`They’re just such a colorful people’ | AspenTimes.com

`They’re just such a colorful people’

Jennifer Davoren
Aspen Times Staff Writer

The bracelet, frayed and discolored after two years of continuous wear, has seen better days.

Still, Letti Alvarez isn’t ready to take it off.

Not until she fulfills the promise she made the day she put it on.

Alvarez, a native of Mexico City who now lives in the Roaring Fork Valley, traveled to Mexico in 2001 during a brief vacation. During a stop in Chiapas, Mexico’s southernmost state, she encountered a shocking level of poverty among the indigenous people.

“The Indian majority … live in the `Belt of Misery,’ a string of squalid, violence-ridden, makeshift barrios around the ring road,” Alvarez wrote in a letter to local newspapers. “These people lack work, education, schools and many of the basic amenities we take for granted.”

The Indians of San Cristobal de las Casas, the capitol of Chiapas, must send their children out to make money for the family, she said. Children sell handmade toys and jewelry in order to catch the attention of passing tourists.

“The children – barefoot and dirty, barely 3 years old – are selling their little dolls that are basically little replicas of themselves,” Alvarez said.

She bought a handful of friendship bracelets from one child, vowing to return to San Cristobal with help for its poor population.

“I put one on and said, `I’m not taking it off until I go back.'”

It took more than two years, but Alvarez has booked the trip.

On Aug. 28, she will travel to San Cristobal with a small volunteer group to deliver clothing and supplies. The group has already collected a small pile of donations, but they are hoping area residents will contribute more.

The group hopes to collect new shoes and clothing, preferably for children between the ages of 3 and 11; drawing materials such as crayons, watercolors and pencils; as well as coloring books, notebooks and sketch pads.

“The Indian children are starved for books and drawing materials,” Alvarez wrote.

The group also hopes to collect “throwaway” suitcases that can be used to transport the materials.

Alvarez, a familiar face among local nonprofits, hopes to turn her volunteer group into an educational fund – one that will continue to help the people of San Cristobal.

“They’re just such a beautiful, colorful people.”

Contributions can be dropped off at the Aspen Mountain Lodge, where employees have placed receptacles in the lobby. The receptacles will be available between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., seven days a week, until Aug. 28.

Alvarez welcomes questions about the trip at 544-0763.

[Jennifer Davoren’s e-mail address is jenniferd@aspentimes.com]

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