By Dr. Jacqueline Zaleski Mackenzie
GUANAJUATO, MEXICO— About 39 people ate at our home on Sunday, November 20th. We had been asked to show our extended family what a USA Thanksgiving Meal was all about. Only three Gringos were invited, all of them were fluent in Spanish.
As we all gathered in a circle holding hands around the dining room table holding a buffet meal of traditional foods, I offered a prayer of Thanks for my husband, soul sister, and I being accepted into such a welcoming village as ours.
We all broke free after the prayer and grabbed a plate. The turkey and ham meal with all the trimmings began at 2pm and lasted into the night. The next day we cleaned up and anticipated a quiet day, but it was the Day of the Revolution celebration, so all businesses were closed. The village hummed with visitors all over at the tiny houses.
About 2pm on November 21, one of our Sunday guests brought us a hot meal off his fire. It was made with sausage, beef, pork, chicken, onion, peppers, mango, pineapple on a skewered and wrapped in cactus tied with wire and cooked over an open fire. We so enjoyed the spontaneous meal!
He then offered us a ride on his ATV. My gray hair flying, I was escorted through the village. When we returned I went over to see the family who had waved to me as I rode by.
Out-of-town visitors were eating chicken and drinking tequila. I was invited to join them. Knowing that I am a special education teacher, the talk went to a child visitor. The girl was born after only 6.5 months in her mother’s uterus. She had an identical twin who lived only 3 months, so the surviving twin had ingested her own twin in the fluid. The 10-year old girl suffered many physical and emotional challenges. The mother asked for help.
Calling to my soul sister, Jolene, we considered the situation and agreed to try. Armed with about 10 normally-abled children we headed to our riding arena where twice a week we offer equine therapy to children and adults with disabilities. Usually we have volunteer help from the local teacher’s college, but not during a holiday.
We loaded 2 or 3 children (with no disabilities) on our therapy horses. They laughed and squealed and had a ball! Three times the young girl went into a spastic fit when she was lifted. I was concerned about her or another being hurt, but just then her foot landed across the horse, her aunt, who was on the horse held her firmly as her mother began to take her photo and praise her.
A “light” went off! The young terrified girl turned into a picture of joy. Her face broke into a smile that only a formerly terrified soul could develop. She rode for some time in the safe arms of her aunt with two volunteer side-walkers and a therapist holding the reins.
As the speechless girl left our home, she stared into my soul and said, “Thank you” in a way only a speechless disabled ten-year old could. That is why my family and I do what we do in this tiny indigenous village – priceless children and their parents need just a little help.
Learn about Dr. Jacqueline Zaleski Mackenzie
Dr. Jacqueline Zaleski Mackenzie is the first researcher to permanently relocate to an indigenous village in Central Mexico. Mackenzie’s goal was to figure out why 49 percent of Hispanic students failed to graduate in the USA.
Mackenzie conducted research in rural Mexico beginning in 2005. She has combined the information she gathered: scientific research, statistical analysis, and personal exploits to produce an easy-to-read textbook titled Empowering Spanish Speakers – Answers for Educators, Business People, and Friends of Latinos.
Dr. Mackenzie’s book is evidenced-based, based on scientific research. Her approach is that by emphasizing teaching techniques that bring out the highest learning results and engagement for Latinos, more Latino students will graduate from school.
The book is owned by the nonprofit Summerland Corp. Therefore, book sales funds building rural libraries in Mexico that should reduce emigration from Mexico (making both sides of the political fence happy).