Puerto Morelos is a quaint little town, but one that is truly divided. A major four-lane highway that stretches North to South paralleling the sandy shoreline and connecting the famous tourist destinations along the Mayan Rivera also separates the town into two distinct sections. The coastal part of town includes touristy shops, colorful parks, eateries and condos that are priced above $400,000.
Nestled in among the beachfront properties is an inviting and locally-owned Bed and Breakfast where Amizade volunteers sleep comfortably and wake up to a breakfast of fresh mango juice and Mexican-style eggs complete with tortillas and salsa. After a day of hard work, volunteers return to the Inn to lounge in the hammocks swinging in the late afternoon breeze coming in off the crystal blue waters. The décor consists of rusted old anchors and cannons that once lined the decks of European vessels coming to make their claim on the land and of the Pirate ships that met them in the waters in search of foreign treasures. It’s quite picturesque.
Across town on the western side of the highway, past the acres of mangrove swamps, the difference is stark: tiny, thatched-roof, one-room houses that lack indoor plumbing and speckle trash-strewn streets. Even the locals refer to this part of town as “the jungle”. The average tourist would not likely find him/ herself in this part of town, let alone spend any intentional amount of time there. Crossing over into this part of the town is a crash course in the disparity of wealth and poverty, privilege and insignificance.
For Amizade volunteers who come to Puerto Morelos, building friendships with those who live on the other side of the highway and serving alongside them is what it’s all about. Most of the schools in this area value the opportunity for their students to be taught English as a learned language, as this will enable them upon graduation to compete in the ever-increasing, tourism-dominated job market in Mexico. Amizade volunteers enjoy serving the community in this way as well because they are able to forge relationships with the children. This experience speaks resoundingly of the interconnected nature of the human experience, teaching the complexity of poverty and politics and cutting through it all with human interaction.
To learn more about Amizade’s site in Mexico and how you can get involved, visit our website!