My host, Lulu, who I was shadowing during my time in Mexico, is creating a social entrepreneurship business with her best friend. There is much that is inspiring about this endeavor that they have undertaken. The area of Mexico where I was, was a small town surrounded by others that all run together until they meet a large, metropolitan area. There are few to no social service organizations or programs except the municipal, government-run social service department. In the absence of a strong presence of non-profit organizations, I observed how individual community members and different faith congregations were called upon to step into different needs that are present in the community. Lulu and her friend were an example of this active seeing and responding to community needs. Noticing a lack of safe spaces for the youth to spend free time, work, or do school work, as well as a place to develop healthy values and relationships, Lulu and her friend developed the idea to create a coffee shop where this space could exist. In therapy we often say that the client is the expert and the authority on their story and their life. In the same way, I found that though these individuals may have never been asked the questions I was asking or before communicated what they shared with me, it was evident the deep understanding Lulu and the others had of their community, with its strengths and its needs.
Lulu was describing to me two different thought processes and perspectives prevalent in the community that were paralyzing to the people. One was the strong presence of machismo that runs in her community and throughout the whole area where we were.The other stuck point Lulu noted in the youth was a mentality of helplessness, instead of one of empowerment or self-agency. To the first, she spoke to some of the negative consequences machismo can, at times, contribute to, including the high prevalence of interpersonal and interfamilial violence, the lack of shared responsibility within members of a family, and a lack of value given to women. She shared how this mentality changed in her own family as it was forced to change because of a economic crisis which caused her mother to acquire a full time job, thereby changing the roles and responsibilities in her family. Mentalities will change when they must; when realities shift, perspectives follow.
I saw such beauty as Lulu saw the needs in her local community, was devoted to shifting not only her reality, but also the realities of the youth. This commitment to change was rooted in hope, in empowering and lifting people up, celebrating their value, shining light on their abilities, and promoting their strengths. This movement stands out in the community as I saw Lulu and her best friend, two independent women, pour themselves out to others to develop hope and life. It requires them both to work numerous jobs, countless hours, give a high emotional investment, and considerable risk to cultivate, grow, and see this dream of a different future, to bloom and flower for the youth and for themselves.