Nuestras Comunidades – Our Communities
By Justin Sandoval
The municipality with the highest level of income inequality in all of Mexico is San Miguel de Allende, according to a recent study by Consejo Nacional de Evaluación de la Política de Desarrollo Social (CONEVAL). CONEVAL is an autonomous organization working with the federal government to generate objective information and better policies relating to poverty in Mexico. In the Municipality of San Miguel de Allende there is approximately 21.3 percent of the population living in extreme poverty. Additionally, the Municipality of San Miguel has a large amount of rural communities. According to some sources, there are just over 100 rural communities, while information derived from census and the Mexican federal government cites over 500 communities outside of San Miguel.
Many of these rural areas consist of small farming and indigenous communities, with several living at or below the poverty levels of Mexico. For many of these communities, San Miguel is the lifeline to acquire many basic resources and social services. This is due to the shortage of economic support, lack of infrastructure and uncertain industry within their hometowns. Water, food, security, transportation, employment and community education are the fundamentals needed for these rural areas to become self-sustaining and to reverse their present and increasing poverty.
For many living within these communities, education can be a luxury and a privilege, which holds a hope for a better future for their children and their families. However, the commitment to acquire the education comes with a cost. The lack of economic resources and the uncertain changes within the Municipality of San Miguel de Allende’s rapidly declining agriculture industry causes the need for difficult decisions for the families. With few options, many choose to leave their community and move to San Miguel, while others make even tougher decisions to travel to the United States for better economic opportunities.
For many children in the Municipality of San Miguel de Allende, the commute to school can be long and difficult – the same can also be said for their parents’ commute to work. This can greatly affect the quality time a parent can spend helping their children in their schoolwork. Families’ education levels can also dictate how children will succeed in higher education – with more than 49 percent of the population without a basic education, it can be difficult to keep supporting their children for a brighter future. With high dropout rates for the youth in the secundaria education, many become an additional income-earner for their family. In this low-wage, struggling economy, the youth and their families lose the opportunity of achieving their dreams for a better future.
The Rural Education Institute of Mexico, Inc. is an organization working to reduce the school dropout rate by offering supplemental education and life skills within rural community centers. The organization is currently working in two communities within the Municipality of San Miguel de Allende, Jalpa and La Palma. The Institute helps by providing supplemental education in these rural areas in English language skills, computer literacy, art, drama and critical life skills to ensure future success. Community libraries provide easy access to resourceful books and literature for parents and children. The Institute also provides scholarships for students in their programs to continue their education into Preparatorias. For more information about volunteering or donating to the Rural Education Institute, please visit www.ruralmex.org.