Thursday, December 27, 2007

Lasallian Technology for Humanity


This paper will apply conceptual material regarding the Lasallian tradition, as left by Jean-Baptiste de La Salle and explore its components to determine what technologies might be used in the development of a small village located in Central Mexico. The name of the village is Hacienda La Bolsa. Innovations that are being researched could help in the development and progress of this village. Included in this paper is a glimpse of the village's background, problems and viable solutions that could be employed. This paper will also demonstrate how the survival and development of this village depends upon its ability to have the availability of technology.


Hacienda La Bolsa is a small village nestled between two municipalities in the state of Guanajuato in Mexico. In order to fully understand the circumstances of Hacienda La Bolsa, one must consider the surrounding environment. Mexico is divided into 31 states and a Federal District (Mexico City). Guanajuato is located to the north of Mexico City and belongs to the region known as the Bajio. It begins about 150 miles (240km) northwest of Mexico City. Although set in the Sierra Madre highlands at an elevation of between 6,000 and 7,000 feet, the Bajio is not quite as high as Mexico City, so getting used to the altitude is easier. The area is known geologically as the Central Volcanic Highlands, but the Bajio region is commonly called the Historic Lowlands precisely because of its height in relation to the capital.

The state of Guanajuato is divided into 46 counties. Valle de Santiago (the 42nd), also known as the "country of seven fires" because of its seven volcanoes, has an area of 835 square km. This is located with Salamanca to the north, Jaral del Progreso to the east, Yuriria to the south, Puruandiro, Michoacan, to the southeast and Huarimao, Abasolo and Pueblo Nuevo to the west. Valle de Santiago is a town of 50,000 people. There are four banks (Banamex, Bancomer, Banca Serin and Banca Promex) and some money changers where traveler checks as well as cash can be exchanged. There are several hotels as well as public transportation. Hacienda La Bolsa is located 10 kilometers to the east of Valle de Santiago and 3 kilometers to the west of Jaral del Progreso.

The rainy season is from May to July. After which the whole landscape is golden and green. Construction is not affected because it does not rain hard. The temperature ranges from 20 to 40 Celsius degrees. May is the hottest month and January the coldest. The people who live in the outlying villages basically live out of their farms. These lands are very fertile; and the villagers will boast of their famous "giant" lettuces and tomatoes. They are so huge they actually look alien. The main crops are wheat, corn, sweet potato, peanuts, tomato, lentils, sugar cane, garbanzos, alfalfa and sorghum.

Some sites that one can visit near Hacienda La Bolsa are "La Alberca", one of the seven craters in the region. The crater is full of water. The whole region is said to be enchanted and entire fields of four-leaf clovers are commonplace. The whole region is dotted with colonial style Catholic churches and chapels. Guanajuato City is located 91 km to the north of Hacienda La Bolsa and takes two hours by bus to get there. This is a very cultural and colonial city. Guanajuato is the state where the Independence of Mexico took place. San Miguel de Allende is also a cultural town where many national and foreign artists and writers live. It is 100 km from Hacienda La Bosa. It takes two and a half hours by bus to get there. Morelia is also at a distance of two hours. This is a colonial city; the capital of the state of Michoacan. Most buildings in a colonial town were built during the Spanish colony, XVI century; therefore the architecture is very European looking.

Economic Viability

The sixth-largest state economy in Mexico, Guanajuato is strategically positioned for trade and investment. By the year 2000, Guanajuato exported close to $1 billion. The capital of the state of Guanajuato is Guanajuato City and the main cities are León, Irapuato, Celaya and Salamanca. The population of the state of Guanajuato is: 4,393,160 and is divided as follows:

· 72% in urban areas
· 68% under 30 years of age
· 51 persons per sq. mile

Guanajuato is the national leader in production of gold, shoes, leather goods, broccoli, potatoes, alfalfa, strawberries, garlic, onions, wheat and barley. It is also an important producer of oil, chemical, fertilizers, sweaters, knitwear, jeans, home appliances, handcrafts and auto parts. The footwear industry manufactures more than 170 million pairs of shoes per year.
NAFTA has triggered substantial trade and investment opportunities that have been beneficial for doing business in Guanajuato. Foreign Direct Investment has grown under NAFTA.

· In the period between 1994 and April 1997 the cumulative foreign direct investment was $18.3 million
· The state has investors from the United States, Spain, Canada, Germany and Italy
· There are over 200 foreign companies with capital invested in the state, including General Motors, Birds Eye, Campbell's and Colgate, among others
Guanajuato is attractive to foreign investment due to it's:
· Highway infrastructure with a total network length of 3,968 miles
· 586 medical units, general and specialized hospitals, and 18 private hospitals
· 13 industrial parks based mainly in the "Bajio industrial corridor"
· International airport with direct flights to and from major U.S. and Mexican cities
· Strong labor force of 1.1 million
· Literacy rate of 88%
· 44 research and development centers, ranking it number two among Mexican states.
According to Irvin B. Tucker in his book Survey of Economics he states that technology can cause a shift of the supply curve (p. 61). I will demonstrate how the lack of technology in Hacienda La Bolsa has put it at a serious disadvantage in regards to its neighboring municipalities and with the rest of the state.


Concentrating on Hacienda La Bolsa, there is very little or practically no technology. Life is simple and pure in this village, but the people are poor compared to the rest of the state of Guanajuato. To give examples, all that has to be done is ponder on the following realities of life in Hacienda La Bolsa. Homes are built of adobe or volcanic rock. Modern commodities are absent from this beautiful little village of about 1,200 inhabitants. There is no electricity. Lamps, candles and camp fires are a way of life there. Once the sun sets and with the exception of moonlight and starlight, the village is pitch black. The available potable water is drawn from shared wells. Washing and bathing is done in the nearby river which runs the whole course of the village. One can forget about the convenience and warmth of a hot shower. Outhouses built of bamboo and straw are conveniently located near the back of each home. The people in the village live off of the land. It is not unusual for families to have flocks of sheep or goats. To have a milk bearing cow is considered a luxury. There are no telephones. The pathways are not paved. Families are accustomed to sending their sons to "The North" to work and send money home for sustenance. Few paid jobs are available locally, hence more than one third of households temporarily migrant. Migrants are involved in a wide range of jobs from white-collar work in offices and teaching, to construction, soldiering and police work. Migrants are more likely to be male. One in five adult men is a migrant, compared to one woman in ten. The few female migrants are mainly engaged as domestic workers and paid low wages. Men have greater access to white-collar jobs and are better rewarded. Most migrants go to nearby cities or to Mexico City, but about one-fifth, again mainly men, have gone to North America. There they could make ten or more times the rates paid for farm labor back in the villages, although there are high costs in traveling there.

Most children are born at home and medical assistance is scarce. Children have to walk about 10 kilometers each way to get to school and the government only pays for education up through the 8th grade. Thus most people of the village never get the equivalent of a high school education. Detailed studies in four villages show that rural incomes are very unevenly distributed within communities, leaving half of households in poverty. During the last decade key factors affecting village economies have been international and national, rather than specific changes to farm policy. Most changes have been to the detriment of the communities studied, but peasant households have adapted and survived, at a price. If the worst fears about the consequences of economic liberalization have not been realized, neither have the hopes. Depressed markets for basic goods and services have limited the growth of the rural economy. Private investment and provision of services have not been stimulated. Mexico, despite its urbanization, industrialization and memberships of the OECD and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), is a perfect example of one such case. Numerical estimates of poverty in Mexico vary considerably, depending largely on the level at which the poverty baseline is drawn. Even the most conservative figures give one fifth of the population of nearly 100M living in poverty; others would estimate at least one-third or more. Mexican poverty is concentrated in the countryside, where between 70 and 80 per cent of the poor live. More than 90 per cent of rural households live in poverty, and more than one third endure extreme poverty.

The incidence of poverty in Mexico shows that economic growth alone does not necessarily eradicate poverty. Indeed, if poverty cannot be substantially reduced in such middle-income countries, there is much less hope for poverty alleviation in lower income countries or even for those countries when their economies grow, and they urbanize and industrialize. Understanding the nature of poverty in Mexico thus not only has implications for Mexico itself, but also for other developing countries that aspire to the economic growth that Mexico has already achieved. For now, we will concentrate on Hacienda La Bolsa.
It has been demonstrated in Hacienda La Bolsa that a free market does not necessarily deliver social justice. If the distribution of incomes and assets that determines market power is skewed and unjust, (and Mexico's income distribution is notably unequal), then the market outcome cannot be socially optimal (unless government intervenes). The buying power of the rich few will dictate what is produced, rather than the needs of the many poor. Hacienda La Bolsa also lacks well-developed clusters.

The Lasallian Tradition as Solution

With the purpose of sharing the love of Jesus by works of faith, the object is to eliminate subhuman living conditions from Hacienda La Bolsa by building houses with the participation of persons from all walks of life. People from the community would support each other, especially those of the greatest need. As it is presently, the inhabitants of the village band together to assist each other in building their adobe houses. With the assistance of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, funds could be made available to purchase machinery in order to build homes more efficiently. Besides this, they would include the basic necessities we have come to enjoy here in the United States. The raw materials would be available in the region and clusters could be formed in order to accommodate this process. With technology, a home could be built with prefabricated components and finished within a fraction of the time. With the whole community working together, homes could be built for everyone within the village.

With the technology of farm machinery, instead of pure manual labor, there would be an increase in the production of crops. In order to initiate such a task, subsidies on agricultural inputs and farm loan interest rates must be implemented by the government and other public assistance and programs to agriculture should be increased. Costs of crop production have increased over the past years, although the impact was limited for many farmers given how little they used purchased inputs. Formal credit has to be extended to the village community.
Promoting cluster formation in developing economies means starting at the most basic level. Policymakers must first address the foundations: improving education and skill levels, building capacity in technology, opening access to capital markets, and improving institutions. Over time, additional investment in more cluster-specific assets is necessary. There has to be government involvement to subsidize fertilizer and seeds, and give access to formal credit. There would have to be an organization to provide technical assistance to the farmers.

Free education should be provided up through grade 12 in order to educate the population and technologies such as the internet and computers should be implemented. The village is in dire need of a library. Changes to the farming community responded to internal factors. Less male labor is available for farming. In one case the absence of men engaged in temporary migration or their involvement in non-farm jobs has led to the maize fields increasingly being worked by women. In the other, the effect of shortages of male labor for farming was reduced since some of the land had been converted from maize and chile peppers to cattle pasture with a lesser demand for labor. In at least three nearby communities, there were ecological problems: lowering of the groundwater table and the effect of heavy use of chemicals on irrigated vegetable plots, deforestation, soil erosion and loss of soil fertility, and attacks by pests in the tropical lowland communities. Given rising costs of inputs, the falling or stagnant prices for most crops (other than coffee) and lack of technical assistance, it is difficult for villagers to come up with a solution.

A successful program of rural electrification using renewable energy resources is being implemented in Mexico, as part of the National Solidarity Program, PRONASOL. More than 24,000 small photovoltaic systems have been installed, mostly for lighting individual buildings, as well as photovoltaic power systems for 100,000 rural telephones and about 800 rural health clinics. Seven village-size systems have also been installed, either wind-photovoltaic or wind-photovoltaic-diesel hybrid systems. Both supply and demand need to be considered to create a sustainable program. This system could be incorporated in Hacienda La Bolsa.


10 kilometers to the east of Valle de Santiago and 3 kilometers to the west of Jaral del Progreso, Hacienda La Bolsa of old tradition and history is full of tranquility, simplicity and heart and its inhabitants have remained faithful to tradition throughout the years. Nevertheless, in that simplicity, the beauty of its surroundings and the small treasures that are found within give the visitor a sense of times passed and the possibility of breathing air that on many occasions require the we remember that the smallest things are of immense greatness. By way of the Lasallian tradition, the community of villagers put their trust in Providence and helps one another in their greatest needs. Technology will assist them in augmenting the results of their efforts and contributions from outside sources will be consistent to that tradition. The poor must have access to education, and technology will enhance their ability to learn and put their knowledge to practical use.


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Posted on Sunday, December 14, 2003 at 01:56AM by Juan David De Jesus