Weekend 14: Campeche City

What an amazing find! The State of Campeche certainly tops my list of surprises in Mexico. It seems to be a given that the western region of the Yucatán is a bit “sleepy” relative to other places in the country. What I discovered is that Campeche City is vibrant, even if it is not as robust as other cities I’ve visited. In 1999, UNESCO declared and listed Campeche City as a Cultural Patrimony of Humanity due to its preservation of the fortified walls from the XVII century.

wp-1480306007508.jpg

What Campeche does not lack is history! Founded in the mid-1500’s, it prospered because of the tremendous value of its timber resources. The palo de tinta (or palo de Campeche) is wood that gives off a reddish to dark-blue ink. This quality was known by the Maya’s, but completely exploited by the Spanish entrepreneurs who invaded the Yucatán. Not to be outdone, pirates from England, France, and the Netherlands robbed the galleons transporting these logs and other precious commodities en route to Europe.

Logwood (Haematoxylum campechianum L.), highly prized as a dyestuff for the European textile industry, attracted British smugglers who settled mainly in Laguna de Términos and Belize, where they were a threat to local trade.

Museo Baluarte de la Soledad (Mayan Architecture)

This museum is worth visiting for the information-packed videos when you reach the fourth display area (dealing with funerary customs of the ancient Maya). I appreciated the explanation of they type of tools used to construct the pyramids as well as the use of these buildings.

The ancient Mayas employed hammers, wedges, and chisels made of stone or wood. Limestone blocks were joined with stucco (lime and sand mix), also used to surface buildings with painted platers of different colors, and to model figures adorning both facades and inner spaces. Building decoration also included stone sculptures, as well as hieroglyphic inscriptions and carvings on lintels, columns, and jambs.

“The distribution and shape of decorative elements (such as this winged figure) varied by region and through time. In Campeche, at least four regions have been identified with distinctive architectural styles that could indicate political or cultural exchange networks. In all of these cases, Maya cities consisted of two basic areas: a civic-ceremonial precinct, where rulers lived and conducted their administrative and ritual activities, and a residential area located on the outskirts of the city, where the rest of the people dwelled.”

Zona Arqueológica de Edzná

wp-1480260569178.jpg

Museo de Piratas

The disturbing image in the lower left of the collage is from the small Pirate Museum. It is not to be missed! You can get through the displays in about 20 minutes, but you’ll come out with a deeper historical perspective and understanding of a topic that other museums gloss over. Because of the lucrative lumber trade between the Yucatán and Europe, piracy flourished, too. Legends have been spun from the seemingly heroic feats of these men, but that is not to glorify the cruelty they meted to those they captured and killed. This museum has realistic effigies of pirate prisoners that will startle you. A wall of pirates (left) and defenders (right).

Museo Cultural de Campeche

I loved seeing the handicrafts that the Campechanos had to innovate to use as payments for their land grants. Did you know that the Mayans were essential indentured workers.

The Mayans had to deliver payment in goods to the encomenderos (land grant holders), the Spanish Crown, and civil and ecclesiastical authorities. These products included cotton mantles woven by the women, was and honey, collected by the men from the stingless bees int he region’s jungles; in addition to corn, beans, chilies, hens, fish, and iguanas.

Salt had to also be mined nearby to supply two major industries: hide and leather work, and salting and preserving meat and fish to feed the people on the galleons.

Centro Cultural Casa No. 6

Items pictured are typical to Campeche!

wp-1480305507835.jpg

Weekend 13: San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas

Thanks to Deborah Colvin, I was able to add her video project to my video project. Deborah works with English language teachers and a group of students in rural Chiapas who speak the indigenous language of Majosik. She and Frances Westbrook from the U.S. Embassy just produced a terrific video that highlights this community with these English Language Learners. My inquiry project on Significant Digital Stories on First Heroes overlaps their project, so I had to travel to San Cristóbal de las Casas! (Deborah and I met in Monterrey at the MEXTESOL Convention when the U.S. Cultural Affairs director at the U.S. Embassy, Brenda Bernáldez, connected us.)

The town itself is laid out in somewhat of a grid radiating (as usual in Spanish-conquered towns) from the central square, cathedral, and administrative buildings. It reminds me of Antigua, Guatemala. History links San Cristóbal, Antigua Guatemala, and Oaxaca City together.

The most memorable site for me in San Cris was a small, humble chapel behind the main cathedral. The chapel was open for the servants and slaves of that time to hear mass.

Tourism is heavy here as the trendy restaurants and trinket shopping areas attest. Eco-tourism is growing here because of the natural beauty that surrounds SCDC. The only time I had to see any rural areas was when I was invited to view a community property that is available to have a university-level school built on it, which is almost 2 hours east. I hope they include adult continuing education classes for those who want this instruction.

 

Opera! La Bohème

So, why is an opera with a French name (La Bohème) sung in Italian? If Puccini were still around, we could ask him via Twitter. I don’t really care; I just love this opera. Some links below are arias from La Bohème and the full opera on YouTube.

I was looking forward to attending La Bohème at the famously beautiful Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City to compare it to the performance I saw at the Met Opera New York earlier this year. I must say that I had low expectations. I had gone to a performance of folkloric dance at the Bellas Artes courtesy of Fulbright-COMEXUS in August as part of our orientation. The building was stunning, especially the colored lead-glass inlaid around the stage. The space is smaller than the Met, so the acoustics are better (to my untrained ear). The folkloric dancers were amazing! I recommend that you see this staple performance by Amalia Hernández whenever you have a chance to visit Mexico City. What took away from the performance was the openly rude behavior of the audience! I get that the majority are tourists, but must so many be looking at WhatsApp and FaceBook that often? Do they know that the light from their phone is distracting? Ugh.

Despite this foreboding of potentially rude behavior, I gave in to my ambivalence and bought a couple of tickets to go with another Fulbrighter…on election day! It was well-worth it. Nobody was rude and the performance was stellar. The tenor was especially sonorous, but a bit too dramatic for the part during Part I when he emphasized his crescendo on the last note. It was just funny to see that bit of theatricality. I would see it again, but there are only 4 performances total which pretty much comprises the first half of the 2016-17 opera season in Mexico! There might be another one during the second half of opera season in 2017, but I won’t be here.

If you ever have a chance to see an opera at the Met in New York, grab it and relish it.

opera-met-nyc-1

Links to La Bohèhme

English for Vocations Needed Here

It was not enough just to relax in Zihua. I learned that among the tourist hotels and array of restaurants, an impoverished population serves as the social lubricant that keeps the tourist industry humming.

I learned that there is a disproportionately high population of unwed teen mothers in greater Zihua. Yes, reproductive education could be a solution However, despite the psycho-sociological reasons for this inclination to happen, the fact is there are babies born that need to be fed. Such a baby becomes a burden to raise for the unwed teen mother, the father, and the families that support all three involved!

Eventually, adding up the multiplying families, the number of babies will take a toll on the economic wellbeing of the community because these they will need to go to school. Overcrowding an already over-crowded educational system will force some adolescents to work. If they find work, great. But without having graduated high school (much less university), those who do not continue their education will likely have a baby themselves.

In a tourist location such as Zihuatanejo, English for vocations that see the most tourist may be helpful. The obvious one are hotels, spas, massage therapy places, and restaurants. Along with targeted English vocabulary and situational (experiential) learning, students can concurrently be trained in useful job-specific skills.

Weekend 11: Zihuatanejo, Guerrero

Finally made it to Zihuatanejo, mom! You would have loved it here; it is an amazing place to be.

This weekend is a culmination of Día de Muertos, when the nation of Mexico stops and honors their departed loved ones on Nov 1 and 2. Around the end of August I had already been planning to use my one week off from researching (allowed by Fulbright) to relax somewhere in Mexico. While living in Guatemala, my mother came to visit. She mentioned that she wanted to go to Zihua, but we never had the opportunity. So, what would be more appropriate than celebrating her life in a place where she wanted to go, and on the special day of commemoration of the dead?

The receptionist at the hotel was sympathetic to my wish to set up a small “ofrenda” or altar in my room. She brought candles and the orange flowers that symbolize the sun. I brought the special skull from Cuernavaca made by a local artist. I arranged everything (as seen in the upper left corner of the collage. I learned how special this holiday is for the Mexicans, so being in Mexico, I wanted to give the celebration a try. I felt more at peace with the passing of my mom, which for years since 2009 has not been easy to process.

Midway Through My D.A.T.

iSad! Today marks the midway point of my four (wonderful and glorious) months in Mexico as a D.A.T. (Distinguished Award in Teaching) grantee. I love Mexico and am already sad thinking that I will leave my friends and neighbors, exactly two months from now, to resume teaching my ELLs at St HOPE Leadership Academy in Harlem, New York. I would love to return to Mexico…for vacation, for teaching, for the food, for anything!

As a “2016 Fulbright-Hays Seminars Abroad Program Participant to Peru”, I was invited to submit a summary of my Fulbright experiences for the 2016 J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board Annual ReportThe 2016 edition highlights the year-long celebration of the Fulbright Program’s 70th anniversary, showcasing the Program’s achievements, evolution, capacity – and power of alumni networks – to advance innovation, cooperation, and more peaceful relations in our high-stakes world, looking forward as much as it looks back.

 This is my submission.

Key Events in 2016, Thanks to Fulbright Grants

by Frederic Bernal Lim, MSc-Edu

The following are the grants that I received from the William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board in 2016:

    • Fulbright-Hays Semester Abroad Program (Peru, July-August)
    • Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching Program (Mexico, August-December)
    • Fulbright Professional Development Grant (to attend MEXTESOL, Monterrey, Mexico, Oct 2016)

These Fulbright grants to Peru and Mexico focus on the inclusion of indigenous history, culture and identity in the modern world. I have chosen to combine these two acknowledgements of excellence in teaching into one multi-national and multi-ethnic inquiry project. At this time, this project is currently in development.

The Inquiry Project

Purpose: to collect and share digital stories of significant individuals, planned and produced by and for K-12 students from communities around the world, starting with Peru and Mexico.  The significant people featured in short videos by the students become the “First Heroes” of their digital narratives.

Objective: to develop global competence in K-12 students as they interview elders to discover stories of their family and local communities. By producing and presenting their rendition of their favorite story digitally to a wider audience through the First Heroes Project, local and global peers gain international perspective and mutual understandings from each other.

This is the one-minute Call to  Action for teachers to join the First Heroes Project.

screen-shot-2016-10-29-at-1-38-20-pm

This is the website FirstHeroes.wordpress.com where stories can be accessed for instruction as well as posts about improving digital storytelling. (In construction)

Screen Shot 2016-10-28 at 11.47.16 PM.png

Teaching ENL in Harlem, NYC

I teach in a charter school of 300 students in New York City. About 30% of them require ENL (English as a New Language) support from 6th through 8th grade. Students receive free lunch.

My ELLs (English Language Learners) are from immigrant families from Latin America, the Caribbean, West Africa, and the Middle East. My Project-Based Learning and instruction combines literacy, social studies, science, math, art, and technology.

The Significant Stories from the First Heroes Project will give my ELLs a window into communities in Peru and Mexico as they exchange stories, too. I hope that over time ingrained cultural stereotypes will dissolve through this sharing.

ells-at-work

Active Alumni Network

My Fulbright awards this year have allowed me to expand my professional network, which has made this project successful so far in its initial development.

I hope the project continues to grow in innovative ways to elicit cooperation among teachers and students internationally toward more peaceful relations among communities.

13613372_10153718603233263_1980312523426736098_o.jpg

Fulbright-Hays Semester Abroad: Peru 

During our trip to Peru, we met Eduardo Castillo, director of the Colegio Marianistas, in Callao, near Lima, Peru.

As a former Fulbrighter, Eduardo would like to implement this project in his school. We are now planning a return visit to   their school in February 2017, so that I can train teachers in a digital storytelling workshop.

Co-teachers on the Peru grant also want to help me improve my project. We plan to meet in New York after I return from Mexico. I look forward to working with Fatima and Carmen on related projects, for example, using puppetry to teach ELLs nationwide!

Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching: Mexico

During my Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching Program, I have expanded my professional network of teachers via other grantees from the U.S. and Mexico.

I have already contacted some of them to further connect me with educators who want to contribute digital stories from their Fulbright host countries.

For For example, Tim Flannigan from Rhode Island is in Viet Nam now helping students write about their communities through a specific Vietnamese poetry style. Tim and I will link our sites to showcase our respective students’ work.

 

Locations of Participating Schools

6-8 grade schools in Mexico

    • Iztapalapa, Mexico City: Escuela Secundaria
    • Tlaxcala, Mexico: UNAM campus, students of Aging Studies taking ESL
    • Canicab, Yucatán: Escuela Secundaria
    • Maxcanú, Yucatán: Escuela Telesecundaria and Telebachillerato
    • San Cristóbal, Chiapas: Escuela Secundaria
    • Monterrey, Nuevo León: alumnos graduados de una secundaria 

 

MEXTESOL Conference 2016

I presented my Significant Stories project at the MEXTESOL Conference with the support of the Fulbright Professional Development Grant.

Teachers now have access to the First Heroes Project; it was included in the 2016 MEXTESOL Proceedings. At the conference I promoted my project to key individuals:

  • Teachers interested in implementing digital storytelling in their classrooms.
  • MOOC developers of online classes in ESL, which is a teaching platform that I would like to some day emulate with the First Heroes Project.
  • The education and cultural sections of the U.S. Embassy in Mexico.

 

Sharing the Pedagogy

Teaching the World Forum, April 2017

Marry Curran, associate professor of professional practice and associate dean of local-global partnerships, Rutgers Graduate School of Education, New Jersey, spoke at the MEXTESOL on storytelling in the classroom.

  • She invited me to propose my First Heroes Project at the Sixth Annual Teaching the World Forum on the theme “Local-Global Service Learning” in New Brunswick, New Jersey in April 2017.

TexLER Research Conference, February 2017

Rebecca Tapia, researcher and professor at Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla (BUAP), Faculty of Languages, Puebla, Mexico, invited me to:

  • Propose my First Heroes Project at the 18th Texas Language Education Research Conference on “Educating Linguistically and Culturally Diverse Students: Research and Practice” at the University of Texas (San Antonio) in February 2017.
  • Be part of her team in BUAP, joining researchers from other universities to do a needs analysis at an indigenous school. I would be more than happy to join them through another Fulbright scholarship grant.

Thank you, Fulbright, for making it possible for me to bring global exchange to many classrooms.

Frederic Bernal Lim

MEXTESOL Conference 2016

What an amazing week I am spending at the MEXTESOL Conference 2016 in Monterrey, Nuevo León, México! The Mexico chapter of the Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages hosted this event and selected my presentation to showcase my Fulbright inquiry project on “Significant Stories” from communities in Mexico through the eyes of students in middle and high school.

I have already met several teachers (some of whom present their projects here) who are interested in implementing my “significant stories” project in their classrooms. They agree that teaching writing and speaking are difficult, but with my storytelling project the students can showcase their community and talk about themselves. Their finished videos will appear on this site as cultural “windows” to their worlds. I can’t wait to implement this project with my ELLs in Harlem, New York.

wp-1478013941451.jpg

I had a chance to network with the people running academic and scholarly programs in Mexico at the U.S. Embassy-sponsored event and other venues. I also like the great museums here full of interesting historical displays and installations. The sections of the museum of history, for example, had a better treatment of the story of indigenous people compared to other museums I have visited so far.

This town seems far from Mexico City, but I learned that it has been a vital trade point between the United States and Mexico. Specifically, the rail routes crisscross vertically between the agricultural pains of the midwest and the industrial sectors of northern Mexico. The tracks were laid in the 1800’s (or so) when foreign invest in Mexico was high. The ports of Tampico and Veracruz were conduits for loads of products for Europe toward the east and Mexicans toward the south.