Location: Veracruz, Mexico

Date: Arrival Date: June 17, 2022 End Date: July 22, 2022

Program Overview

 *Upcoming Online Info Sessions: Feb 24th at 12:30pm - Register Here 

This five-week field study program takes place in the beautiful region of Central Veracruz, around the capital city of Xalapa. It is a program “on the go,” with immersive studies in different locations to take full advantage of the interdisciplinary capacities of regional studies and the critical literacies skills of field studies to help us understand how people work with both natural and cultural resources to make and remake their shared space at one of the most significant zones of contact and exchange in the history of the Americas. The program is an opportunity to learn with our whole selves and sensibilities about who we are in the world by learning how people in this region live. We will learn how people make use of commodified resources and industries for profit, but also how they are actively developing alternatives for living and sharing space. We will study inspiring, deep, and complex strategies for resistance and resilience, including a thriving regional ecology movement, and a very long tradition of cooperativism, currently part of a global fair-trade economy. Throughout, the program aims to develop the respectful and effective fieldwork skills students need when designing and implementing their own projects.  

The first half of the program takes place in the Port-Administrative zone of Central Veracruz--primarily in the capital city of Xalapa, and in nearby Coatepec. Here you will begin developing foundational skills for fieldwork (observation, dialogue, reflection) and learn about the region through interdisciplinary approaches known as critical geographies.  You will study how people have used natural and cultural resources strategically at this global crossroads since before the European conquest.  As you study migration and mestizaje, agroecology and culinary arts, architecture and regional infrastructure, eco-tourism, and performative culture, you will learn to identify patterns of power, including the power of storytelling and the arts of living as a creative force.  You will study two major state tourism projects--“Ruta de Cortes” and “Pueblos Mágicos”—along with the organization of state and non-state resources to defend water and green spaces, and efforts to define and develop “fair trade” projects in culture and agroecology. 

The second half of the program is based primarily in the small town of Teocelo, located 26 km to the south of Xalapa.  Teocelo is also an important regional crossroads of this region, in particular for the people of this region who live further from the administrative “center.”  Here the learning focuses on getting to know people living in a small town and in the countryside, through the lens of networked NGOs working to develop community capacity and regional integration for equity. In-field placements and excursions, you will learn about specific organizations’ aims and communicative methods for networking:  co-operatives for women’s housing, women’s health, credit and savings, traditional medicine, grassroots coffee producers, water quality, animal rights--and the regional grassroots radio station, Radio Teocelo, where all the organizations connect.

Language of Instruction: English and Spanish


  • LALS 184A Fair Trade at Global Crossroads: Environment and Culture in Central Veracruz (5 units)
  • LALS 184B Promotor Strategies in the 21st Century : Education for Community Development (5 units)

Max Enrollment: 16

Faculty Leader: Leslie Lopez, Lecturer in Service-Learning and Community Justice

Contact: globallearning@ucsc.edu

Program Highlights

  • Experience a politically, socially, and ecologically vibrant and diverse region of Mexico, from bustling urban centers to rural mountain communities.
  • Immerse yourself in the spectacular natural beauty of a semi-tropical transition zone: mountain vistas, waterfalls, plants and animals, and summer fruits; and understand regional efforts to protect its water system. 
  • Enjoy the delicious cuisine of the Gulf Coast of Mexico on a daily basis; participate in a culinary workshop to learn about Totonac and Huastecan ingredients and preparation techniques.
  • Learn about the global coffee economy and agroecology from people living and working in one of the most important coffee-producing areas zones.
  • Visit Quiahuixtlán, remains of the Totonac city on the coast, the “place of rain” where people on the Mexican mainland first spotted Hernán Cortés and his fleet of ships before he landed and set up Villa Rica; and spend the afternoon at the beach.  
  • Work with a transformative organization in the town of Teocelo, getting to know the people in it, as well as those it serves, and its methods (placements are half-days in small groups).
  • Learn about the symbolism and process of the annual fiesta patronal de Xico, honoring Santa María Magdalena; and attend the “day of alfombras” festivities before you leave!

How to Apply

  1. Review the below eligibility criteria, prerequisites, and specific requirements for this program
  2. Apply in the Global Learning Portal

All applications will be processed first-come, first-served. Students are encouraged to apply early due to limited capacity. Upon application submission, all applicants will be required to participate in a short meeting with the faculty leaders before acceptance into the program.

General Eligibility Criteria

  • Good Academic and Disciplinary Standing at the time of application and every quarter prior to departure
  • 2.5 cumulative GPA or higher at the time of application and every quarter prior to departure
  • Junior or senior class standing by the time of departure. Sophomores may be considered upon review of application materials.

Prerequisites and Program-Specific Application Requirements

Language Prerequisite: ​

A prerequisite level of Spanish 5 is required for this course so that students will be able to learn from their surroundings upon arrival and continue to learn with increasing depth through participation with those around them, especially in field placements during the second half of the program. Language competency may be met by demonstrating successful completion of 5 quarters of college-level Spanish; completion of SPH4; or by completing a language evaluation form filled out by a Spanish professor. If you need to complete the language evaluation form, please contact a Spanish professor by email to request an appointment to complete your evaluation. Students can upload proof of language competency by uploading their unofficial transcript or completed language evaluation form results to their application in the Global Learning Portal. Most primary required syllabus materials are assigned in English; some are in Spanish.  Additional optional readings on course themes will be available in Spanish for those working to build their language skills.

Personal Statement
Write a 1-page statement to upload on your application with the following:

(Suggestion: one paragraph single-spaced for each bullet point)

  • Tell us about yourself including your interest in this program. How will it fit into your academic and life plans? Please include a brief account of relevant LALS or other social science classes you have already taken. 
  • This is a participatory, experiential learning opportunity in Mexico, which will be largely conducted in interactive group settings.  What life experiences or skills would you bring to the program to be able to make the most of it?  What hopes or expectations do you have.
  • This program seeks to understand “fair trade” through “service learning.”  As a starting point, how have you learned about “fairness” and “service” so far in your life?  What do you expect from yourself when it comes to those values?  What are some initial questions you would like to explore in this program? (you can list 3-5 questions)