This is the second blog post documenting the Youth Global Leadership group’s journey on their Insight Trip, “Transcending Borders: Understanding Immigration in the Southwestern US.” For this post, the documentarian committee each wrote narratives, complete with personal reflection, to capture their daily experiences. In their words, “We hope this gives more insight (haha) into the emotional experience of the trip.” Enjoy!
I think we all breathed a sigh of relief as Sally (our 15-passenger van) rolled out of the Alamosa Campground. We were moving towards good things: showers, home-cooked meals, and mosquito-free terrain. Three hours later, Daniel and Betty welcomed us to Casa Taos with open arms.
After a lunch spent swinging in hammocks in the New Mexican sunshine, we got down to business. Daniel led a “Roots and Wisdom” workshop, asking us questions like, “What do your family gatherings look like?” and “Who shaped you into the leader you are today?” It made me reflect on how I can draw strength from the people who walked before me. As the group reflected on our childhood memories, there was laughter and tears. I remember thinking, “This is what community building looks like.”
I had that thought again as the YGL group sat down at dinner with Victoria Flores. Our conversation carried themes of alternate education, suicide prevention, regeneration, and inner-city life. The exchange helped me gain insight into the community and helped me understand how to “enter spaces lightly.” For me, honest conversation has been the most impactful part of this trip. It challenges my world view, helps me reflect on my values and culture, and broadens my perspective. Sharing stories over Betty’s enchiladas will be a memory ingrained in my mind for the rest of my life.
Over breakfast, we had the opportunity to meet with Linda Yardley, who talked to us about her history of being Native American and shared personal stories that touched us all. We watched a documentary called “A Place at the Table” which shed light on the importance of ancestry. Through youth discovering their own history in depth, they were able to work towards social justice. With this information fresh in our minds, we made our way to the Taos Pueblo where Cesario Gomez gave us a tour of his community.
There was an uncomfortable sentiment among the group as Cesario was put in a position where he had no control over the questions that were being asked of him concerning the personal history of his land. The group discussed how using the Pueblo as a tourist attraction felt invasive, as the people of the Pueblo were living and thriving there independently.
Personally, I grew from this experience, as I was able to dive into the rich history of Native People that I did not know prior to this day. I felt pain for the situation that people had been unjustly put in and I felt a deep sense of resilience throughout the community which propelled me to want to learn even more about this amazing nation.
Day 7 at Casa Taos was HOT — even at 9 am when we were doing our daily service on the land. After, we packed up and drove to Miguel Santistevan’s home and his Sol Feliz Farm. He was immediately so welcoming, energetic, and eager to share the wealth of knowledge he had. Throughout our time with Miguel, I constantly felt so grateful that he was willing to share his story and the story of his ancestors who had been living on the land for 221 years.
One of my favorite quotes from Miguel was, “Instead of going after the cake, we’re fighting each other for the crumbs.” I felt this was really important because I noticed that often times, instead of working together, people’s differences divide them. However, this experienced showed me that, despite the obvious differences between our group and Miguel, he was still willing to share his own story in hopes to deepen our own understanding of his way of life and permaculture. He explained how it was an act of resistance to maintain the sustainable and healthy agriculture also used by his ancestors.
He later gave us a tour of the land and described his crops, the way the acequia (water ditch) system irrigates his land, and how his crops benefit from one another. We then went on a hike that was all uphill to look over Taos. On the top of the mountain, Miguel told us a story told to him by his mentor. It was a sacred story, and we all felt the power and felt inspired and grateful Miguel chose to share the story with us.
After going on a run in the morning, we again helped Daniel and Betty with gardening and other tasks around Casa Taos. Then we drove to a community with sustainable houses called Earthships. These houses are made completely of garbage and materials available in the surrounding environment. These amazing houses are completely self-contained, the only power source being numerous solar panels. We went on an informational tour where we learned about the “biotecture” of these homes.
Seeing these houses for me was very inspiring. I have recently begun to consider being an architect, and seeing these houses made me want to work for this company as their mission to use clean energy and the beautiful layout of each house inspired me.
After this tour, we went to the Gorge Bridge over the Rio Grande to eat lunch and some of the group walked across the bridge. Earlier this week, we learned that this past year within the small community of Taos, five people took their lives by jumping off the bridge. Walking across this bridge — which is viewed largely used as a tourist attraction — we felt this knowledge weigh heavy on our hearts. On the bridge, I saw stickers saying “you are beautiful” and multiple places where one could make an emergency call by pressing a suicide hotline button. It was extremely powerful and allowed me to see the situation in a whole new light.
To learn more about Philanthropiece’s Youth Global Leadership program, and to view documentaries of our previous YGL Insight Trips, please visit the YGL webpage.