“No Word For Welcome” by Seattle author, Wendy Call

This past October Pangea hosted author Wendy Call to discuss her new book entitled No Word for Welcome: The Mexican Village Faces the Global Economy.  Wendy grew up in El Centro, California close to the border which first informed her interest in the intersection of US and Mexican culture.  She traveled to the Isthmus of Tehuantepec for the first time in 1997 and returned many times driven to understand more about this part of Mexico. In 2000 she packed up her life in the US and moved to the Isthmus for two years to immerse herself in learning more about the forces of globalization that Istmenos were battling.

Wendy reminded us of the Cree Proverb that resonated for 16 different native populations who inhabit the Isthmus and who faces the intrusion of global forces – mega highways, shrimp farms, resorts, and big box stores. “Only when the last tree has died and the last river has been poisoned and the last fish been caught will we realize we cannot eat money.”

Wendy ‘s book combines a fascinating case study of the complexity of global forces descending on the resource rich Isthmus of Tehuantepec, engaging portraits of village personalities, and an overview of the history of that region.  We discussed the complexities that come to life as village folk push back against globalization as they participate in it.  Wendy’s unique ability to live among the people and gain their trust models for North Americans a way of not coming to conclusions as to the effects of globalization so much as to listen and more deeply understand the diverse positions of people of that region.  Even though Wendy writes about Southern Mexico, the tension she presents between preservation of culture and modernization could be applied to many places in the developing world.

Wendy affirmed Pangea’s approach of forming partnerships with grantees and stated how important it is to find local partners who we trust and then to put our faith in them.   She offered that in her experience that change takes a long time and that we as North Americans tend to be impatient.

The Iowa Review described Wendy’s book as “ a portrait and a warning to the rest of the citizens of our global village.”  The discussion which followed Wendy’s slides and reading reflected this description.