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Casa de Salud Malitizin
Ampliacion Tejalpa, Tejalpa, Morelos, Mexico, 1998-1999

Promotoras Ambientales, a women’s health and welfare group in Tejalpa, approached uw BaSiC Initiative to build a woman’s medical clinic in their community. This would provide needed traditional and modern medical assistance to families in the informal settlements of the region. Organized and built in collaboration with women's groups in the area, the clinics also offer a forum for education on the issues of sustainability, biodiversity, and their effects on personal health. This project collaborated with students and faculty in the schools of medicine, public health, and ecology.

The Promotoras Ambientales, or Women’s Environmental Promoters, organized in response to the health crisis women in Mexico’s squatter areas were facing. These women lived with traditional matriarchal views of self-sacrifice, often being the last in the family to seek medical help, putting their and their children’s health at risk. The Promotoras began offering traditional medical services from one member’s house, empowering women by raising their awareness of reproductive options, and women’s rights.Their services quickly outgrew their space and they needed new facilities

The Promotoras were able to acquire a triangular site at the intersection of two roads, bordered by three communities. It was unclaimed by all three communities, and was being used as a dumpsite. In addition to this, the site had an elevation change of 25 feet, as a volcanic bubble had once burst here, leaving a deep depression. These site conditions significantly informed the design of the buildings. The first buildings (clinical spaces and pharmacy) hug one of the outer edges of the site, with an entry off of the street between them. The later program elements hug the other two edges of the site, with an auditorium as the main focal element at the apex of the triangle. Each building steps up with the topography, enclosing a sunken courtyard and garden space filled with vegetation that becomes a cool and quiet oasis in the manner of traditional Mexican courtyards. It becomes a sanctuary from the noise, dust, and life of the surrounding community, while also being able to host community events.

As this site was originally a dump, the first goal was to clean the site by removing the debris, scraping the top layer of soil, and bringing in a new layer. The site shape, dimensions, and topography were challenging, limiting building orientation options. The students decided to wrap the buildings around the perimeter of the site, enclosing the volcanic bubble in the center and creating a shady, cool microclimate within. Similar to the Escuela San Lucas, a bio-digester was installed to compost and produce methane gas for cooking and lighting.

Initially the clinic offered only traditional medicinal services. However, as medical and nursing students from the University of Washington began participating with and learning from the Promotoras, the clinic began to expand its services to include modern medicine as well. An ongoing relationship between these two programs ensures a mutual education and demonstrates to residents that they can adopt new medicinal practices while still maintaining their culture and tradition.