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A Culture of Philanthropy

By: Maria Caudillo

I was born in a small town in Guanajuato, Mexico and into a big family that had little to their name. Even though we had very little, we were part of a community that shared and gave much more in so many ways. I remember how my mom would give our neighbors tortillas if they were going through a hard financial patch. I remember how neighbors would come together and gather funds for a burial of a community member that did not have the means to bury their loved one. I remember how we would visit with friends that were ill and needed an extra hand to cook or clean or just to serve as company. Then, it was our turn.

My dad migrated to the United States when I was 5 years old to earn money to better support our family, taking all of the family savings for his trip. During the first three months he was gone, I remember that life for my mother was hard without my father and, with very little money, our neighbors would help my mother with food or by employing her to cook or clean in order for her to make ends meet until my father could settle in the United States and send back money. My parents were hoping that my dad would find work fast and would send my mother money in the first month. It took him three months.

During those three months I was able to see the other side of giving from our community, my older siblings, our neighbors and family helped my mother get through this difficult time. My father was finally able to send my mother money and communicate with us, which made our lives so much better. My father was able to save enough money to bring all of us to the United States, for a chance at a better future and opportunities. I was 8 years old at the time and, to this day, I remember how happy I was to be back with my dad and to have our family together again.

I recently became emotional when the earthquake hit Mexico City this October, because the spirit of my people was in full display for the world to see. People running towards falling buildings hoping to help victims, lines of people willing to help move debris and rocks, people bringing food for the rescuers, stories of neighbors helping neighbors and numerous stories of survival and resilience. Wikipedia describes “philanthropy” as the love of humanity and this is exactly what I think of when I think of my Mexican culture and heritage – philanthropic and full of love.

Maria Caudillo is the Executive Assistant to the President and CEO of the Santa Barbara Foundation.

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