March is the month for women and is celebrated internationally on the 8th or 9th of the month.
Once in a while Lakeside celebrates its heroines. Last month was one such occasion at Huerto Café in Riberas, a restaurant well known for helping local charities. The comparatively new Poco a Poco organization, taking on the problems of San Pedro Itzecan and surrounding barrios off the beaten track past the end of the bus route in Mezcala, celebrated its own heroes, the volunteers and one in particular, Anita Torres Guerrero. Anita, having heard of the plight of San Pedro, its social woes and its unexplained sicknesses in children and young adults, decided to leave her home in Ocotlan to see if she could help.
With the help of Major J. Trinidad Lopez Rivas, she started Civil Brigade, teaching young people first aid and how to become first responders and rescuers. They were young people out of school with no future, no way to earn money, disrespecting themselves and their families. Anita gave them a purpose and hope and the Brigadiers were born. You may have seen them cleaning cars at Chapala events while wearing bright red shirts, raising money for their various needs. Their numbers now are over 600 between the various villages.
Anita also got the attention of other people and was the inspiration of the organization Poco a Poco, with the purpose of addressing the uptick of children’s deaths caused by kidney failure from the lack of potable water and sanitation that plagues most of the villages. The Tepehua Community Center has opened their doors to help Poco a Poco every way they can. It is a most worthy cause and one that can succeed. Their goal is to build a community center and clinic similar to the services of Tepehua. Your help and ideas would be very welcome.
Tepehua had its own heroine. Over twenty years ago, Anabel Frutos started a very small day care center. Using a loaned potter´s shed, her aim was to allow the women time to find work to earn money to feed their children. Some had husbands, some did not. With donations and help, the children ate well and thrived under Anabel’s care, so much so that some of the mothers just left and didn´t or couldn´t come back for their babies. So, Anabel’s day care became the well- known orphanage it is today: Amor en Acción (Love in Action). Of course, the potter´s shed expanded with donations from a few philanthropists until the children even outgrew that as more babies were left at the doorstep. Love in Action, Anabel, and about sixty children moved to a spacious property in Chapala proper, where it is now mainly for girls and their education. This author went to CHOPO recently for a test, and a smart young nurse asked if I remembered her. I didn’t, but she was one of Anabel’s babies. That was a feel-good moment.
The rest of the story is known. A handful of people who helped Anabel Frutos reach her goal took over the empty Tepehua building and turned it into the well-known community center it is today. Anabel’s legacy lives on with us as we grow from strength to strength, with the help of many people from north of the border and our own hosts here in Mexico. All the organizations are reaching out to help each other, which of course makes the whole stronger.
Ajijic, too, had its heroine in Sylvia Flores. Now retired, she was a woman born before her time. As a registered nurse and midwife, Sylvia fought the church and superstition to bring help to the women of Lakeside for over 25 years, to make the right of choice for the size of their families, and many other things including the education of young girls in puberty. Sylvia helped Tepehua start its maternal health program approximately eight years ago. She, too, is a legend, and hers will be big shoes to fill after her retirement.
They walk among us, these quiet heroines, and as the Irish say, “May the wind always be on their back.”
For more information about Lake Chapala visit: www.chapala.com