Piaxtla Takes on the Education of Angel Amarillas

Each year for the past four years Project Piaxtla has sponsored the education away from home of a youngster from the villages, as well as continued to sponsor those from the previous years. This year I had no particular student in mind, when one day this summer a shy 14 year boy, slight for his age, arrived at the clinic. I asked him if he had come for medicine. He said not, and after a long pause, asked me if it were true that I helped young people continue their education. The boy turned out to be Angel Alvarez Amarillas, of whom his teacher, Octavio, speaks with high praise. Last June, Angel finished sixth grade at the top of his class. He was eager to continue his studies, but the school in Ajoya goes only through primary school. Angel’s family lives in a small rancho a mile or so from Ajoya, and is too poor to send the boy away to school. I asked Angel if he had relatives in San Ignacio. He said, “Yes, an Aunt.” I told him that if his aunt would provide food and shelter, I would cover his tuition for secondary school, plus books, school supplies and uniform. Next day—during which temperatures rose to over 100º F.—Angel hiked 17 miles to San Ignacio, consulted with his aunt and hiked back to Ajoya, arriving at dusk “a little tired” but happy to tell me that his aunt had agreed.

It is anyone’s guess what Angel will do with his education once he gets it, or whether as I hope, he will return to the villages to benefit his people in some way. But I do know that a boy as eager as Angel is worth a bit of investment.

Updates on Juan, Martín, and Miguel

Of the other young people whom Project Piaxtla has helped sponsor, Juan Sánchez is continuing school in Culiacán, and Martín Reyes and Miguel Mánjarrez are continuing school in San Ignacio. Miguel and Martín, who studied in the States for one and two years, respectively, returned to visit the U.S.A. this summer. In July, Miguel and I visited my father and brother in Cincinnati and New Hampshire. Martín, together with his 14 year old sister, Ynez, went to California. Ynez lived with the family of Thomas Prosser of Cupertino while Martín stayed at the home of Dr. Carlo Besio of Portola Valley.

Is Veterinary Medicine the Way?

Last June Dr. Besio, a veterinarian, together with his wife and children, brought a load of supplies from Palo Alto to Ajoya. The Besios helped Martín and Ynez get visas and drove them back to California. Martín, who has helped a good deal in the Ajoya clinic, apprenticed with Dr. Besio this summer in the Portola Valley Animal Hospital. What he learned will be of use in the treatment of animals in Ajoya, but will also help him toward becoming a medic for the people.

Dr. Besio and I have considered that a good way for young villagers to get training as backwoods doctors is for them to apprentice with US veterinarians. Physiologically, after all, man is an animal, and much of diagnosis and treatment in veterinary medicine parallels that in human medicine, particularly in pediatrics. Even if it were practical for a gifted young villager to apprentice with an M.D. (which for obvious reasons it is not) in some ways the veterinary apprenticeship would be more appropriate for a backwoods practice, in so far as veterinarians often do more of their own lab and X-ray work. The other alternative of sponsoring a village youth through the entire educational hierarchy ending in medical school is impractical not only because of the many years and huge expense involved, but because it is so unlikely that a young man with a medical degree under his belt would return to the villages to practice. Forty per cent of Mexico’s M.D.’s are in Mexico City. More than fifty per cent of the municipios (counties) are lacking in any qualified medical personnel whatever. Apprenticeship with a veterinarian is a far surer short cut, and Dr. Besio is eager to cooperate. Martín has a start. The potential, I believe, is enormous.