Meeting with Acento leader from Mexico

By Susan Sola, June 15, 2023

Photo of: Sharon Bissell, Lorraine Toly, Paul Silver, Susan Sola, and Christina Marra

Left to right: Sharon Bissell, Lorraine Toly, Paul Silver, Susan Sola, and Christina Marra

Pangea’s Latin America Pod recently hosted a meeting with Sharon Bissell, former executive director of the MacArthur Foundation in Mexico. Sharon is now co-chair of Acento (, the MacArthur Foundation’s social justice and human rights legacy in Mexico.

Out of our fruitful discussion, we found a number of ways Acento and Pangea might collaborate to better serve small groups focusing on priority community needs. Acento has deep knowledge of small and emerging Mexican organizations, offering them financial and technical support, capacity building, and the type of collaborative relationships that Pangea values. We hope to deepen our interaction with Acento in the future.

Sharon also described efforts to assist the relatives of over 110,000 missing family members in Mexico, a national tragedy arising from violence of many types. The victims are being searched for, mainly by mothers, without much help from the government. Many of the missing are believed to be femicides (gender-based deaths) that have a cultural element that Pangea partners, such as MUSOR and UNOSJO, are addressing through workshops and other community-based efforts.

group holding map

Map of farmland: “These farmlands once fed us. Now they search for us here”, referring to the thousands of bodies buried throughout the country.

Two of the search groups are raising funds for their work by selling cookbooks, which Sharon showed us at our meeting. The cookbooks include favorite recipes of missing sons and daughters, along with their heartbreaking personal stories and an explanation of how many once-rich farmlands have gradually turned into industrial-agricultural regions full of thousands of mass graves.

This was a great opportunity for Pangea to learn from a Seattle native with 20+ years of non-profit experience in Mexico. Thank you, Sharon!

(Sharon’s bio can be found here.)