Carrie Lee Elementary School Extended Learning Program teacher Rhonda Thompson says she got to see "the real Mexico" on a five-week trip to that country this summer.
The visit was sponsored by the Fulbright Scholarship program, the U.S. Department of Education and the Secretariat of Public Education in Mexico. It took Thompson and 15 other American teachers to eight southern states in Mexico. The trip started in Cancun, but then visited much different communities, in states such as Chiapas, Campeche and Quintana Roo.
"We were worried prior to going," says Thompson, but U.S. officials reassured the group that recent violence has been concentrated in northern Mexican states along the U.S. border.
Thompson applied to the seminar program because she wanted to bring back a sense of the Mexican culture to her students in Decorah. She wants to tell Decorah students that hearing other people speak Spanish "is not threatening."
The group of teachers visited both rural and urban settings, meeting with local teachers, artisans, specialists and Mexican residents to get a feeling for what is happening in the Mexican culture.
Thompson says many of the people she met were poor and had to work long hours to make ends meet. She says many families in the southern states had family members who had repeatedly tried to enter the United States, seeking to find the jobs that would allow their families to lead better lives.
Thompson will give a public presentation about her five week trip to southern Mexico on Monday, October 4th, at 7:00 p.m. in the Carrie Lee auditorium. The program is free and open to the public.