First published in 2001
About the Story
The ‘center’ in this story is based on a real place in the village of Ajoya about 80 miles north of Mazatlan, PROJIMO, or, in English, Project of Rehabilitation Organized by Disabled Youth of Western Mexico. PROJIMO is an offshoot of a village primary health care program started more than 30 years ago by David Werner, an American who still lives at the project part-time. The rest of the year he travels around the world in search of things he can learn from and share with other village-based health and disability programs.
I have set the story about 25 years ago, when I first visited PROJIMO and began to get to know some of the people who lived there. All the events in the story that take place at the center are real and did happen there, though I’ve created some composites and have not used real names. There was one particular girl at PROJIMO whose courage and radiance served as my inspiration for Lupe. She was paralyzed from the waist down, she began her own rehabilitation when she healed the sore on a donkey waiting at the gate of the center, and she helped in the rehabilitation of a younger girl exactly as described in the story. Everything else about Lupe and her family is fictional—though it’s close to the reality lived in Ajoya and other villages in Mexico.
PROJIMO has undergone many changes since the events I describe, mostly for the worse. About 60 years ago, land in Mexico owned by the rich was redistributed to the farmers who farmed it, and so each small farmer was able to earn a living and have food to eat. After NAFTA, farms were bought by huge corporations, the small farmers lost the land and poverty returned to the villages. The village where the center existed lies in an area of heavy traffic in opium and cocaine, and some marijuana. Many residents of the village are much poorer than before, and a number of men and older boys have been killed because of drug wars and kidnappings. A third of the remaining population has moved elsewhere, including PROJIMO itself, which is now down the mountain near the highway to Mazatlan.
Today there is a main municipal hospital in Mazatlan, which is modern, busy and quite good. The poor are cared for there, and have to cover only the cost of the medicines. But 25 years ago, before this hospital existed, it was not at all uncommon for a family who went to a public hospital to be ruined financially because a family member would not be released until full payment was made.
copyright 2016 by Molly Bang