be taking pictures, learning and helping to cultivate oyster mushrooms, researching and applying for grants, folding laundry, answering the door and answering questions, helping cook food, writing minutes for workshops, helping plan workshops, or now, leading my own workshop, the taller de barro- clay workshop (something they used to do every week but had to stop when they lost the funding for the teacher) is still incredibly valuable. It feels like real life, if you know what I mean… This organization is doing real things for people who are really suffering, who really have limited access to so many things. The organization’s way of providing care is so basic, and so good -providing a home, providing a place to stay and people to listen, providing opportunities to grow and hopefully better one’s situations.

Something I feel often in my own process of educating myself is that I have so many interests, how can I know what one thing is my one thing that I should be doing (although I guess who said I have to choose?). But, I feel in many ways that Hogar Comunitario is actually a combination of so many of my interests, and there is space here for so many good things to happen. It combines my love of community, of health, of art, of women’s health, of mental health, of working to serve marginalized and underserved groups, of midwifery, of families, of reproductive and sexual health. It’s actually kind of all of it.

And yet, currently, for me something feels like it’s missing. And maybe what is missing is something inside of me, that is still growing and still trying to figure this thing out. Maybe it’s the language barrier, maybe it is my own health, maybe it is my own fear, maybe it is a lack of resources and funding even within Hogar Comunitario to be able to actualize all of their goals and projects, maybe it’s that racism and sexism are so unbelievably alive and visible working and living here in San Cristobal and working with these women, and I feel unequipped to truly deal with the depth to which those systems are working against indigenous women here, maybe it’s all of the things I feel I am battling right now within myself being a gringa traveling in Mexcio and trying to figure out how to take care of myself, much less be able to actualize and have a profound work experience here, maybe it’s the pressure of academia and Antioch to have a profound work experience (a pressure I feel on every co-op), maybe I don’t have it all together as well as I thought coming here, maybe it’s none of that, maybe it’s all of that.

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