Mexico, the most populated Spanish-speaking country in the world, retains influences from Mayan and Aztec culture, as well as European colonialism. Mexico has gone through rapid changes over the last 100 years, including industrialization, urbanization, and movement towards a more open democracy. Yet far from Mexico’s developed, urban areas is the southern state of Oaxaca, one of the most underserved regions in the country. Within Oaxaca is the town of Puerto Escondido, or “Puerto” as it’s commonly known, a small city on the Pacific coast with a slower pace of life. Yet despite the idyllic setting and Puerto being named one of The New York Times top 52 places to travel in 2017 (#32), the maternal mortality rate in Oaxaca is approximately 62 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, double the national rate. Teen pregnancy and domestic violence are common here due to cultural attitudes, adherence to traditional gender roles, and lack of education.
Travel to the Oaxacan coast and learn about healthcare issues while rotating in first level community clinics, aiming to address women’s health by providing free access to contraceptive services, prenatal care, and preventative services such as breast exams and pap smears. Rotate alongside small healthcare teams, faced with limited resources, who are providing care to low-income populations. Contrast this with rotations at the only government hospital in Puerto, providing secondary level care for all pregnant women within a 20-mile radius. Take part in monthly educational workshops for women that are a part of the world famous Oportunidades, a comprehensive government assistance program with origins in rural Mexico. Its success in decreasing poverty and improving health and education has been widely recognized and replicated worldwide. Later, visit with traditional midwives or parteras who are highly regarded within communities and perform about 25% of registered births in this coastal region in the home.
Become immersed in Mexican culture and language while living with a local family in Puerto Escondido and taking Spanish language classes. CFHI participants can take advantage of local beaches for surfing and swimming. Weekend trips from Puerto offer lagoons and national parks, home to mangroves and abundant wildlife, or phosphorescent waters and turtle egg hatching.