Awareness of indigenous rights has grown in recent years, and the Mexican government acknowledges that efforts to improve the living situation of the indigenous population must be intensified. However, severe poverty and social exclusion continue to affect thousands of families in Mexico.
Many rural migrants do not find what they were hoping for in the city
Two little boys from Huehuetoca (photo: C. Martinelli)Huehuetoca is a municipality in the state of Mexico and has a population of roughly 200,000. The region’s economy is based predominantly on small-scale agriculture such as the growing of corn, vegetables and alfalfa.
Intensive residential construction projects by the municipality saw thousands of new family homes built in a matter of years in Huehuetoca, and the city’s population more than doubled between 2006 and 2009.
But although there is no shortage of housing, what is missing is the adequate infrastructure to support this huge influx of people. Up to 60 per cent of the population of Huehuetoca are now living in conditions of urban poverty, where they are unable to meet basic needs such as food and clothing because they are unable to find work, and basic infrastructure such as health services, roads, schools, markets and running water, amongst others, are also unavailable.
Many of these new residents migrated here from rural areas where they made a living as subsistence farmers; they had hoped to escape the difficult conditions they were living in. Now in the city, they do not possess any skills that allow them to find work and their situation often worsens. This turn of events can lead to increased levels of depression, alcoholism and domestic violence, thus putting the children of recent migrants in a very vulnerable position.
Children need the chance to break the cycle of poverty
A high percentage of Mexico State’s population is indigenous, living in small, rural communities. These are also the poorest members of Mexican society. The reasons for the on-going marginalisation of the indigenous population are partially historical: the Spanish conquistadors put in place a caste system that subjugated the indigenous peoples, essentially making them servants. Today, social exclusion is exacerbated by the relative geographical isolation many live in and the consequent lack of education and training.
Indigenous women and girls are particularly vulnerable: historically, they have faced great social and economic exclusion, and much awareness-raising of their rights remains to be done. Today, many indigenous women are still monolingual, which in turn excludes them from education. Many have their first child at a very young age and go on to have large families and, more often than not, they do not have access to health care. The risk of dying during childbirth or due to related complications is therefore very high for them.
What we do in Huehuetoca
Having a yummy snack (photo: M. Jaramillo)SOS Children’s Villages began its work in Huehuetoca in 1988. Children from the region who are no longer able to live with their parents can find a loving home in one of the twelve SOS families here. In each family, the children live with their brothers and sisters and are affectionately cared for by their SOS mother. They attend local nurseries and schools and are therefore very much integrated into the community.
A psychologist is also available in the children’s village, offering support to all who need it but especially to children who have had traumatic experiences.
When young people from the children’s village feel ready to move out of the family home in order to pursue further education or vocational training, the SOS Youth Programme makes shared accommodation available. The young adults live together and are supported by qualified counsellors as they learn to shoulder responsibility, plan their future and prepare for independent adult life.