Who are we?
Journeys Beyond the Surface is made up of Journey Coordinator Mojdeh Hojjati, working in collaboration with a group of men and women. We are friends from a variety of social and cultural backgrounds, each with our own contact with Mexico beyond the surface, including links to grassroots communities and civil society organizations.
From the Journey Coordinator:
I have been living and working in Mexico for 21 years now. Although I am not from here, Mexico has become my home and my roots, my beloved everyday reality.
My vocation as a bridge has been formed and informed by a lifetime of being in two or more cultures, becoming a part of both sides without losing contact with either. I have been straddled between two cultures ever since I was born. My Iranian parents went to the US to study, and I was born. They returned to Iran when I was 4. Although I lived in Iran until age 16, I always lived in contact with non-Iranian cultures. As a girl in a very small, international, mixed-sex school (very uncommon in Iran), and with an English education, I was Iranian and yet also foreign. When my parents sent me to the US in 1978 (due to the eruption of the Iranian Islamic Revolution), I found myself first in a large public high school in Beaumont, South Carolina and later, alone in a huge American university. In these places, I was an American (citizen) and yet also foreign. Upon completing my Master's degree in Agricultural Economics / Community Development in 1988, I arrived in Mexico for a one-year internship with a colleague of one of my professors.
At first I was completely overwhelmed by Mexico City, a feeling augmented by my total lack of Spanish and lack of money for classes. But 12 months later, I was just starting to feel completely comfortable and to participate actively in the work here. So I stayed another year, and another, and eventually ended up realizing that this is where I most prefer to live. In this way, I began collaborating with Mexican non-profit organizations and civil society groups in conceiving, planning and implementing specific activities or projects. I also became useful as a bridge between these groups and outsiders (students, researchers, activists from other countries) who wanted to get to know them.
Here in Mexico, I continue to live straddled between cultures -- I continue to be an Iranian and an American, but at the same time I have immersed myself in this city and country. I have created roots and family -- my beautiful 12 year-old handful of a boy and a loving tribe-- here. Over the past 18 years, my collaboration with Mexican civil society organizations has continued and expanded. For 12 years, I worked as a consultant for corporate foundations such as the Levi Strauss Foundation and the Kellogg Foundations, facilitating their social grantmaking efforts throughout Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. In addition, I have been organizing educational trips and accompanying university student groups in Mexico for over 10 years, mainly for the International Honors Program "Beyond Globalization" , and the now-defunct Mexico program of the School for International Training (SIT) but also for groups from European and Canadian universities. And since 2006, through Journeys Beyond the Surface we have accompanied individuals, couples and groups of friends from the US, Australia, Canada, England, Germany, Austria, Belgium, India, Iran, Hong Kong...
SIT made a promotional video for their Mexico program, back when it still existed, and I'm featured on it! If you want to see, I am on from minute 4 to 7:30 on YouTube.
In the "Testimonials" section of this website you will find comments by students and others for whom I have played a trip facilitating role. I invite you to browse through the section, to get a better idea of our work.
Many of you have had the pleasure of having Alvaro as your guide to Mexico City's historical sites. If so, you know he is trained as a sculptor and an art historian, as well as being incredibly knowledgeable about history, art and architecture, and with a gentle warm heart who loves to share what he knows. We are lucky that Alvaro's cousin (who does not share Alvaro's aversion to computers!) has set up a blog to show Alvaro's work. The blog is in Spanish and includes information on Alvaro's background, as well as a photo gallery of his work. Or, you can go straight to the photo gallery to see a broad selection of his sculptures.