Carlos Tapadera’s childhood home in Chihuahua, Mexico also served as his mother’s makeshift clinic. His mother, a midwife, worked with great passion to help the women who came to her for care; her own mother died in childbirth. The tragic fate that befell Carlos’s grandmother is shared by many indigenous Raramuri women in Mexico. While the Raramuri make up only three percent of the population of Chihuahua State, they account for nearly 40 percent of maternal deaths. Of his mother’s role preventing such tragedies and providing compassionate care to women and infants, Carlos says, “My mother was the main influence in my life and in the way I think about my job.”
Born in 1981 in the rural Chihuahuan town of Porochi, Carlos had to leave his home at age 11 to attend the nearest school, many hours walking distance away. Being apart from his family was difficult and he was faced with constant challenges, but he never wavered in his commitment to follow in his mother’s footsteps, improving maternal care among the Raramuri. Through his hard work juggling classes and jobs—selling fruits and vegetables, making tortillas, and working in hospitals—Carlos became a registered nurse.
Through his diligence and perseverance, Carlos was well-prepared when One Heart World-Wide, an organization that works to promote maternal health, arrived in Chihuahua in 2010. Carlos, an indigenous Raramuri who understands the cultural norms and practices of childbirth for his people, has been a key player in One Heart’s success and is currently the organization’s training coordinator and master trainer in Mexico. He says, “In Cuiteco, the community where I am based, 95 percent of the population is indigenous so I feel like I am at home. I have a very good relationship with the non-indigenous people as well, but my heart feels better while being amongst Raramuris.”
He explains that a central difficulty in providing care is that there are not enough clinics or hospitals, and women must travel long distances to seek help. He illustrates his point with the story of one woman: “In the year of 2012 in Urique, a Raramuri woman came to the clinic for her first consultation. Her baby developed normally, but was in an abnormal position. I told her husband that she needed to go to a hospital for her delivery and we both agreed on a date for taking her. The days passed and they didn’t arrive, so we went to look for her in her community, but we didn’t find her. After four days, at one in the morning in the middle of a storm and without any electricity in the town, some policemen came to my house to warn me about a pregnant women being carried on a stretcher; she was unconscious. We had to manually remove the placental remains and stop the bleeding. Her baby, although shaking for the cold, was in good condition.” Carlos and his team then took the woman to the nearest hospital, located eight hours away. The woman and baby both are doing well today, but not everyone is so lucky.
Carlos says that one of his main goals is to help train more people in good birthing practices—including the traditional practices of the Raramuri—so that they can work in the Department of Health. Another project, he says, “is to open a lodge in Cuiteco for the people who come from a long distance with patients so that they have somewhere to stay while the patients are receiving care.”
At times, Carlos feels overwhelmed by how much work there is still to be done. In these moments, he says, “I allow myself to go out at night to count stars. That way I realize that life is like day and night. In certain instances, we have to look behind and appreciate the achievements that we have done—it helps you to go back to work.”