Mexican Culture

Mexican Culture

Mexico Suburban Region

The Location


The Population


The Religion

Roman Catholic

The Weather

  • Families in suburban Mexico typically have three to five children. Many are headed by single mothers who struggle to meet their children’s basic needs. Mexico Mother and Her Children Outside Their Home
  • Compassion's curriculum gives child development center tutors confidence that the learning activities they conduct will meet the development needs of the children in their care. Mexico Children With Their Tutors
  • Unemployment is high in the illegal suburban settlements. Some people make a small wage as street vendors. This woman is selling garlic to passers-by. Mexico Woman Selling Produce as Street Vendor
  • To combat malnutrition among children, Compassion-assisted centers serve regular, nutritious meals. Mexico Children Eating at Compassion Project
  • These boys are enrapt in a lesson at their Compassion center. Perhaps they are listening to the story of a young boy named David who slew a giant with a single rock. Mexico Children at Classroom Desks
  • Not only do assisted children learn about dental hygiene, but they also practice it by brushing their teeth after meals. Mexico Toothbrushes in Cups

Overview: Suburban Regions of Mexico

Suburban regions of Mexico are best described as squatter settlements that have sprung up outside of larger cities. These communities usually start when a group of people, most often those living in poverty, build shacks on unoccupied land.

There is little to no infrastructure in these squatter communities. Some are able to tap into water and electricity from the closest city, but they may lose those connections with no warning. Many settlements have built up around canals near Mexico City, and they pollute their own water supply with garbage and sewage.

Residents usually buy water from water trucks because they seldom have access to clean, running water. The shacks made of tin and cardboard offer little protection from rain or cold. They’re often precariously perched on muddy hills that have been abandoned by farmers who have overcultivated the land.

Many squatter communities in Mexico have evolved into more established communities. As the communities grow, the government finds it increasingly difficult to enforce legislation that would call for the removal of these neighborhoods.

In Mexico, land rights are a gray area. Technically, those living in squatter communities reside there illegally, but after five years they may gain property rights. However, if the landowner returns before the five-year limit, squatter families can be kicked off the property and left homeless.


Culture Corner


You can make either green or red chilaquiles depending on the tomatoes used. Green tomatoes are very popular in some places in Mexico, but red tomatoes can also be used.


Place 12 tomatoes, peeled and seeded, into a saucepan and cover with water. Add one diced jalapeño pepper (seeds removed for a milder dish), salt to taste, ½ onion, and 2 cloves of garlic.

Cook for 5 minutes until the tomatoes have changed color and are cooked through. Blend the tomato mixture until smooth. Add more salt to taste.

Return mixture to saucepan.

Cut four corn tortillas into strips.

Fry in heated oil until golden brown, and put on paper towels to remove excess oil.

Serve the tomato mixture with sour cream, fresh cheese and onion. Top with tortilla strips. Some restaurants serve chilaquiles with chicken, but those living in suburban Mexico usually serve them without meat.


Life in Suburban Mexico

The suburbs of Mexico’s cities are, in essence, squatter settlements. Impoverished families who migrate to the cities settle illegally in unoccupied land on the outskirts, constructing shanties from scrap materials. Often these settlements are located in undesirable locations, such as along the banks of rivers that tend to flood or on steep hillsides in constant danger of collapsing.

Most suburban adults spend their time looking for work, hoping to be employed for a day at a menial job. Some are street vendors and others earn a meager wage as domestic help or factory workers. Because these settlements are illegal, the government provides few services, such as water, paved roads, electricity, sanitation or schools. Supported solely by the local families, schools are often ill equipped and in disrepair.

Children at Home

Typical homes in suburban communities are made of local materials such as mud, wood, brick, tin and cardboard. Partially paved roads and streets are common. The small homes are usually a mixture of rooms that double as living rooms, kitchens and bedrooms. Roofs are made of metal, plastic or cardboard.


Community Issues and Concerns Mexico Community

Most adults who live in suburban Mexico are day laborers, constantly in search of work. More than 40 percent are unemployed, and those who do find work are usually employed as bricklayers or blacksmiths, or they operate a stall in the market. The average daily wage is $5.50.

Most suburban-area families have an average of three to five children. Many are headed by single or abandoned mothers. They often live in clusters with their relatives in order to share expenses.

The typical diet in squatter areas depends on what families can afford. Most live on rice and beans and tortilla-based dishes. Children often suffer from parasites, malnutrition, respiratory infections and dehydration.

Life in squatter communities can be dangerous. Small fires spread quickly among the wood and cardboard shanties, destroying homes and lives. Other areas built on hills outside the city are at risk of mudslides, which can wipe out an entire community in moments.

Local Needs and Challenges

Improvised homes in dangerous locations present a huge threat to the well-being of children in Mexico’s suburbs. In addition to malnutrition, children commonly suffer from intestinal parasites and respiratory illnesses caused by the polluted environment. Family disintegration is also common. Fathers often abandon their families, and single mothers are left with the responsibility of raising up to five children on their own. It is not unusual for a family to share a dwelling with other relatives to help meet expenses.


Schools and Education Mexico Education

Squatter communities in Mexico have few schools. Since the government offers no support to these technically illegal communities, schools must be built and maintained by families who live there. Any schools, therefore, remain in a constant state of disrepair, with few qualified teachers.

The average education level in suburban Mexico is sixth grade. An estimated 20 percent of children never attend school.

At the Compassion Child Development Center

Child development centers in suburban communities provide registered children with a safe place to learn, grow and study. Children who have never had easy access to clean water, health care or continuing education are provided access to these necessities. Compassion-assisted children attend health classes, tutoring sessions and Bible studies at the center. They also spend time writing to and praying for their sponsors.


Working Through the Local Church

Compassion Mexico ministers to children in need through local churches. It is an ideal partnership because churches are known, trusted entities in their communities. They also know well the local families and the needs of their children.

Churches participate in the partnership by providing personnel to work directly with the children, as well as facilities for a child development center (classrooms, restrooms, a kitchen, etc.). Compassion, in turn, provides sponsors for the children, training to the staff, a holistic development program curriculum, and other important tools and resources. The goal is that the church – not Compassion – be seen by the community as the provider of an important ministry to its children in greatest need.

How Compassion Works in Mexico Compassion in Mexico

Compassion's work in Mexico began in 1979. Currently, more than 29,000 children participate in 174 child development centers.

Compassion partners with local churches, helping them provide Mexican children with a long-term program of physical, educational, socio-emotional and spiritual development. Through this partnership between Compassion and local churches, children in need have the opportunity to rise above their circumstances and fulfill their potential in Christ.

The Role of a Partnership Facilitator

Partnership Facilitators are the face of Compassion to the local church partners administering our child development program. Alberto García has been a Partnership Facilitator for Compassion Mexico for the past four years, and he hopes to continue in this role “for as long as God allows.”

Alberto enjoys seeing the love of God reflected in the children assisted by the Compassion centers under his care. He also enjoys getting to know and helping the partner church staff members who work hard to make their Compassion centers the best they can be.

He visits the centers at least once a month, helping the staff identify needs, be good stewards of their resources, and become excellent leaders and role models for children.


Prayer Requests

  • Pray for good crops since many families still rely on agriculture to supplement their incomes.
  • Pray for strength for families, including children, who must do the backbreaking work of planting and harvesting.
  • Pray for more work opportunities in rural communities. Many parents are tempted to leave their families to look for work in the cities. Children may be left alone or abandoned.
  • Pray that children in rural communities will stay in school, which will improve their opportunities for finding a well-paying job as an adult.