A meeting of the minds in Mexico | SummitDaily.com
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A meeting of the minds in Mexico

Andy Stonehouse/Special to the Daily News

FRISCO – What happens when five young professionals who’ve never met each other head off to Mexico for a month and a half of cultural exchange – and tequila, ancient Indian ruins and Levi’s factories all are part of the program?

It may sound like the makings for a reality TV series, but as a couple of local participants in the Rotary’s Group Study Exchange program recently discovered, the experience was a worthwhile chance to learn more about life and business south of the border in a fashion just a little more thorough than a week-long vacation.

Tara Eaton, community prevention coordinator for the Summit Prevention Alliance, and Holly Robb, owner of Holly’s Pizzazz Boutique in Breckenridge, were both accepted for the Rotary exchange program and visited Mexico from March 24 to May 5 with three others from the Front Range. The program, open to non-Rotarians age 25-40, tries to encourage professional connections between the two neighboring nations.



Eaton says the group spent their time in areas of northern Mexico, staying with Mexican Rotarians and visiting with fellow professionals in Aguascalientes, Zacatecas and Chihuahua, as well as Juarez, a border town neighbor to El Paso, Texas.

Contrary to popular stateside opinion, Eaton says she found much of northern Mexico to be prosperous and progressive, although she admits that her Rotarian hosts fell squarely in Mexico’s middle class.



“The folks we stayed with were people who were pretty well off, and in our experiences we found people living a pretty comfortable lifestyle,” she says. “But they were definitely the folks in a position to help with the many difficult social ills in Mexico. The groups we met helped support orphanages, they’d founded an eye bank and they also helped support substance abuse prevention and treatment programs.”

Wherever she traveled, Easton says she was overwhelmed by Mexican hospitality – even when she and her fellow travelers’ Spanish was a bit lacking.

“It’s an amazing country … people really want to ensure that you have a good time, no matter where you go. That whole saying, “mi casa es su casa,’ was totally true wherever we went.”

And despite being off the beaten track of traditional American tourists, Eaton said she was intrigued by the Mexicans’ close ties to the states.

“They all had the same U.S. TV channels we did and seemed to watch the same programs we did. Further north, you could see even more impact of American culture, mostly in the music people listened to. We really learned how huge the country is – and we heard that the true Mexican culture is in the south.”

While the Colorado group included professionals such as a financial advisor and a combination massage therapist and radio voice-over performer, Robb said she initially had problems arranging meetings with people in parallel retail positions.

“They really didn’t know what to do with me at first,” Robb says. “All of the other jobs seemed to have closer contact, but with me, they kept asking if I wanted to go shopping … and I had to tell them that I go shopping for a living and really wasn’t interested. Mostly, I really wanted to sit down and talk one-on-one with smaller businesses.”

Eventually, the group’s hosts arranged site visits a bit more applicable to Robb’s interests. She hopes to be able to do business in the future with many of the places she visited.

“I saw some amazing places, like a Levi’s factory where they turn out 100,000 pairs of jeans a day. But I had to be a bit proactive, and I definitely made some wonderful contacts. I met a lot of people I personally liked and professionally respected.”

Robb says she was also interested to see the group dynamics at work as she and the four exchange party members – who’d spent a grand total of 15 hours together before embarking on the six week journey – spent the entire trip in close quarters, with frequent language difficulties.

“I grew up in a huge family so I’ve never had a problems with having your own personal space, but this was definitely a learning experience for everyone. But I definitely made some amazing friends during the trip.”


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