Since the 1930’s, the Quaker community in Mexico has promoted social programs in many parts of the country. This community purchased the building at Ignacio Mariscal #132 from the family of José Clemente Orozco in 1955. One year later, they legally constituted a Civil Association: Casa de los Amigos. Initially the Casa was a base for the Mexican Friends Service Committee, including the workcamps that had been coordinated with the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) in Mexico since 1939. The group of visionary founders also hoped to found an organization with a broad social mission to promote peace and international understanding, and perform the work of Friends in Mexico.
Young people from all over the world volunteered in the workcamps–community development projects in hundreds of rural Mexican villages. Mexican and international volunteers worked alongside community members, and a generation of leaders grew out of this transformative experience. The American Friends Service Committee supported the Casa de los Amigos with economic resources and volunteers until 1984.
The 1980’s, the wars in Central America brought tens of 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 and legal assistance, among other things. The Central American Refugee Emergency Assistance Program was laid down in 1992 after the peace accords brought a formal end to the civil war in El Salvador, and a decline in the number of refugees arriving in Mexico. After the Casa celebrated its Jubilee anniversary in 2006, the organization began again to provide temporary, emergency housing to migrants and refugees, this time working closely with the Mexican migrant rights community.
The Flor de Mazahua Cooperative is a small group of Mazahua women who migrated from the State of Mexico to the capital 30 years ago. and began to produce traditional handicrafts. In the 1990’s, Casa de los Amigos helped the cooperative with technical support, administrative assistance and marketing their products. Today, the Casa continues to work closely with the Cooperativa Flor de Mazahua and maintains a point of sale for their products.
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, researchers, international solidarity workers, and countless others. By providing a safe, friendly, stimulating environment of social concern for a broad array of Mexican and international peaceworkers, the Casa has generated and supported peacework for decades fomented understanding between groups and individuals, offered a visible witness to the human dignity of each person, and facilitated transformative experiences much like in the workcamp days.
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
REPORT OF THE JUBILEE CELEBRATION: OCTOBER 27-29, 2006
Now over fifty years ago, Ed Duckles drove around Mexico City in his banged-up truck, called “Nunca Tomo”, with a copy of the Excelsior classifieds in the backseat, the notice circled for Ignacio Mariscal #132. Buying the house was a bold move for the visionary Friends who wanted to create “a meeting place to strengthen and affirm the bonds of true [sister and] brotherhood.” This October, friends of the Casa de los Amigos traveled from near and far to celebrate a half-century of Quaker service, community, and peacemaking in Mexico. The anniversary was the Casa’s fiftieth year as a recognized civil association, a “Jubilee” watermark and a time for sharing memories, forgiveness, and renewal.