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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Photo by Courtesy

The Bush School of Government and Public Service will host women artisans from Vida Nueva, April 5-9.

Pain, suffering and triumph is nothing new for the women of Oaxaca, Mexico. 

Through a global engagement grant and partnership with community organizations, the Bush School of Government and Public Service’s Master of Public Service and Administration capstone program, or MPSA, will host the Vida Nueva Women’s artisan collective from Oaxaca on April 5-9. During its time in the Bryan-College Station area, the collective will sell products, attend local cultural and artistic events and engage with the local community.  

Public service and administration graduate student Miranda Estrada said it is important to hold these events to expand perspectives and expose students to different communities that are tackling problems. 

“At the Bush School, we talk about communities and we look, in certain classes, about what are the best ways to handle or to fight issues in our community,” Estrada said. “By hosting these particular artisans, they’re tackling issues in their community. I believe that exposes our students to an element of that, and it’s kind of nice because it brings that connection of what we learned in class to also what we see in the world.” 

Bush School professor and project adviser William A. Brown said there were key principals and pre-objectives in the grant proposal. As a part of their master’s capstone experience, Brown said students are required to submit material to demonstrate their progress, with the visit being just one element. 

“The [Bush] School is a couple things,” Brown said. “It prepares people as public servants, people to work in public service areas, whether that’s nonprofits or government, [and] exposure to international context and international understanding.” 

The women and members of Vida Nueva are widows, mothers and unmarried women, Estrada said. 

“Through Vida Nueva, the co-operative, they support each other [through] their daily struggles and challenges that they face,” Estrada said. “They also share ideas and share the traditional techniques that they’ve learned. One of the things that the proceeds from all of the sales go to is to help Vida Nueva facilitate workshops on topics such as domestic violence. Healthcare is another thing that they’re really focused on as well [as] healthcare for women, traditional medicine in Mexico.”

Estrada said the capstone worked closely with many individuals who recommended women’s collective to the capstone group. 

“I think what we really love about Vida Nueva is their story and how they tackle those issues in their own community,” Estrada said. “It is an all-women group as well. That is something that we were really excited about when we found out about them.”

Estrada said all profits earned at the events will go directly to Vida Nueva. 

“I think students should attend this event to learn more about the really great cooperatives and the work that they do in their country and the work that they do in their community,” Estrada said. “This is a group of women from Oaxaca, Mexico. I think that seeing that element of this thing, that element in the culture of that, would be a really beneficial experience for students. It’s like a glimpse into another world that you can get right here in College Station and in Bryan as well.”

MPSA graduate student Joshua Feldman said Vida Nueva helps support women from Oaxaca by empowering and creating economic opportunities through funding workshops to teach local women topics on domestic violence, healthcare and weaving techniques.

“Students should attend this event not only to purchase some incredibly well-made products, they should also come to learn and experience a unique culture,” Feldman said in an email to The Battalion. “The demonstrations and lessons that will be featured at the events throughout the week will share a unique culture that these artisans are bringing from their experiences in Oaxaca, Mexico. This is an opportunity that we do not get often at Texas A&M; to have an international artisan directly come to our campus and tell us about their culture.”

Feldman said he highly recommends that anyone interested attends the events throughout the week. 

“We have worked very hard with partners at A&M like the Jordan Institute or in the Brazos Valley like the Arts Council,” Feldman said. “There are so many different and unique opportunities to engage with these artisans and support the future of this program.” 

Feldman said MPSA intends to continue this program in the future with the goal to improve social innovation and cultural exchange. 

“All the group members truly believe that this is a sustainable program that A&M and Bryan-College Station can benefit from,” Feldman said. “We hope that one day an artisan market with many international artisans from around the world can be brought to A&M to interact with students. In addition, we are already laying the foundation to take A&M students to visit artisans in their home countries next year. Our goal is to make this a repeatable and sustainable event.”
Between the on and off-campus aspects of the event, Brown said he hopes to find a way to cooperate with the community in order to host more events like this in the future. 

“I’m hoping between the partnerships that the students have helped establish and get going here with this initial pilot, that we can sort of explore the way to be able to get this done in the future, because I think it’s a neat opportunity,” Brown said. “There’s so many pros. The artists are winning by being able to have access to a Western market, students are winning through intercultural experience and engagement with artists and the community benefits from exposure to interesting innovative craft work.” 

Brown said Vida Nueva is a fascinating group of artists who produce quality and outstanding work. 

“It’s wonderful to be able to see high-quality craftsmanship that harkens back centuries in regards to practices, procedures [and] designs. To see some of those elements is just informative, but then to be able to meet the artisans themselves — they’ve come all this way to hear their story about why they’re doing what they’re doing — it’s incredibly inspiring and motivational as well as entrepreneurial and creative. In the way that they’re going about what they’re doing, it’s an inspiration to everybody who gets a chance to be able to participate.”
For more information on Vida Nueva and their upcoming trip to the Bryan-College Station area, visit their Facebook page.

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