On Monday, October 24, Jane and I met with John and Consuelo, the filmmakers responsible for El Andalón, a documentary film on the work of my hero Sergio Castro, and Mary Murrell and Ivan Schuster, the couple behind the fund-raising events for Sergio in San Miguel. Team Sergio was beginning to gel. Over cappuccinos on the jardín, we introduced ourselves to one another and learned more about the plan of events for the next few days.
Sergio and his wife would arrive from Chiapas later that day. (What a coup to have them here; Sergio rarely travels away from San Cristóbal, where his many patients need him on a daily basis.) Patricia Ferrer, a physician’s assistant from Tucson who travels to Chiapas twice a year for two weeks to work side-by-side with Sergio, would be in San Miguel late that night, along with her physical therapist friend Kathleen and the 200+ pounds of medical supplies they carried with them. They were both en route to Chiapas but had squeezed in two days in San Miguel to help with the fund-raising events.
Mary’s local helpers Iri and Olivia were busy building forms on which thetrajes would be displayed and with preparations of food and drink for over 100 people. More local pals were scheduled to take tickets and otherwise assist at both events. The San Miguel bilingual paper, Atención, had just run the second of Mary’s beautifully written articles about Sergio’s work and his upcoming visit. Posters were up around town, the buzz was building. Everywhere we went we talked about Don Sergio and El Andalón and people responded enthusiastically; two guests at Casa Luna, our gorgeous home-away-from-home in San Miguel, bought tickets for both events and went about spreading the word to others.
Our days were full. I was engaged. Engaged as in a gear that was properly meshed, interlocked and interacting with the other moving parts – in this case, Team Sergio. It felt beyond enlivening.
The luncheon was just lovely, Mary and Ivan’s beautiful home a marvelous backdrop for our first gathering as Team Sergio.
All of us, in emails leading up to this meeting, had expressed our awareness that no matter what our own personal goals for Sergio were – a brick and mortar clinic, a proper museum on the main street in San Cris, establishing nonprofit status for organization, Yok Chij, etc.- our only real goal was to find out what he wanted and make a plan to get that for him.
Once the dessert plates were cleared we slowly segued into meeting mode. We asked Sergio what we wanted and needed. It wasn’t easy for him; he talked about how hard it was to predict the future, to see past the immediate needs of each day – shelter and food for his family, medical supplies for his patients, and transportation for him to reach them. I was aware of how difficult this conversation must have been for him, a humble guy just trying to do his work because, as he says, “What else would you do?” sitting at a table with eight eager friends who really want to help. I, for one, can be pretty intense in a situation I am passionate about, and I was most definitely passionate about this. I attempted to lower my energy level so as to not overwhelm.
Wednesday evening found us at the Sala Quetzal, putting together the trajeson the stands that Iri had made. They looked absolutely stunning in the context of the room; they formed a border above which David Leonardo’s bold mural floated.
October 26 reception and traje exhibit: $5,400 pesos
Other donations ($2700 USD donations made at and after the events)$35,910 pesos
IF Foundation ($990 USD from event by Food in the Hood in Santa Cruz, CA)$13,167 pesos
The monthly $4000 USD is a bit more complicated and will take some work. Monthly pledges from supporters might be the way to go. Allowing people to “join” Team Sergio, now known as Amigos del Andalón, via his web page would raise funds little by little while building a community of like-minded supporters of his work. A grass-roots movement to show the film and raise money among friends and colleagues seems a likely path to take. And without a doubt, a grant or the backing of a foundation would help immensely.
Aside from the concrete achievements produced during of our time in San Miguel, many important seeds were sown that will likely produce fruit down the road. Several people from within the Rotary Club were in attendance and expressed their desire to help Sergio through the Rotary, possibly with a car or other concrete items. A well-known professional photographer (NY Times, National Geographic) is planning a trip to San Cristobal to spend time with Sergio in January, giving us a good chance of wide coverage for Sergio. Contacts were made with at least two large foundations who expressed interest in sharing Don Sergios’ work with their boards. At least two people I spoke to have offered to go to Chiapas in the coming year and provide hands-on help. These are just the results I’m aware of, I’m certain there are more wheels turning out there that we have yet to discover.
Our work is cut out for us. And we’re ready. We met for the first time as a team just two short weeks ago, and we left as partners, Amigos del Andalón. We each have something unique to bring to the table and we worked together brilliantly. We share a vision that is bigger than ourselves yet completely achievable, and we’re committed to sharing that vision so that everyone may participate in helping Don Sergio to continue with his work.
It’s a rare and beautiful thing to be able to help such a purely good cause. Please visit YokChij.org any time you’d like a hit of the joy.
Read the first article, ‘On a Mission in Mexico – Part 1‘ by Betsy McNair.