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Latin American Studies


USD Students Explore Fair Trade and Human Rights in Latin America


Ashlen Nimmo and Hannah Evans, seniors at the University of San Diego, describe below their recent work in and ongoing passion for Latin America.

We are both double majors in Spanish and Sociology, with a minor in Peace and Justice Studies. Although we both started studying Spanish in high school, it was not until we left the traditional classroom setting and immersed ourselves in Latin American culture that our love for the language developed. Our first introduction to Latin America was through immersion trips to border towns in Mexico. The Spanish language was a tool for us to connect with the people on a more profound level, creating a strong desire to better understand the social conditions of the region. USD has provided us with further opportunities to explore these conditions as well as Latin American and border culture more broadly, via community service-learning, immersion trips and various courses.

One such opportunity was an immersion trip to Southern Mexico this January. As Campus Associates for Catholic Relief Services and members of USD Students for Fair Trade and Sustainability, we helped coordinate a one-week trip to Mexico City, Oaxaca, and Chiapas, to explore fair trade and human rights, as well as learn about the connection between students and small-scale coffee farmers in Mexico. The delegation of USD students and staff, along with a CRS representative, met with human rights organizations and fair trade coffee cooperatives to better understand how systematic structures disadvantage some while favoring others. In particular, we were exposed to the reality of the indigenous people of the southern most states in Mexico, who are often times victims of marginalization and human rights abuses. One cooperative in particular that we met has been a target of systematic violence for many decades. Its members, all of whom are indigenous, have turned to fair trade as a means to guarantee a fair price for their labor and invest in community development projects. This trip was a chance to formulate relationships with the people who produce the products we consume. Even though the differences in lifestyle and standard of living were apparent, so too was the connection we had through coffee and our shared humanity. 

Our experience in Southern Mexico, along with our passion for Latin America, will propel us to continue to work with the Latin American population beyond college.

Ashlen will be teaching English through the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in Tacna, Peru for two years after graduation. Hannah is pursuing various volunteer opportunities in Latin America, one of which would be providing health education to communities in the region.

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