Understanding rural life outside of San Miguel: a spotlight on La Palma
By Lexi Stickel
La Palma is a small community located on the road from San Miguel de Allende to Dolores Hidalgo; to get there it takes around 20 minutes by car and a 35-minute adventure by bus. Within La Palma, there are approximately 250 families. The main economic activities in La Palma consist of a small chicken processing company as well as construction jobs in San Miguel. A local resident of La Palma says that about half of the population works in one of these two activities; however, some of the population prefers to venture to the United States, typically without documentation, because they think there are better economic opportunities. The majority of the families in La Palma support themselves on only minimum wage or less by Mexican standards. According to local residents, each family lives on around 2,000 pesos a month.
While La Palma has access to potable water and electricity, the community struggles with drainage issues. The children of La Palma have access to a kindergarten school. The Rancho Viejo community, about 20 minutes away on foot, has a primary and secondary school that the children of La Palma can attend. Children face tremendous difficulties accessing high school, preparatoria. The main difficulty revolves around money and La Palma has a very high drop-out rate for high school. The closest high school is in San Miguel de Allende. Students need to take the bus into town, which costs about 30-35 pesos every day. Additionally, the families need to be able to provide food or money for lunch, uniforms, books, and school fees. It is very difficult for many families to find the money to pay for all these expenses while living on 2,000 pesos a month.
The Rural Education Institute of Mexico provides children in San Miguel’s rural communities with critical life skills including computer sciences and English language classes. The organization was invited into La Palma by one of the community members who knew about the program. Currently, the organization has two primary school classes and one secondary school class–both of which meet twice a week. Within these classes the students learn to read books, learn English language skills, computer literacy, art, drama, and other critical life skills, which introduce rural kids to the world outside of La Palma. The primary classes are currently reading Charlotte’s Web in Spanish and learning English language vocabulary associated with the book. The secondary class is reading Cajas de Cartón by Francisco Jiménez, which is a short autobiographical work about a child growing up in the United States whose parents are migrant laborers. Through a partnership with Libros sin Fronteras, an organization in San Miguel, each secondary student has been provided with a copy of the book and the author will be visiting the students in La Palma to share his story and learn about their lives. All students are also learning about caring for the environment through a garden started this year as a collaborative effort by the organization and the community of La Palma.
The ultimate goal of the Rural Education Institute of Mexico is to provide high school scholarships to students. If you are interested in learning more about this organization please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org, visit www.ruralmex.org, or find us on Facebook.