Rigoberta Sánchez León: Oaxaca's Good Samaritan

Kelly Castagnaro, Senior Communications Officer

On Good Samaritan Day, we visited the tiny Oaxacan town of Ciénega de Zimatlán. We were there to meet with some of Mexfam’s volunteer health educators and visit the local health care clinic, but the real action was in the town’s zocalo (town square) where plastic tubs of creamy horchata and other delicacies were being set up for the community celebration. It was there that I met Mexfam volunteer Rigoberta Sánchez León.

Rigoberta is a short, energetic woman who immediately makes you feel as though you have known her forever. When I introduced myself and asked her if I could interview her, she grabbed my hand and told me that I could call her “oregano” if I wanted—as the Italian Americans she had met while living in the United States had done—then laughed heartily.

Rigoberta told me she first became a volunteer animadora—or community health educator—because she cares deeply about the well-being of her three teenage children and the community at-large. A full-time housewife, Rigoberta educates women about their sexual and reproductive health and rights. She also helps them provide accurate information about sex and sexual health to their children.

“When puberty and sexual desire begins, you can’t stop it,” explained Rigoberta. Acknowledging that discussions about sex between a parent and child can be difficult, Rigoberta is nonetheless persistent. Ultimately, she told me, she would like to see topics like correct condom use as prevalent in household discussions as the importance of brushing your teeth or washing your hands.

Following our interview, Rigoberta gave me a big hug and asked me if I would be attending the Good Samaritan Day festival later that day. I wanted to tell her that I had already met the town’s Good Samaritan, and that Ciénega de Zimatlán was in good hands.


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