AMSIF in San Juan Cosala
By Sally Bahous
Facing the square in San Juan is an old house painted yellow and trimmed in blue; during the Revolution it was a hospital and before that it functioned as the home of the priests who tended the old church whose side wall forms the back wall of the house’s courtyard and whose decaying tower now sports a cactus instead of a bell, looming large over the green courtyard. AMSIF has rented this house for the past five years, using it as a school for the women of San Juan Cosala.
Here, Mexican women teach Mexican women who want to learn more about a large variety of subjects from nutrition to language to caring for the very young and the elderly. In the past year, an oven has been installed and some of the women who have been trained in baking pastries now have a paying job baking for the small cafe in the building that serves coffee, tea and desserts every Tuesday through Saturday.
AMSIF is a 36-year-old organization founded by Carmen Moncayo and Marisa Arroyo in 1973 in Mexico City in order to help women in poor neighborhoods recover their dignity through programs that would encourage their self-realization. Since then, AMSIF has spread through Mexico. Today, here are thousands of women attending programs in hundreds of centers.
AMSIF is officially recognized by the government as an organization which has served to strengthen families as well as the women it educates. San Juan Cosala’s AMSIF project was begun six years ago by Aurora Jacobo with help from Alicia Salcido. AMSIF (Mexican Association for the Integral Empowerment of Women and their Families) seeks to liberate women through education.
Recently, the San Juan Cosala AMSIF has added a program of English language training for children. At AMSIF, empowering women also includes strengthening the family by encouraging the training of children. In San Juan, if women want to attend classes but have no one to care for their young children, Blanca Favela takes charge of the children in the courtyard, teaching them songs and games while their mothers study. Though AMSIF cannot take complete credit for the increased cleanliness of San Juan, the women and children are trained in recycling and provide colored ties for sale used in the area’s recycling of garbage.
“We teach the women and the children what can most help them and the village,” says Lety Colunga, current director of the program. Alicia Salcido organized the first AMSIF Pig Bash fund raiser because each AMSIF program is dependent upon the women who run it for funds.
For the past six years, the women of the Racquet Club and San Juan Cosala have held fund raisers for AMSIF in the Racquet Club palapa. Thanks to the generosity of Pedro Palmer, this fund raiser has been able to provide enough money for renting the facility, for improvements, supplies and equipment, freeing the women who teach to concentrate on giving the village women the courses they need.
This year’s AMSIF Pig Bash will be held on February 25th from four to seven; tickets are available at the Racquet Club Office or from Chairperson Grace Holman at 387-761-0400. Grace explains the fund-raiser as simply another example of Lakeside’s “neighbors helping neighbors.”