Thursday, July 21, 2011

Columbia Patuxent Rotary Club

While I was in the US, I visited the Columbia Patuxent Rotary Club ( in Columbia, Maryland. This club is close to where I grew up (the 2011-2012 President is my neighbor!) and was almost my sponsoring club (instead of being sponsored in my hometown, I am sponsored in North Carolina where I went to college). I had spoken at their club back in 2009 when I was a candidate for the scholarship and it was great to go back again, this time to share my experiences after a year in Mexico as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar.

After my presentation, I received various questions, such as:

-Is it true about the water?
Yes, don't drink the water. Locals don't either -- at least not in Mexico City. It's all bottled water.

-What is the health care system like?
IMSS (Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social) is the Social Security and provides health/medical assistance to "workers and their families"-- so I'm not sure who exactly is covered v. ignored. ISSSTE (Instituto de Seguridad y Servicios Sociales de Trabajadores del Estado) is available for government employees. There are private hospitals and clinics. There are also clinics attached to the generic medicine pharmacies, where visits cost 25-35 pesos (or what my family likes to call the two-dollar doctor.

-Does the government provide services/support for the poor?
In all honesty, I don't know. I've heard someone mention a soup kitchen, but it was privately operated. IMSS might have other services, but I don't have the impression it includes the general population -- especially those that might need it most.

-What is Mexico's biggest concern with the US?
From what I've seen and hear, it really depends on what group or individual we're talking about. There are people that love the US. There are also people that hate the US and therefore everything associated with the US must be bad/evil/hurtful/ etc. And lots more people in between. Some of the biggest concerns I've seen/heard are: arms trafficking from the US to Mexico; the US' role in the drug trade; capitalistic practices that hurt local economies; racism and discrimination against migrants and using undocumented migrants as a form of "modern day slavery."

Posing with Columbia Patuxent Club President,
Pete Kunz, and his new Mexico/US Rotary pin

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