Casa de los Amigos, Mexico City
Casa de los Amigos is a Centre for Peace and International Understanding in Mexico City. Through its programs, community space, and social and cultural activities, the Casa promotes peace with justice, fosters understanding between groups and individuals, and supports the human dignity of every person. It is:
- A non-profit peace organization, part of the community of NGO's in Mexico working towards a more just world.
- A social-justice oriented guesthouse, welcoming more than a thousand guests each year.
- A community and conference centre, with many events and activities open to the public
- A Meetinghouse, and the home of Mexico City Monthly Meeting
Since the 1930’s, the Quaker community in Mexico had undertaken social programs in many parts of the country. In 1955 they were able to purchase Ignacio Mariscal #132 and named it the Casa de los Amigos. The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) had long been associated with Mexican Friends, and provided financial and volunteer support for the Casa for the next 30 years
Initially the Casa was primarily a base for the Mexican Friends Service Committee. They continued their collaboration with AFSC on the youth work camps that had been initiated in 1939. Young people from all over the world volunteered for these, working on community development projects in hundreds of rural Mexican villages. Mexican and international volunteers worked alongside community members, and a generation of Mexican Quaker leaders grew out of this life-changing experience.
The founders of the Casa had always had a vision of a much broader social mission on behalf of Friends in Mexico, and in the 60s and 70s these new leaders set up the Casa de los Amigos Youth Committee. They created dozens of projects including a newsletter, their own work camps, student exchanges with other youth groups around the world, and a range of workshops, classes and activities. During this time director Rogelio Cova, one of Mexico's earliest ecological activists, used the Casa to promote environmental projects, several of which grew into important organizations, which in turn helped give rise to the Mexican environmental movement.
In the 1980’s, wars in Central America brought thousands of refugees to Mexico seeking safety. For 13 years the Casa received Central American refugees, primarily Salvadorans, and provided orientation, accommodation, food, medicine, clothing, psychological support, legal assistance, and more.
In 2006, the Casa celebrated its 50th Jubilee anniversary, and used the occasion to inaugurate new programs and publicly rededicate itself to its mission of doing the work of Friends in Mexico. Today the Casa is a thriving, independent Mexican organization with an active community and programs. Its key activities are:
Hospitality: the Casa maintains a Quaker guesthouse, a community centre, the George Fox Library, and many other projects. The Casa is thereby able to contribute to community building and understanding across borders, valuable building blocks for peace. Strengthening civil society in this way is a central purpose.
Migration: The Casa works with partner organizations such as Sin Fronteras and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Mexico to provide temporary emergency housing to migrants, refugees, asylum-seekers and victims of crimes. Casa volunteers work to educate the community about the roots and realities of migration.
Economic Justice: This program supports community efforts to combat poverty in Mexico, and create alternatives to forced migration. Casa volunteers run a point of sale for the products of its partner cooperatives, and hold educational events and activities.
Volunteers: The volunteer program is a significant, formative service-learning opportunity for those who are able to commit between nine months and one year. The volunteer program is the primary tool by which the Casa strives to fulfil its mission, and it also provides a meaningful, empowering experience to a diverse volunteer team.For more than half a century, the Casa has been a crucial meeting point for activists, volunteers, Friends and others of faith and good will, academics, migrants, refugees, international solidarity workers, and countless others. By providing a safe, friendly, fun environment of social concern for a broad array of Mexican and international peaceworkers, the Casa has generated and supported peace work for decades, offered a visible witness to the human dignity of each person, and facilitated transformative experiences.