Something I have found that Los Cabos lacks, or rather is in the process of developing, is a sense of community. Los Cabos is a fast-growing region with enormous socioeconomic cleavages and a population base representing recent migrants from all corners of the world. Despite how wonderful a diverse population may be, how can a community vision and participatory spirit be built or sustained?
Los Cabos has a reputation, one mainly of high class hotels, world renowned golf courses, and spring break partying. However, what many fail to recognize is that it has so much more to offer. Yes, the beaches are breathtaking here, and yes the nightlife is great. But that is neither what everyone is here for nor what the true potential of this beautiful region is. The Cabo that I have gotten to know does not reflect any of the stereotypes or glorified perceptions people have about the region.
Disclaimer: I love Los Cabos. I do not want to give off any sort of vibe that I do not like the area or am unhappy here. Rather I am invested in the region and see room for growth – beyond hotels, bars and golf courses that is. I want to use this blog post as an opportunity to show you the same side of Cabo I have gotten to know and love. Most importantly, I want to help facilitate positive change and bring some of the wonderful ideas and project visions to fruition.
I have been in Los Cabos for almost 2 months now. Working as an urban agriculture research assistant at the Municipal Institute of Planning (IMPLAN) has been wonderful so far, but I want so much more out of my time here beyond my direct research. I had this in mind before even arriving. I want to take advantage of my 6 months here and use it as an opportunity to network, build relationships, and get involved to my utmost potential.
The main highlights of my time here have been the connections made with people who are invested in this region with their hearts, minds, and souls. I have had the pleasure to meet incredible individuals who are genuinely interested in enriching the lives of the local population – a group that does not receive the same level of attention, investment, and support as compared to the tourist and expatriate populations.
Mangoes I picked from Greg’s mango tree at home!
One of the first people I met here outside of work was Greg Edwards, the executive director of Gente Joven por un Cambio (introduced in the Humans of SCI section of the blog). Greg welcomed me with open arms and has been vital in fostering further connections as well as giving me a deeper understanding of the history of Los Cabos. Greg has been living and working in the region for almost 15 years, so you can just imagine the plethora of knowledge and experience he has. Gente Joven is a youth development program in Mexico inspiring the next generation to solve problems, create visionary change, and realize their full potential. They empower youth ages 8-18, teaching them to design, lead, and implement social change projects in their schools and communities.
Above is a picture of the current and evolving Gente Joven site where programs related to permaculture, gardening education, and baseball programs take place. This is a temporary home for Gente Joven as they are in the process of developing a comprehensive recreation centre. The idea behind this project is to consolidate multiple community efforts and projects to work cohesively and foster community development and enrichment. The new site is within the proximity of four different levels of schooling, right from kindergarten up to high school. It will include a soccer field, baseball diamond, a BMX park, a velodrome, a bike trail, an educational and demonstrative garden, and a building that will be home to four organizations: Gente Joven, Mobilize Mankind (to be introduced below), the Boys and Girls Club, and a Food Bank. The building will also include a gymnasium and a multipurpose kitchen. The kitchen will offer food education courses and the preparation of healthy snacks available to the children using the facility. Getting to know Greg and the Gente Joven team has been truly inspiring as they live, breathe and empower positive change for the community of Los Cabos.
Greg introduced me to The International Community Foundation (ICF), a non-profit organization that facilitates international donations from the United States to the Baja California region. They support projects related to the environment, education, health, and human services. I was introduced to a couple of people involved here, one of which was Joel Najera Mendez who is a community project coordinator. He invited my boss, supervisor and I to visit one of the community garden and food education sites in Cabo San Lucas (picture above) to tell us more about the work they do directly in the communities and how some of their different operations work. This is one of several community kitchen projects ICF supports where children and community members are brought together to learn about food from seed to table.
Greg then introduced me to Mobilize Mankind, a non-profit organization based in Eugene, Oregon that he and his wife, Gayle Edwards, created. Mobilize Mankind is dedicated to assisting individuals with physical challenges and limited resources access their environments by recycling used orthopedic equipment and assistive technology. They have been working in Baja California since 2003, originally serving 25 children in need of wheelchairs, walkers, or braces. They now have served over 1500 children and continue to grow. The focus of the program is on serving the children, but it goes above and beyond that to include the parents, schools, clinics and community in the entire process. They recognize and emphasize the importance of including all key actors in the lives of these children in order to ensure optimal performance, integration, and development. Above is a picture of the wheelchair factory in Cabo San Lucas where the equipment is built, repaired, and stored.
A key component these organizations have in common is the element of volunteerism. The work that they do would not be possible without the hundreds of volunteers, both local and foreign, who offer their time and heart. The work of Mobilize Mankind is a prime example of this, who have had over 500 volunteers travel from the United States to participate in addition to an equal or greater number of local volunteers. Opportunities for volunteerism foster a community vision as they promote community involvement and participation. A great quote from Greg when talking about the importance of volunteers mentioned that “…the networking that happens between people who are involved in altruistic work creates bonds that go way beyond simple acquaintances and evolve into deep and enduring friendships.”
A community vision is what these organizations and individuals have at heart. They are the building blocks of the future here in Cabo. I hope they continue to attract and inspire others, enhancing the lives and spirits of present and future generations. I am so fortunate and grateful to have met these individuals and to have the opportunity to participate in the work they do here. Having a vested interest in other souls unconditionally creates a ripple effect that produces miracles in the lives of those around us.