Communities of Liberation, Cuernavaca Mexico (1)

I just returned from a two week Spanish language and social justice immersion program in Cuernavaca, Mexico. This first post provides an overview, part of a short series about what we saw and learned.

Communities of Liberation Blog Series: The posts in this series are-

    1. Communities of Liberation, Cuernavaca Mexico (1): About Blogging, Course Description, Celebrating 3 Kings, local homes, Cuernavaca, Museo de Arte Sacro, Tonantzin
    2. Communities of Liberation, Cuernavaca Mexico (2): Immigration, Base Communities, Mexico and Morocco
    3. Communities of Liberation, Cuernavaca Mexico (3): Customs and traditions, Virgin of Guadalupe, San Charbel Makhlouf of Lebanon, Iglesia del Río de la Plata and the LGBTQ community
    4. Communities of Liberation, Cuernavaca Mexico (4): Don Sergio Méndez Arceo, Museo Morelense de Arte Contemporaneo Juan Soriano, Coco, the Day of the Dead
    5. Communities of Liberation, Cuernavaca Mexico (5): Museo de Arte Prehispánico Colección Carlos Pellicer, Yolcatl: La representación animal en el Morelos Prehispánico, Museum of Memory and Tolerance (Museo Memoria y Tolerancia), Hate Speech, Rwandan genocide, Diego Rivera murals
    6. Communities of Liberation, Cuernavaca Mexico (6): Indigenous people, Zapatistas, Marichuy and 2018 elections

These six blog posts and 100 photos are being submitted to fulfill Pacific School of Religion (PSR) class requirements. My goal in writing these blogs is to present my experience and observations, raise questions and share new information, and to inspire my readers to learn more. I have over 5,000 potential readers in the USA, Middle East, Africa, Central and East Asia and other areas: 2,673 direct blog subscribers, 1,203 on Facebook, 1,361 on Twitter, not counting cross posts to other sites. The blog series is collected under the tag Mexico.

About Blogging and Katysblog: This blog series makes use of the interactive nature of the web log (blog). If you want to see a larger version of any photo, select it. If you want to know more about a subject that is highlighted in blue (or underlined in a printout), click the blue text to go to the linked page. If you want to communicate with me, the author, to ask a question or make a correction, click on the Comment bubble at the bottom of the blog entry. You can learn more about me on the “About Katy Dickinson” page. You can learn more about Katysblog on the “About Katysblog, Using Pictures” page. I hope you enjoy reading, and I look forward to hearing from you!

Communities of Liberation Course class: The Graduate Theological Union course was lead by Professor Bernie Schlager of PSR who accompanied the five of us. Three of the graduate students were from the Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary of California Lutheran University (PLTS-CLU), one was from the Church Divinity School of the Pacific (CDSP), and I joined from PSR.  The course started in December 2018 at PSR in Berkeley with two regular class sessions about the history of Mexico and key social justice topics. The Communities of Liberation Course Description:

This course, offered in partnership with Pacific School of Religion‘s Center for LGBTQ and Gender Studies in Religion (CLGS) and CILAC Freire in Cuernavaca, Mexico, will explore communities of liberation in contemporary Mexico, focusing on LGBTQ and women’s communities as well on issues of economic justice within Mexico and between Mexico and the United States.

On weekdays students will participate in ten days of language instruction, including three hours per day of formal classes and daily guided conversations. The classes follow a liberation pedagogy, emphasizing student-led learning and active participation. Each student will be placed in a home stay with native Spanish speakers. Home-stay sites are carefully selected and affirming of diversity in sexual orientation, gender identity, race, and ethnicity.

In addition, students will participate in field trips to important cultural and artistic sites; non-governmental organizations (NGOs); and community settings to gain greater awareness and understanding of Mexican history, culture, and social justice efforts. Students will also benefit from seminars on historical, political, and cultural topics, and there will be many opportunities for conversation with local community members.

We six arrived in Mexico on 5 January 2019, in time to celebrate the Biblical Magi on the Día de Reyes with Rosca de Reyes cake. In Mexico, the Magi arrive on a camel, horse, and elephant rather than just the camels I am used to seeing. During the first week, we saw nativity scenes all over town, some of them life size or larger. Cilac Freire, which describes itself as “the most progressive Spanish & English school in Mexico” presented us with traditional small gifts on our first day and told us that those who found one of the little Jesus figures baked into the crown-shaped cake would get to provide tamales for everyone. Cilac Freire was named in honor of Brazilian educator and philosopher Paulo Freire.


Our group was split between several local households which we shared with students in other Cilac Freire programs. I was one of three women who were lucky enough to be hosted at the home with the shortest walk to the school and two charming dogs: Guera (“Blondie”) and Queta. Our host Dora valiantly and lovingly supported our various food preferences and allergies and worked hard to get us to speak only Spanish at home by the second week.


Cuernavaca is the capital of the State of Morelos, south of Mexico City. It is a vacation destination for many in Mexico as well as for foreigners who attend its language schools. In the 19th century, Alexander von Humboldt named it the City of Eternal Spring. Spanish Conquistador Hernán Cortés built his palace there in 1526 (but most of the palace and cathedral were closed for repairs following the 2017 earthquake).  Cuernavaca is a vibrant place full of friendly people, good restaurants and museums, and busy traffic.

On our first day, we walked downtown to the centro or Zócalo to see the cathedral with its open-roofed chapel and Museo de Arte Sacro de Cuernavaca. I there learned about Tonantzin, the Aztec mother goddess whose carved stone figure was found buried in the wall of the cathedral and who has a relationship to the Virgin of Guadalupe. Guadalupe was to become a regular feature of our two weeks in Mexico.







Blog post updated 5 Feb 2019

Photos Copyright 2019 by Katy Dickinson

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1 Comment

Filed under Church, News & Reviews, Politics

One response to “Communities of Liberation, Cuernavaca Mexico (1)

  1. Pingback: Communities of Liberation, Cuernavaca Mexico (6) | KatysBlog

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