A Conversation with Mauricio
Mauricio Artiñano, A06, is devoted to working on projects
that help improve the lives of others in Central America. A
native of Costa Rica, he is also a longtime Habitat for Humanity
volunteer. In October, Artiñano joined fellow students
and alumni in Mexico for the Jimmy Carter Work Project (JCWP),
a Habitat build in which the former president lends a hand.
Co-sponsored by the Tufts Travel-Learn Program and the University
College of Citizenship and Public Service (UCCPS), the trip
involved working alongside volunteers to build 150 homes in
Puebla and Veracruz, Mexico, and a travel component to Oaxaca.
Artiñano spoke with editor Michele Gouveia about his
experience and his latest project—organizing a conference
on the Central American Peace Plan.
“When I found out about the program in Mexico, I was
really excited about participating because of my previous
involvement with Habitat for Humanity, and because the people
who were organizing the JCWP were all good friends of mine
from my past Habitat internships. This year, the JCWP was
held in Puebla and Veracruz, where almost 5,000 volunteers
helped build 150 houses in each city. It was a “blitz
build,” which means that several houses are completed
within the space of a week.
“When we arrived in Puebla, the foundations had already
been poured and the first three lines of concrete block were
laid, but we did everything else, including hanging doors,
installing windows, and putting up the roof.
“For me, the best part of working with Habitat is the
strong bond that is formed through the team effort, particularly
since you work alongside the family who will live in the house
you are constructing. You laugh, learn, and get to know each
other while pouring concrete, mixing cement, and sanding walls—it
is amazing. As a Tufts undergrad, I enjoyed meeting current
Fletcher students as well as many alumni; we all became close
to each other during the build and also during the time we
spent touring the city of Oaxaca after the build was completed.
“In every Habitat house I have helped build, I have become
very attached to the family, and it happened this time, too,
with Sergio and Martha. Martha became a great friend as we
teased and joked around with each other but also shared some
very special moments and stories about our families. She expressed
how grateful she was to be able to move out of the tiny, expensive
apartment they were then renting and finally live in a home,
especially one built with so much love. On the last day of
the build, we got to meet their kids, ages two and five months,
and it was the most incredible experience in the world.
“This past summer I had the opportunity to return to
El Salvador to a house that I had helped construct in another
build in 2001. It was amazing to stand on floor tiles that
I had laid down, but most touching was being with don Alfonso
and doña Angelica and seeing how excited they were that
I had fulfilled my promise to return some day, which is the
same promise I made to Martha and one I plan to keep as well.
“I initially got involved with Habitat in tenth grade,
when my class founded the first Habitat student chapter in
Costa Rica. The summer after my freshman year at Tufts, I interned
for Habitat, organizing their 2003 Leadership Conference for
Latin America and the Caribbean, which involved 150 people
from 23 countries. It was challenging, but the conference was
a great success, and I was able to get to know the people in
charge of Habitat in each Latin American country.
“Last spring I wrote to my friends at the Habitat Area
Office to offer my services again, with the one condition that
I wanted to travel around Central America. As a Costa Rican,
I wanted to get to know my fellow Central American neighbors
better, and I also had another project for which I needed to
travel around the region. This new enterprise came about through
my involvement with the Tufts Institute for Global Leadership
where I met Timothy Phillips from the Project on Justice in
Times of Transition. Together the two of us came up with the
idea of organizing a conference on the Central American Peace
Plan. We feel that the Central American peace negotiations
are one of the few examples of successful regional peace building,
and we believe that the world can learn important lessons from
“The Habitat Area Office asked me to do an analysis of
their micro-credit lending practices in Central America, so
I decided to integrate my two projects and designed my own
trip through Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala,
spending a week in each country working for Habitat and also
interviewing some of the people involved in the peace process.
I received funding through an Active Citizenship Summers (ACS)
grant from UCCPS, and in the beginning of July I hopped on
a bus and left Costa Rica to explore Central America.
“My trip ended up being the most wonderful learning and
growing experience of my life. My work with Habitat allowed
me to learn the intricacies of micro-credit financing, which
I believe is one of the best methods for helping families out
of poverty. And my quest to obtain interviews with different
participants in the peace process went beyond all my expectations.
With the help of Tim Phillips and Tufts professor Consuelo
Cruz of the political science department, I interviewed some
of the most important figures in the peace process on all sides
of the ideological spectrum, including human rights activists,
former guerrilla combatants, three former foreign ministers,
and even former president Vinicio Cerezo of Guatemala. The
experience gave me a unique and comprehensive perspective of
the situation in Central America.
“My summer trip was a great success. Not only did I turn
in a 75-page report for Habitat, I also secured commitments
from nearly all of the people I interviewed to participate
in the conference, which I am currently organizing. And most
important, the trip enabled me to make new friends, visit some
beautiful places, and discover my identity as a Central American.
“All these accomplishments and experiences would not
be possible without the support and preparation I have received
here at Tufts. I’m so proud to be part of a university
that places so much emphasis on internationalism and on active
citizenship, and that gives students the tools and the opportunities
to pursue their independent initiatives. I plan to take everything
I’ve learned at Tufts and return to Costa Rica to help
make a difference in my country.”
To find out more about the Central American Peace Plan conference,
contact Mauricio at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To find out more about the Jimmy Carter Work Build in Mexico,
visit and read
student journal entries and view photos from the build. uccps.tufts.edu/06_Alumni/travellearn.html
Interested in other Habitat projects? The Tufts Travel-Learn
Program is sponsoring another build in Hungary, October 1–11,
2005. For more information, visit www.tufts.edu/alumni/ed-travel-learn.html or contact the program’s director, Usha Nand Sellers,
J57, G58, at 1-800-843-2586 or email@example.com.