We Work, Walk, and Dream Together
We Work, Walk, and Dream Together
This Summer, the Ignatian Center hosted 9 students on an immersion trip to Chiapas, Mexico to learn about indigenous sovereignty and human rights. During the immersion, students had the unique opportunity to engage with the Tzeltal indigenous communities through their cooperative Yomol A'tel, which means "together we work, walk, and dream." This cooperative, formed by indigenous families, produces honey, coffee, and soaps in an organic and artisanal way, respecting the environment and people and exemplifying the Tzeltal worldview, that it is about putting the person in the center in relation to capital.
One of the attending students, Gema Sanchez Gamez '26, wrote about her experience visiting the coffee plantation of Petul, an indigenous farmer in the Yomol A'tel cooperative.
“Juntos trabajamos, juntos caminamos, juntos soñamos”
We work, walk, and dream together
Although waking up at 6 am is not usually something that comes naturally to me, this particular morning, it seemed like everything came easily. While it was maybe the AC that I had been lucky enough to sleep in the night before, it was also the promise of a new adventure in my new favorite place. It was the 5th day of our immersion in Chiapas, and we were getting ready to visit the coffee plantation of Petul, an indigenous farmer in the coffee cooperative, Yomol A’tel, in Chilon, Chiapas. After a quick bite of pan dulce, we rushed to the plantation to try to beat the heat. Petul’s energy and determination were contagious, and got us through our early morning.
After our long walk to the plantation, I was confused at the sight. Petul’s coffee plants were not in the neat, manicured rows I was expecting, but rather, dispersed loosely in a patch of the jungle.
As someone raised in the city, I found myself awed by Petul’s endless care for his plantation among plagues and bad growing seasons.
One of the main topics we discussed during reflections at the end of each day was the concept of vocation and the motivations behind people’s work. Petul got into the coffee industry because the knowledge was passed down by his father. His answer was simple and reminded me of the value of the concept of duty.
As a first gen student, it’s often easy for me to feel as though I’m in a void of endless career options with no guidance. Petul’s honest and simple approach to vocation brought me so much peace during this time when I feel that I have to have everything figured out. Although without context, people may think Petul and other farmers like him are trapped in tradition and have less freedom than everyone else, I find that simplicity so comforting. Making decisions about the future can be overwhelming because it seems like everything is an option, and I aspire to have a way of streamlining my career life, so I have more mental bandwidth for my hobbies and loved ones like Petul seemed to have.
While the Yomol A’tel motto of working, walking, and dreaming together can refer to the different branches of the cooperative (coffee, honey, soap, textiles) coming together, I think it also refers to working towards making intergenerational dreams come true. Although it’s easy to feel that the sense of duty I feel toward my family is clipping my wings, the community I felt at Yomol A’tel reminded me that there’s strength in turning toward my loved ones during the process of vocational discernment. Although Petul inherited the coffee plantation, he made the business his own by joining the coffee cooperative and working at Capeltic, Yomol A’tel’s coffee shop. This immersion and the many different ways in which people in Chiapas live out their purpose through their work, helped me solidify the fact that the trajectory of my life has been determined by the sacrifices of those who came before me.
Becoming immersed in a culture so deeply rooted in tradition showed me that I’m part of a greater, intergenerational community, and it’s my duty to use the gifts and lessons they’ve passed down for the greater good of my global community.
Gema Sanchez Gamez '26
University Honors Program
Ciocca Center Mindset Scholar