The Ethnographic Setting: Social Non-profit Organizations in Alamos

Three social non-profit organizations: Las Comadres, Amigos de Educacion and Indigenous Cooperative all founded by North Americans living in town focus principally on sociocultural development projects. These projects create sustainable livelihood opportunities for single mothers and educational opportunities for kids in poor families in the town.[1] The objective of Amigos de Educacion (AE) is to grant school scholarships to the poorest children in town. Driven by the increasing demand for scholarships during the last decade, a new initiative holds an annual auction during which they sell clothing, furniture, and kitchen utensils, and also a dinner-dance and stage performances. It is a closed auction requiring and entrance ticket (USD 350). AE has several ways of raising funds. Some donations come from house tours to specific colonial houses owned by North Americans in town, and also through membership dues, and donations (mainly from tourists and business associations in the US). Initially this social enterprise was financed solely by donations from its members and their friends and relatives in the US. Currently, two-thirds of its budget comes from the revenue from house tours and US foundations for social investments. During 2012, AE received 436 applications for scholarships from needy families, and in 2013, that number rose to 501. The Mayor of Alamos estimates that 579 households are impoverished (personal interview, October 2013).

The nonprofit organization, Las Comadres provides assistance to families in need by distributing food hampers to over 400 families at Christmas and Easter. Moreover the organization also provides financial help for medicines and medical treatment. The organization holds two auctions each year, during which they sell clothing, furniture, and kitchen utensils. The auction’s objects are donated by members of the North Americans either from the town or from other North American communities in the region. Every Saturday, the organization also holds a garage sale at a place near the central plaza, where they sell secondhand goods donated by North Americans. Most of the clothing is bought by tourists or North American residents in Alamos and has become another efficient fund-raising activity. Las Comadres collects most of its operating funds from their networks of families, tourists, and business associates in the United States.

The Indigenous Cooperative was set up by a North American social entrepreneur who organized 13 indigenous women from the region to sell indigenous handicrafts outside four different hotels (owned by North Americans) each Wednesday and Sunday. Apart from sustaining the marginalized indigenous families, the cooperative has been able to expand its business to two other villages in the municipality.

  • [1] My empirical material shows that there are several places in Mexico characterized by havingNorth American immigrants with this type of social enterprises (for instance San Miguel Allende,Cuernavaca, Taxco and Todos Santos).
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