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Mexican colonia risks everything to help neighbors.

CUERNAVACA, Mexico -- When the people of La Huizachera were ruthlessly driven from their land, the people of Colonia Josefa Ortiz de Domingos, risking everything, offered assistance and hospitality. One of their leaders, Juan Gonzales Castillo, described their hopes -- and what they have risked.

Their colonia has plotted out all the land, which they occupied a mere 18 months ago, with spaces for parks and schools and common buildings. The shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe is completed.

Well organized -- Gonzales managed to educate himself beyond the secondary school level -- this Josefa Ortiz community of poor people pays four of its men to work full time on community needs as a sort of paid town council, negotiating with the municipality, settling disputes, organizing meetings.

The Josefa Ortiz leaders have a plot of land on which they hope to raise goats so the children can have milk; they are trying to find a way to build a small workshop where the women can sew and embroider to bring in income. Some people are skilled ceramists so they are trying to find ways to raise the money for a communal pottery and ceramics works.

Yet this is a region beyond the law, where power is held in local hands and exercised peremptorily. So, when the poor people of Josefa Ortiz and other poor colonias reached out to the La Huizachera folk, they put their own fragile future, their own little houses and bits of land, their own families, in jeopardy. Courage and caring indeed.
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Title Annotation:Mexico and the North American Free Trade Agreement
Author:Jones, Arthur
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Article Type:Cover Story
Date:Apr 16, 1993
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