Gringos helping to fight AIDS in Mexico
Condon Mania, a project of the Frente Comun Contra SIDA (Common Front Against AIDS), sells health - and life - to hundreds of Mexican youth and adults every month. The Frente's major concern is slowing down - and eventually stopping - the epidemic of AIDS, and other sexually transmitted diseases sweeping this developing country. Photography by Diana Ricci
For the first time since Hurricane Pauline destroyed the Pina Palmera facilities on the south coast, I am using this column to solicit funds. But WAIT, don't turn off! THIS ONE IS FUN!
In a small storefront among light manufacturing, markets selling hand-crafts and pharmaceuticals, low-priced unisex barbershops and mezcál bars, a quiet but vitally important activity is taking place. Among the brochures, posters, and signup sheets, a bright, witty and dedicated staff are selling condoms - at a peso apiece. (In Catholic Mexico, condoms have been on display in drug stores for some years - at five pesos or more apiece. The minimum wage is 26 pesos per day.)
The Frente, along with other local organizations like the Casa de la Mujer (women's house), has been in the forefront of educating Oaxaca state's young people (as well as adults) about the dangers of, and prevention of, sexually transmitted diseases.
The Frente is a "non-governmental organization", dependent on private donations to get the work done. Oaxaca is a large state, with a lot of small communities in remote mountainous areas. The Frente does not own a car, but does manage to connect volunteer drivers with public health educators so that last year, for example, dozens of communities got the prevention message.
Of course, all this takes money, and this year the Frente has been presented with a crisis that, while not unexpected, is nevertheless taking a lot of energy away from the work that needs to be done. A US-AID grant for $40,000 U.S.D. is running out this year, and so far none of the grant proposals that have gone out have returned the necessary funding.
On June 3, in San Francisco, friends of the Frente are holding an art auction at which, among dozens of items by other great Oaxaca artists, there will be four Francisco Toledo prints and a Teotitlan-type wool rug valued at around $3,000 usd. The admission price to the auction - now listen up, because this is the important part for most of you, who can't be there - is a raffle ticket, and you do not have to be present to win. The price is $20 usd, and the prize is ten days for two people at Oaxaca's premiere guest house, Casa Colonial, including all meals at the Casa, airfare, and a one-day cooking class with world-class chef Susana Trilling, whose PBS show and new cookbook on Oaxacan cooking are currently in production.
Raffle tickets can be purchased at the door, or by sending an e-mail to Jane or Thorny at Casa Colonial to register your name, address, and phone number. Then, send a check to: Michele Burton, 877 Carolina St, San Francisco, CA 94107. As "payee" or "pay to", write in "Frente Comun contra el SIDA, Oaxaca, A.C." Your check will be your receipt. Buy early and often. It's a tremendous bargain.
The auction will take place in the evening on June 3, at the Bucheon Gallery, 540 Hayes Street in San Francisco. The works will be on view all day before the auction.
There will also be a "tiendita" (small store) set up inside the gallery, where you can purchase exquisite and inexpensive Oaxacan handcrafted items. Maybe there will even be t-shirts for sale like the one Guillermo is wearing in the picture, below.
Diana and I will be there. Hope you can make it.