Hi and welcome to this new blog. I'm Juan Carlos Venis and a rising senior at Wabash. This summer I am going to try my hardest to share all of my experiences and reflections here. What makes this summer special? I happen to be anticipating one of the coolest experiences of my life and it’s all made possible through a generous grant through the Dill Fund. Michael Dill ’71 established this fund to help support independent study, service, and internship projects. Normally, it would be harder for students like me to pay for airfare and lodging if we were staying in a foreign country for several weeks, but the grant makes it possible. It’s kind of substituting for off-campus study for me, so I am really excited to travel abroad.
If you didn’t already know, Chiapas is the southernmost state of Mexico. It borders Guatemala and touches the Pacific Ocean. You may have heard about the Zapatista rebellion there in the news. Back in the ‘90s the EZLN (Ejªrcito Zapatista de Liberaci€n Nacional) began a revolution to voice the concerns of the disenfranchised indigenous peoples of this very poor region of Mexico when NAFTA was signed. Since then, they’ve moved away from using direct force and are focusing on international efforts to unite indigenous people in a struggle against poverty and the large social gap. There’s a fairly dense history behind this that I touched on in classes with Dr. Warner in the History department. This happens to be something he is quite interested in and fortunately he has had the opportunity to share it with his students.
I am a pre-med student at Wabash and am especially interested in public health. There is a strong network of support forming for the Mayan people of Chiapas. I want to experience community and health development first hand. The amazing thing about the EZLN has been its ability to organize people without demanding complete independence from Mexico. International efforts have aided in helping to create sustainable projects where locals are learning to care for themselves. I’ll be meeting locals who are attempting to better the access to healthcare and even get to participate in some of those efforts.
I wouldn’t have been able to do any of this without the help of David Orr ’57 and his wife Nancy. I also have to credit those who have gone before me. Several guys, like graduating seniors Gary Simkus and Adrian Mendoza shared valuable experiences with me. As a college, we are really lucky to have this type of relationship with this part of the world.
So with all introductions and immunizations behind us, we can get down to business next time. For now, I’ll be taking care of the MCAT (since med school application season is beginning). I’ll be Mexico in less than two weeks, so wish me a safe journey! I am not the only one traveling down there this year, so you will probably be hearing from some other Wabash guys as well. Stay posted. I hope you enjoy the blog!
image source: http://www.chiapasmexico.info/images/map.gif