Independent citizens

Text by Paula Villanueva

Photographs by Toumani Camara and Paula Villanueva

Fundación Inclúyeme was founded in 2008, and it began as any great social project should: with the love of parents and the interest of professionals to provide new opportunities for people with autism – initially – and later for people with any kind of intellectual disability.

I discovered it in 2013, and I must confess, it was quite a discovery. I have been doing voluntary work for many years in different homes and schools for children in various countries; this new organization emphasizes an essential point: the defense of people’s autonomy as part of the essence of human beings.

Inclúyeme promotes an independent life we all strive for: our own home, a decent job, to manage our expenses, and above all, preserve our autonomy and improve our quality of life: a complete machinery of vital areas that allow us to lead a life as close as possible to balance, always focused on encouraging these young adults to be a part of society and give their best.

Adults in this productive stage of life are oftentimes forgotten along the way, because they are no longer children that need to be trained; because society “expects” certain results from them; because ageing is inevitable and it’s not that “necessary” to invest in their futures. However, there are cases within Inclúyeme that prove the contrary.

I travelled with Límulus and Inclúyeme through various parts of the city and went deep into the lives of two fantastic people: Chayo and Óscar, two enthusiastic young adults, passionate about their work, welcoming in their homes, proud of what they have built, of what they have and what they keep accomplishing.

Rosario Miranda, “Chayo,” as everyone knows her, is 37 years old, and as is the case with most women, she took a while to reveal her age (I had to tell her mine for her to feel comfortable sharing hers). She has a younger sister she visits on Mondays and her favorite color is pink. Chayo works in Daunis, an organization where she has been trained in the art of producing tamales. She gave us a visual tour through the different stations of the process. She also welcomed us into her apartment where she has been living for almost 2 years with her roommate Pame and her facilitator Lore 1 .

Óscar González is a very smiley 26 year old man who infects everyone with his happiness. He also has a brother he sees on Saturdays when he goes to his parents’ house for lunch. He lives with Kike, Miguel, Carlos and Jako, his facilitator and he really likes country music and ballads. His favorite color is yellow… and pink, and blue too. Óscar gave us a tour of his apartment, introduced us to his roommate and showed us around his workspace.

The photographs that follow are a reflection of this encounter with Chayo and Óscar, as well as the exploration of their living and work spaces.


The first stations of the process consist of chopping, shredding and preparing all the ingredients for the tamales. At this point, Chayo had already washed her hands, put on her cap and mask to abide with the cleaning guidelines. Daunis trains adults with intellectual disabilities to achieve social inclusion through a more productive, respectable and independent life. There is a high probability that some of us have eaten a tamale or consumed other products made by Chayo or her colleagues.


As in any comprehensive training program, Chayo and her peers rotate through the different stations of the process to learn the steps and be able to work in any of them when necessary.


While she jokes with her colleagues, Chayo removes the lumps from the dough to continue to the next station.


Chayo cuts the banana leaves for the tamales while her colleagues advance to the next station to be more efficient in their production.


After placing the dough carefully, Chayo decides this will be a green tamale.


As her colleagues vigilantly watch, Chayo wraps the tamale properly to then place it in the oven.


Chayo in her kitchen. She confessed that doing the dishes was her favorite house chore.


Everything in life must have order, or at least it helps us organize ourselves better, so for Chayo and Pame, a few reminders are come in handy.


Chayo doesn’t have a roommate just yet. Pame, who goes to the apartment sporadically, is in Inclúyeme’s transition program to eventually be able to live with Chayo.


Chayo’s desk has a few reminders of her day and night activities.


Chayo told us that although they have a static bike in the apartment, she’d rather go to her zumba classes with Pame on Wednesdays. Before going to bed, she loves watching Mexican soap operas.


We all have our childhood treasures. These are Chayo’s.

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Chayo’s favorite; a good friend gave it her.


Chayo’s menu for the week; she prepares it herself.


Every Wednesday, Chayo prepares the grocery list and goes to the supermarket.


The facilitator’s task is to essentially eliminate the barriers or disability. To achieve this, they require aid. In this case, visual aids, graphic organizers, like the schedules for showering and brushing their teeth, a specific day for a certain activity… all these help Chayo – and eventually Pame – to function better in the apartment.


Chayo cooked some rice for dinner.


Óscar starts his cleaning chores very early in the morning at the Hotel Fiesta Inn Insurgentes. To get to this point, he did a training program [2] with CONFE, which still supports his work inclusion when needed.


The headphone that hangs from his right ear helps him concentrate while he works and keep the positive attitude that characterizes him


He does not miss a spot; he diligently cleans every corner of the hotel.


Aside from having a flawless performance at work, Óscar smiles at anyone (guest, visitor, colleague) who crosses in his path.


Óscar proudly shows off the Minion he painted in his ceramics class.


As he showed us around his room, Óscar explained that Kike is his roommate.


It takes him half an hour to get from his house to the hotel; he takes a bus and walks a bit to get there. He works from Monday to Sunday, from 7 am to 3 pm. He explains that he “hustles” at work.


He gets together with Pame on Fridays because they work very close to each other.


On weekends, they organize karaoke nights in his apartment or they go out to the circus. Óscar and Pame tried to organize a trip with the rest of the tenants to go to Six Flags; unfortunately, the facilitator that they had been talking to changed apartments and the outing was postponed indefinitely. However, Límulus was recently informed – by reliable sources – that the next group outing will be to Six Flags. One must always persevere, or in their case, unite to persevere.


On Fridays they “chill out” at the apartment. On Wednesdays and Thursdays he takes English classes with a colleague from work, that they give at the hotel. He sometimes practices with a woman that often goes to the hotel.


He takes arts and crafts on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the IMSS while Kike goes to zumba class. When classes resume, he wants to take embroidery classes.

1. Inclúyeme owns 7 apartments in different areas of Mexico City with a variable population of tenants: 2 apartments in Interlomas, one with 3 women and another for men, although the latter is only set aside for now, no one lives there yet; the apartment in Pilares is only used for training programs which include 22 people up to now and 2 young adults in transition; the apartment located in Polanco will be used for transition programs starting August with 3 young adults in the program; and the apartment in Huixquilucan was recently completed and potential candidates are under evaluation. All of Inclúyeme’s apartments are comprised of 4 to 5 tenants and 1 facilitator. The latter, which can be woman or man depending on the apartment, serves as a support for people with intellectual disabilities to keep developing and improving their skills in society, guaranteeing a better quality of life during their experience living in the apartment.

2. The independent life program consists of living in an apartment, having a job or training for the latter and doing social and recreational activities. The people of Inclúyeme realized that every tenant has his own “rhythm” of adaptation, which is why the transition program to independent life adjusts to the tenant’s needs; he can start by going to the apartment to watch TV or have dinner for a few hours and eventually stay a few days until the time comes for him to move in.


Inclúyeme works with 10 allied institutions to implement the independent life program in the area of work inclusion. Many other organizations are dedicated to train the tenants and give their work a solid follow-up.

Facebook: FundacionIncluyeme

Twitter: ‪@Incluyeme_org

Límulus would like to thank the generosity and help of all the people who allowed us to delve into the lives of Chayo and Óscar: Ana Cecilia Septién and Angie Cuevas of Fundación Inclúyeme, Anaid Meza of Fiesta Inn Teatro Insurgentes, Daunis, facilitators Lorena and Jako, and of course, Chayo and Óscar for their trust.

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