I can remember as if it was yesterday that I ran through the streets of the small Ejido, the place I called home for many years, eleven to be exact. My first memories birthed in this small village, I can still smell the wet hills after the rain, the home of the bakery man as I walked by on my way to school. I can still hear the heavy accent in my teacher’s voice as she attempted to teach us how to say “Buenos Dias” in English. She had big dreams, indeed. Most importantly, I can still feel the passion of my community running through me.
I remember the way my school parent’s meeting would go. It would look something like this, the teacher handing out an old calendar and asking parents to chose two days of the month to come and clean up the school. The parents rambling on and on about how we need better classrooms, better schools, we just needed better. I on the other hand was just amazed at how that small Ejido had accomplished so much all on their own. For example, I have always wondered how we were able to have a cafeteria built with no money or a building company, for hours away. We didn’t need that, the people in my community got together one afternoon and by the following week we had a working cafeteria of course it was just a big room attached to the west side of the school, a few tables and chairs and an old stove, but that’s all we needed.
The rest played out like this, mothers would take turns going in to cook breakfast for the children. I can remember one day when my mother woke me up at 5 in the morning because we needed to go to school, it was her turn to cook breakfast and she was not one to be late. After our 20 minute walk to school, we arrived. I clearly remember that I sat at the corner table, barely awake and watching the rest of the mothers come in through the door one by one. One brought the flour and cheese to make quesadillas, the other brought the ingredients to make atole , the other brought pancake mix, my mother and I had brought beans. 7:3o and the children started rushing in, biggest smiles on their face as they walked in to breakfast like the rich kids in el norte, we really had it all. 9:00 am and the mothers have cleaned up and are ready to go about their day, but the most amazing part of this is that this happened every single day. My community knew that if their children needed a good breakfast in the morning they were not going to wait around for the government to decide to give it to us. They made things happen everyday.
I can probably go on and on about how my community organized in a daily basis, how the park had to be cleaned up, how the murals in our kindergarten were done, how our water bill was payed. But one of the most wonderful things we had back in that small piece of land was the culture of community and sense of belonging. We felt that we belonged there, there was a special place for everyone. Every event was celebrated “como se debe”. We had a parade and a kermes and a baseball team, heck we even had a fair come to our town once a year. Sure, the fair that came to our Ejido was just two old leftover rides from when the big fair was in the town nearby, a couple of food stands. Sure, we didn’t have a hospital, or police department, or fire department, and maybe our town flooded once a year when the arroyo got overfilled with water but so what. We had much more than that, we had a community.
Every time I think about an ideal community I think of this place, not because we had all the resources we needed, we were far from that, but because people knew that change only came through us. Everyone knew that standing around and complaining did nothing and that our dreams could only be that much closer if we move towards them and not wait for them to come to us.