Sharing its northern border with the United States and its southern with Guatemala and Belize, Mexico is the Latin American country most visited by U.S. and Canadian citizens. Known officially as the United Mexican States, the 31 states that make up the country are home to a wealth of natural resources, a wide diversity of climates and ecologies, stunning Spanish colonial cities, endless sandy beaches, ancient Aztec pyramids and Mayan temples, rich indigenous culture, and plenty of volunteer opportunities for adventurous travelers.
With an estimated 113 million residents, Mexico is large both demographically as well as geographically, and it is the most-populous Spanish-speaking country. Mexico’s rich culture includes more than 60 indigenous groups (with a population of more than 10 million, nearly 10 percent of the total population). The two largest and perhaps best-known indigenous groups are the Nauhatl (descendants of the Aztec) and the Maya, and the history of both groups lives on today in the form of towering pyramids and complex ruins. Yet despite a relatively high income (the World Bank calculates the gross national income at US$9,240 per capita), more than 50 percent of the population lives in poverty—a heartbreaking amount of people living with very little.
For those who prefer to volunteer independently through local organizations, there are opportunities to work with children (in day cares or orphanages), to work in medical clinics or conduct health workshops, and to work in botanical gardens or permaculture farms. There are also excellent volunteer placements available through international organizations. Check out the International Organizations section in Moon Volunteer Vacations in Latin America for a helpful list.
Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Volunteer Vacations in Latin America.