It is with deep sadness that I relay the passing of Dr. David Rodriguez the founder of the Mante Medical Mission which BCH participated in for many years. David passed away February 12, 2021 and was a friend to the people of Boulder and in particular those many from Boulder Community Health who served on the annual medical missions.
“Dr. David”, as he was known by many from BCH, became an admired and appreciated person for other contributions he made in Mexico. He had a free medical clinic, was instrumental in starting a nursing school, supported a special needs school and an orphanage. Each week he made a 7-hour trip into the mountains offering medical care in a village that has no electricity and no medical care.
Jean Bedell, who authored the daily update of the mission (“the Full Mante”) tells the story: In April 1990, Dr David Rodriguez came from Cd Mante, Tampaulipas, Mexico and spoke with members of First Presbyterian Church. These included Dave Gehant, Dr Stan Brenton, Dr Ted Appel, Dr Dick Bedell and Elfa Rodriguez (sister of Dr David). He spoke about the lack of adequate medical care in Cd Mante and a request for help from Boulder. Dave Gehant, CEO of Boulder Community Hospital at that time, grabbed hold of this need and in November 1990, a team of 23 went to Mante. The first year there was a co-sponsorship between BCH, Boulder Rotary, and First Presbyterian Church. This was the first of 20 years of service to the low-income people of Mante. Each year the team grew in numbers and skills until 2010 when 100 peoplemade the trip. Professional services offered included cataract repairs, general surgery, plasticsurgery, gynecology, pediatrics, physical therapy, and speech therapy. During each year, Dr David screened over 10,000 potential patients on the basis of income, and appropriateness for treatment. Each year approximately 6000 patients were seen and 600 surgical procedures were performed.
Dr. Rodriguez was quoted in 2009 as he welcomed the members of the medical campaign that year to Mante: “Our relationship began on a professional basis, but our relationship is now deeply personal”. The annual medical mission continued for 20 years but had to be halted in 2011 due to drug related gang violence in the Mante region. Several attempts to restart the campaign were thwarted by the continuing violence.
The medical teams made a tremendous contribution in improving the health of the citizens of Mante, Mexico. Thousands of people were directly served by this highly skilled team of medical professionals. The benefit to the people of Mante has been incredible.
Mante Medical Campaign display: On Feb. 27, 2015, Boulder Community Health formally dedicated a permanent display to honor the 20-year medical campaign to Mante. The display is located on the third floor of the original hospital building in the Foothills campus.
The display depicts several scenes from the medical campaign over the years, it honors the founder, Dr. David Rodriguez, Sr. and lists the over 300 volunteers who in one or multiple years traveled to Mante to be part of this campaign to serve those in need in the Mante area.
Dr. David Rodriguez was a true humanitarian and will be missed greatly.
Una passion, server Un anhelo, progresar
A passion to serve, a yearning to progress
Una gota de agua, cuando cae al mar, ya no es gota…es mar
When a drop of water falls into the sea, it is no longer a drop of water but becomes part of the sea
In honor of the 20th anniversary of the Dushanbe Teahouse, the eight Boulder sister city groups were invited to host a reception for their key members on consecutive weeks starting in mid-May. A special reception for the Mante group occurred on May 21. It was a beautiful afternoon reception for Mante board members, teachers from past teacher exchanges and former administrators from Boulder Community Hospital.
During the coming week the Teahouse will offer a special Mexican style three-course dinner to all patrons of the restaurant.
Over a five day period, February 18-22, 2017 Norris Hermsmeyer and Pam Hyink, President and Secretary, respectively, of the Boulder Mante Sister City committee returned for a visit to Mante to investigate safety conditions and discuss opportunities for reengaging with the Mante community. Through their trip, Norris and Pam found that four common myths about Mante and the sister city relationship are false. Moreover, life in Mante has returned to normal and is safe.
The Boulder Community Hospital suspended its annual medical campaign to Mante in 2011, citing a spike in drug-related gang activity in the Mante area. In concurrence with that decision, the Boulder-Mante Sister City committee also suspended visits to its sister city in Mexico. Since then, there have been several medical, cultural and teacher visitations by our friends from Mante to Boulder.
Myth #1: While conditions seem safe, people, particularly women, did not go out at night.
During the period from 2010 to 2014, the people of Mante drastically changed their lifestyle because of the gang related activity in the area. Most businesses closed down when it became dark and folks hunkered down in their homes until the following morning. Conditions have slowly changed in the past three years and conditions have returned to a normal state. Norris and Pam arrived in Mante on a Saturday evening to find a crowd of some 300 or so Mante folks gathered for entertainment in the main plaza area. Numerous vendors offered food service to the crowds. As we drove around the community later we noted some restaurants open past ten, a couple of 7-11 type stores and pharmacy’s that were open twenty-four hours per day.
When asked about the myth that women do not go out at night, or if they do go out at night they would not go alone, we learned that women, often accompanied with their children to be out at night in Mante. Most women would feel safe driving between communities or to the border at night, but would probably plan those trips in daylight.
In part, to support the safety of the community, some 800 military members are stationed throughout the Mante regional area.
Myth #2: During the term of the medical campaign, doctors from Boulder were not able to interact and teach their counterparts in Mante.
Dr. Carlos Manrique (ObGyn), who participated in the first medical campaign in 1990 and most of the medical campaigns there after stated that he grew very fond of Dr. Ted Appel of Boulder in the early years of the campaign. He stated that he learned so much from his Boulder counterpart, particularly by exposure to medical equipment which was not available in Mexico. He further states that he was more than happy to share what he learned with his colleagues after participating in each campaign.
In the years since BCH suspended the medical campaign in Mante, they have on numerous occasions sent cataracts kits to Mante, recognizing that cataracts are a major problem in the Mante area. Until recently it was not common for workers in the sugar cane fields to wear sunglasses when they were working in the fields. There are no doctors of ophthalmology who can perform this surgery in Mante. The kits have been directed by the DIF (county health) to medical personnel in Victoria or Monterrey to be used to assist the poor from the Mante area who need the cataract lenses to restore proper eyesight.
It was suggested by local leadership that should BCH or other medical teams consider return to Mante in the coming year, or so, that a priority would be for skilled practitioners of ophthamology.
From several sources we learned of the need for maintenance assistance for medical equipment that the local hospital has, which is inoperable. Technical assistance does not exist anywhere in the state. Qualified technicians in Mexico City are too wedded to their own hospitals to be made available elsewhere in the country. It is suggested that use of “facetime connections” between BCH and the Mante Civil Hospital might correct some of the problems with equipment in Mante
Good news does exist. A used Special Transit (now Via) vehicle which provides a hydraulic lift for wheelchairs that was donated some 7-8 years ago is still in operation providing transportation needs in Mante. A dental van which was donated through a Rotary Foundation grant to the DIF (county health) is still in operation. A “jars of life” unit donated to the Mante Red Cross by Boulder rescue has been called into service on many occasions over the years to provide extraction from vehicle accidents.
One of the saddest reports we learned was the failure of the mammography van donated by BCH to operate. The greater story is that no useable equipment exists in Mante to provide for early breast cancer detection. The only medical practitioner in the field of oncology in Mante is a retired (but active volunteer) medical doctor who would be anxious to learn current medical practices and support techniques for men and women in her community dealing with cancer.
Myth #3: Since Boulder visitors have not returned for so many years, Mante has sort of forgotten about its sister city relationship with Boulder.
Nothing could be farther from the truth. It was stated over the years that the medical campaign involved some 300 volunteers in the Mante area to host the medical campaign. Probably the greatest number of those volunteers served as host families for the medical team from Boulder. Close personal relationships developed which continue through email and Facebook connections today.
Of the bonds that have been created, the bonds developed between teachers from Boulder and Mante are probably the strongest. Meetings during this visitation highlighted that teachers from Mante as well as Boulder hope the exchanges between the teachers can be reignited soon, if not this year, at least in 2018.
Myth #4: During the bad years, people of Mante did not feel safe, even to the point of not going to church.
In the culture of Mexico, this is easily not the case. Churches of Protestant and Catholic denominations continued their services throughout this time, possibly avoiding nighttime mass.
There are two active Rotary Clubs in Mante, the Mante and the Canoas Rotary Clubs which continued to meet throughout the entire period of unrest.
Things in Mante are the same, yet Mante has kept up with the times. An offshoot of Wal-Mart now exists in Mante, some new pharmacy businesses and new restaurants. Yet the plaza looks very much the same and the shops in the business area are very much alive with activity. We noted that the roads to Tampico and Victoria were in very good condition and that litter along the roads is much reduced as the people of Tamaulipas take on greater responsibility for the cleanliness of their communities.
Norris and Pam would both vouch for the fact that they felt as safe in Mante as they would feel in Boulder. It is hoped that teachers, medical teams and cultural exchanges between the communities can commence again with all parties feeling safe if basic measures are followed.
Thee Boulder Mante Sister City relationship is an outgrowth of an annual medical campaign to Ciudad de Mante, Mexico developed by Boulder Community Hospital (Health–BCH) and several outreach programs with Boulder Rotary and First Presbyterian Church in Boulder. Boulder City council approved the relationship on December 7, 1999. A formal proclamation uniting the cities of Mante and Boulder was signed in Mante in January, 2000 and again in Boulder on July 7, 2000 at Folsom Stadium.
Shortly after the medical team had been in Mante in 2010, reports became available of drug related gang activity in the Mante area. After monitoring the situation for several months, Boulder Community suspended the 2011 medical campaign and put on hold returning to Mante until safety issues were no longer an issue. In concurrence with that decision, the Boulder-Mante Sister City committee also suspended visits to its sister city in Mexico. During the interim period there have been several medical, cultural and teacher visitations by our friends from Mante to Boulder.
From October 7 to 13, the Boulder Mante Sister City committee hosted two guests from its corresponding committee in Mante, Mexico. One of the guests was Dr. Jose Guillermo Sainz, a family doctor and the other was Luis Alberto Cruz, an architect and past president of the Mante Rotary Club.
The purpose of their visit was to reignite the sister city relationship in Mante by taking back stories and video about Boulder to share with the residents of Mante.
Alberto and Guillermo said that the door is now open for Boulderites to return to Mante. The height of the criminal activity in Mante occurred about five years ago, which caused the Boulder Community Hospital to cancel its annual medical campaign. For the last two years, however, conditions have improved dramatically. People now enjoy normal routines including shopping, visiting and going to events in the evening. As an example of current conditions, it was noted that Rotary had hosted some 18 youth exchange students in recent years with no safety issues. Guillermo was particularly interested in having guests return to Mante for fishing, especially fishing for black bass. Alberto and Guillermo agree that while Mante is not paradise, it’s as safe as any place in Mexico these days.
During their stay the following topics were discussed:
A reigniting of the teacher exchange between our two communities. It was noted that several teachers still remain in touch by email
Our Mante guests viewed the “city in a suitcase” at the Boulder History Museum which has many items from Mexico that can be loaned out to student and scouting groups who wish to learn about Mante. Alberto and Guillermo are interested in creating a “city in a suitcase” about Boulder which could be circulated in Mante.
Guillermo reported that the dental equipment purchased by Boulder resident donations and a grant from Rotary have been incorporated into service in Mante and are valuable tools for dentistry in Mante.
The Mante guests were introduced at Boulder Rotary, where that club was reminded of the many Rotary grants that had been completed to equip the hospital, rehab facilities and clinics in Mante. The Boulder Club was reminded that they are sister clubs with Mante Rotary.
Our Mante guests were introduced to Dr. Rob Vissers, the new CEO of Boulder Community Health. A discussion followed about smaller medical teams returning to Mante and the possible assistance Boulder Community Health might provide in equipping the new rehab facility in Mante. This could possibly be in connection with Project Cure.
The Mante guests expressed an interest in the short term for help with speech therapy and audiology screening.
As a result of this visit, it seems possible for a small delegation from Boulder to visit Mante in the near future for assessment and reconnection of our two committees and communities.
A special thanks to Elfa Rodriguez for her hosting of our visitors throughout their six day visit to Boulder.
The Eco, a Mante newspaper, featured a visit by the Municipal President of Mante, Pablo A. González León, to Boulder. The article includes a photo of the Municipal President, his wife, and members of the Boulder-Mante Sister City Committee in front of a mural painted by Mante muralist Florian Lopez, which was commissioned in 2001 commemorate the lasting bod between the two cities.
Florian Lopez had this to say about the article:
Es emocionante ver en tu periódico a mis amigos de Boulder: Norris Hermsmeyer y la Maestra Elfa Rodríguez acompañando al Ing. Pablo A. González León, Presidente Municipal de El Mante y a su esposa frente al mural que pinté en el 2001 en Colorado. Qué afortunada obra, realmente pequeña, junto a esa maravillosa campaña médica que duró 20 años beneficiando a miles de personas necesitadas. Por algunos días me pregunté si valía la pena pintar lejos de la familia y los amigos, pensé que mi esfuerzo sería ignorado como tantos proyectos. Ojalá mis amigos Chan Mortimer y su esposa tengan la oportunidad de conocer las esculturas y artesanías que comencé a pintar en su jardín.
Translation: It is exciting to see my friends from Boulder in your newspaper: Norris Hermsmeyer and the teacher Elfa Rodríguez accompanying the Municipal President of Mante, Pablo A. González León, and his wife against the mural I painted in 2001 in Colorado. What lucky piece, really small, next to that wonderful medical campaign that lasted 20 years benefiting thousands of needy people. Some days I wondered if it was worth painting away from family and friends, I thought that my efforts would be ignored as so many projects. I wish my friends Chan Mortimer and his wife have the opportunity to see the sculptures and crafts that I started painting in his garden.
This article in Mantex-Eso from earlier this month congratulates Boulder-Mante Board Member Erick Diaz for his good management of the Cruz Roja of Mante, which is in the black for the first time in many years. Good job, Erick!
Cruz Roja de El Mante sin problemas financieros: Erick Díaz de la Garza
Escrito por JESUS AVILA MURILLO
Martes, 08 de Enero de 2013 14:19
ING. ERICK DIAZ DE LA GARZA, PRESIDENTE DEL CONSEJO DE ADMINISTRACION EN LA CRUZ ROJA.
Ciudad Mante, Tamaulipas, México / Enero 08 de 2013 / Por / Jesús Avila Murillo / Por primera vez en muchos años la Delegación Mante de la Cruz Roja Mexicana se encuentra operando con aceptables condiciones económicas.
Esta afirmación fue hecha por el ingeniero Erick Díaz de la Garza quien se desempeña como presidente del Consejo de Administración de la benemérita institución en esta ciudad.
Señaló el ingeniero Díaz de la Garza que en el actual escenario administrativo se advierte la confianza participativa de la sociedad mantense, que ha sumado esfuerzos para el sostenimiento de nuestra noble institución.
En reciprocidad a esa generosidad de los habitantes de El Mante, personal y parque vehicular de la Cruz Roja se han mantenido atentos a los llamados de ayuda de la población.
En este caso, Díaz de la Garza manifestó que en los últimos días del año anterior, personal y ambulancias no tuvieron reposo acudiendo a cada momento a prestar servicio en el traslado de enfermos, pacientes de la tercera edad que acusaban síntomas de males respiratorios, además de atender y prestar auxilio a personas víctimas de los diversos accidentes carreteros que se registraron.
Reafirmó Erick Díaz de la Garza que si bien es cierto no se encuentran en abundancia, tampoco tienen mayores problemas económicos para continuar prestando su labor de auxilio a la población.
En estos momentos, dijo, la mayor necesidad que enfrenta la Cruz Roja mantense, es la de contar con una nueva ambulancia, debido a que las unidades con que cuenta han cumplido su ciclo de servicio con seguridad.
Última actualización el Jueves, 10 de Enero de 2013 14:58
On Jan. 19, the Boulder Emergency Squad donated a “jaws of life” and accompanying generator to the Boulder-Mante Sister City Committee. In turn, the Sister City Committee arranged for shipment of the equipment to Cruz Roja (the Red Cross) in Mante, Mexico.
Representing the Boulder Emergency Squad in the picture is Andrew Moschetti.
The jaws of life is an hydraulic rescue tool used by emergency rescue personnel to assist vehicle extrication of crash victims as well as other rescues from other small spaces.
According to Erick Diaz, this tool will be of great value to the Red Cross in Mante, which responds to emergencies beyond the city limits of Mante where the fire department does not go.
Over 10 years ago, Jesper Frant, a high school student from Boulder, Colorado, went as an exchange student to sister city Mante, Mexico for a year. Today, Jesper recounts how life changing the experience was.
It’s impossible to overstate how pivotal my year in Mexico was in shaping my worldview and setting my goals for the future. Prior to my year abroad, I had traveled quite a bit with my parents and attended bilingual school. I knew Spanish and was comfortable traveling in foreign countries, but looking back, nothing could have prepared me for the experience of being fully immersed in another language, another family and another culture.
Not only did my experience studying abroad help shape my worldview, it has guided many of my most important life choices: to stay involved with the Boulder-Mante Sister Cities Committee, to study international affairs at the University of Colorado, to write my honors thesis on the plight and potential Mexican migrants living in the U.S., and to pursue a graduate degree in international development. But the most fundamental personal change I experienced as a result of my year abroad was developing a sense of empathy for those who – simply because of where they are born – cannot afford basic healthcare, a quality education, or even nutritious food and clean water.
Boulder and Mante share many things in common, but at no time were the differences more apparent than during the Boulder Community Hospital’s annual medical campaign. Volunteering as a translator during my year abroad, I saw thousands of people from hundreds of miles around Mante turn out for the opportunity to meet with the “gringo” doctors.
One day, an elderly blind man walked into the make-shift eye clinic to which I’d been assigned. The American doctors immediately diagnosed him with advanced cataracts, which had clouded his vision for over a decade. His condition had gone untreated due to a combination of insufficient access to properly trained medical professionals and limited availability of modern medical technology.
Guided by his granddaughter, the man was immediately moved to the front of the line, and within fifteen minutes his cataracts were removed and his vision was restored. I will never forget the look on his face, tears streaming from behind protective glasses, as he walked out of the operating room without the assistance of his granddaughter. “What a miracle. God bless you,” he repeated in a trembling voice as he hugged each American nurse and doctor.
Had this man been born in the U.S. his condition would have been treated years earlier. Unfortunately, the world is filled with this kind of basic inequality, but I believe that with a little ingenuity and a lot of hard work – as economist Jeffrey Sachs pointedly put it – “extreme poverty can be ended, not in the time of our grandchildren, but our time.”
Jesper was later elected to be a youth board member of the Boulder Mante Sister City Committee and has remained a board member ever since.