Profiling Tepehua – August 2023

The debate on Nurture or Nature continues about which is the predominant guiding factor in someone’s life. In other words, is it genetics that control who we become or environment?

Some thinkers believe that everything we are as adults is the result of evolution and is handed down to us through the family tree. While the modern-day thinker suggests it is environment and we are patterned after our experiences as a child.

While talent in a person can be learned, it is usually genetic and it takes environmental nurturing to find it. A child is like a learning sponge and absorbs everything that’s seen and heard. Some of it lies dormant for years. It is only the DNA, genes and chromosomes that are inherited, everything else is acquired in the course of our development. Social learning dictates some of who we are, but the avenues of learning are many.

Extremes in environments such as poor verses rich can dictate who we are. Those in wealthier households get more opportunities as children and this helps them later to achieve sustainability in their lives. It doesn’t mean they use it but the opportunity is there. Their poorer cousin gets fewer opportunities so has less to work with. That doesn’t mean they cannot reach excellence on their own, it is just usually harder without opportunity. Somehow they absorbed knowledge outside of their home environment that gave them the tools to advance.

Sweden did a study on twins separated at birth and raised in different environments. It showed without a doubt that environment played the larger part than heritage.

This author has seen what happens when you take a child out of a poor natural environment and nurture that child with opportunity and knowledge.  Having two adopted children of her own, each from a totally different heritage and different race from their adoptive parents, they became their environment and developed the characteristics of the adoptive parents as they shared opportunities that were available because of financial stability. They grow as large as the environment of knowledge available. It’s a little like a goldfish: it will only grow as large as its bowl will allow. In the same way their natural parents couldn’t develop and grow because of lack of opportunity and environmental stimulation.

It is also apparent in the barrio of Tepehua and others similar on the socioeconomic ladder. Knowledge shakes children out of the lethargy of their less fortunate parents and they begin to thrive on that outside influence which they absorb. Tepehua is raising a strong middle class because the children of this generation were given opportunity their parents never had. They are stepping outside the boundaries their parents were given through economic stress and lack of basic education.

The Tepehua Community Center took on the role of a surrogate parent to the whole family group and those families who desired change came in droves as they wanted better for their children, and took advantage of everything the center offered. First was help to get their children into a school system that is by no means free. All the government is responsible for is the teacher and the building. Registration, uniforms and books, snacks and in some cases potable water are the responsibility of the parent. Mothers volunteered to help keep the center clean in return for education, medical and dental assistance, and many enrolled in the sewing and English classes.

The center has helped hundreds of children enter the environment of learning, inspiring the brighter stars to further education. Most pursue a career outside of the village, some come back home to help their village prosper. There can be little doubt that who we are as an adult boils down to how we were environmentally nurtured.

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Moonyeen King
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