Located in the municipality of Tecate, Juntas de Neji covers an area of 11,590 hectares and is home to 140 residents, 90 of which belong to the Kumeyaay nation, making Juntas de Neji the northernmost indigenous community of Mexico. Although Juntas de Neji is relatively close to larger towns like Tecate and Tijuana, grid electricity has never been extended to their community.
Yolanda Meza (or Yolanda Meskuich because her original last name was changed as a result of colonization) is the head of the Mekuich ranch in this traditional and ancestral land of the Kumeyaay, she has 4 children and 13 grandchildren, and they all live at the same ranch. Yolanda, along with other Kumeyaay grandmothers, are cultural bearers and one of the few Native speakers of the Tipaii (learn more about Yolanda and the language here).
Since 2011, Yolanda, alongside her family and her community, has been working on preserving her culture, teaching the Kumeyaay language, and bringing in various traditional instructors to teach different cultural subjects at what she calls “La Escuelita” or “La Escuela Meskuich”.
Escuela Meskuich is a small school that teaches Kumeyaay tradition and language to community children and visitors. This school hosts groups of people interested in learning about the Kumeyaay language, cuisine, plants, land, pottery, and basketry.
In 2021 - 2022, La Escuelita was awarded a government grant from CONAFE (The National Commission for the Promotion of Education) to be a rural education center for children and adults in the community, allowing her to make renovations to the space.
Bringing solar to Yolanda Meza’s Escuela Meskuich will not only benefit her efforts to preserve the Kumeyaay language, but it will also impact her grandchildren (at least 8 are of school age) and the children from her community (13 have signed up for classes at this school so far). Classes start on August 29th, 2022 and we can make a difference in making this school a place more suitable for learning.
With solar, the school can power its Internet equipment at any time, power three monitors and computers, and power fans for good ventilation during the summer or on hot nights. Solar can increase food preservation, power appliances for workshops and classes, and provide lighting so community members can keep activities going after the sun is down.
Trip Dates: September 17-24, 2023
Trip Cost: $2,200 per person
To support this project, please make a donation here.