Aalto Lab Mexico 2013 / Fieldtrip Report

Following on from the previous post, here we will uncover some experiences from the fieldwork of Aalto LAB Mexico 2013. Maybe some interesting questions or issues arise from what is mentioned, we hope to stimulate further questioning along these lines!


Arriving in Mexico City

Having embraced the “getting comfortable with being uncomfortable” mantra, arriving in Mexico City was the first test of the LABBERS’ toughness. The first items on the agenda were acclimatising to the altitude, (and jetlag), yet also being aware enough of the necessary preparations for the beginning of the last series of meetings before travelling to Campeche province and working with the community, 20 de Noviembre.

Meeting in Mexico City, LABBERS & experts in conversation

This first series of meetings on Mexican soil were primarily to finalise the agenda, (from the LABBERS’ perspective), so that it could be presented to the community and we could find a good working rhythm for the time we would be spending together. Of course many things already had not gone to plan, with some of the Mexican LABBERS held hostage by end of semester workloads and possible issues with travelling to Campeche becoming apparent. Nevertheless, the group had already started to come together and respond to these various issues as a team.

A lot of shared expertise

Having prepared as much as possible for the coming week, there was a brief amount of time to explore the megalopolis that is Mexico City. There could be no disguising the fact that Helsinki and Mexico City were opposites in a lot of ways.


20 de Noviembre

The flight from Mexico City to Campeche, though painless and relatively uneventful, belied the fact that yet another threshold had been crossed. The team was now in a completely different context. Quite apart from the chaos of Mexico City, the pace had slowed somewhat and the humidity was inescapable. We made our way to Zoh-Laguna, which would be homebase while working with 20 de Noviembre, this was only a brief bus ride from the community.

Early on, a football match had been arranged as the initial meeting point for the 2013 LAB. There’s nothing quite like sweating it out under the midday jungle sun to bring everybody together, both new faces and those who had also been a part of the 2012 LAB.

Aalto LAB Mexico 2013

Football match, 20 de Noviembre – photo by Jan Ahlstedt

As the week we had planned to spend in the community went by, the different project teams each delved deeper into the issues they were investigating. Of course, these issues were interrelated, and in the evenings in Zoh-Laguna such commonalities could be discussed. The nature of the challenges faced by 20 de Noviembre necessitated a lot of discussion, the LABBERS embraced this fact and engagement with the community became easy and informal even though the underlying issues could be of great importance.

Aalto LAB Mexico 2013

Co-producing, 20 de Noviembre – photo by Jan Ahlstedt

By the week’s end, the shared discoveries and ideas that had emerged from the LAB were ready to present in a gathering at the community hall. The various forms of knowledge and cooperation that had defined the purpose of the LAB had produced interesting outcomes. Everyday strategies for water purification, structural development of artisanal production and the idea of a reception building to stimulate ecotourism all could be understood as spontaneous and unpredictable outcomes of the LAB process. Another generation of the LAB had grown the community of involvement, and this generational growth is what it is all about.

Lo que amamos del 20 de Noviembre from Antti Seppänen on Vimeo.

‘Lo que amamos del 20 de Noviembre’ – film by Antti Seppänen


Mexico City Once Again

Upon the return to Mexico City, focus was shifted to formal presentations both for crowdfunding purposes and for the concluding event at the Finnish Embassy. The ecotourism project developed in the LAB was translated into a crowdfunding proposal, which is attempting to raise funds for the construction of an interesting reception building for tourism in 20 de Noviembre. (This work is ongoing and international contributors are also invited).

The final presentation at the Finnish Embassy further expanded the LAB’s reach to include political dignitaries and corporate sponsors. As the last tacos were shared out, the physical distance was once again imposed upon the LAB community – but by now that was of no consequence to the momentum that had been established. Aalto LAB Mexico has matured into a relevant and constructive process, establishing benchmarks for producing resilient change in the face of uncertainty and discomfort.


View the Aalto LAB Mexico flickr set here

A list of daily blogs from the LABBERS is here

Stay in touch with Aalto LAB Mexico on facebook

Posted by Creative Sustainability
5 years ago