Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Unparalleled Generosity at an Unforgettable Meal

Sitting alone at a restaurant table for four, I felt isolated enough. The frightening realization that I couldn't communicate in Guatemala only sharpened the feeling. My husband had established me at a language school the day before and then left for business elsewhere in the country. I was on my own. It was a stretch for a Midwestern US gringa, out of place and conspicuous in this common café.

So I had chosen a spot near its open entrance door, where I ate looking outward into the sunshine. But my decision to turn my back on my fellow diners made me the first target for a tiny, indigenous woman in traditional garb who entered from the street with an outstretched hand, a baby on her shoulder and a toddler in tow. Shocked by this sudden, unexpected personal encounter in a public place, I stiffly shook my head just ever-so-slightly, indicating "no" with eyes wide. But as she moved on, I shifted a bit in my chair to see from the corner of my eyes what the other diners would do. The men at the table next to me extended some small coins to her, as did the next table. I had seen enough.

My eyes dropped before me. There the remnants of my noon meal lay disheveled. I had saved the largest piece of chicken to take home for later, along with a pile of tortillas I was equally unable to consume. I don't need that food, I thought. A plan emerged. I began wrapping it in paper napkins, watching meanwhile for her exit.

As she passed me on her way to the door, I signaled to the little entourage. Wordlessly, I offered the food, letting my face communicate my somewhat embarrassed intent. Realization dawned on her. Now her eyes were the ones to widen--with amazement and joy. Her face melted in gratitude. Our eyes met in a moment that seemed to last longer than clock time.

But then another shift in mood again caught me off-guard. The woman hesitated and smiled as if to say, "Please don't think me greedy." I realized to my horror that she was shyly indicating that she would be pleased to also receive the chicken bones from my plate.

Floored, I scrambled to wrap them too, and hastily placed them in her hands. I don't remember that we were able to say much to each other. She was effusive with "Gracias" and with smiles. Then she turned to go on her way. Her boy was still in tow, like a little duckling, directly trailing her.

Even in his scramble to keep up with mom, he managed to turn his head backward to me as he exited, beaming me a smile that filled his little face. Ten years later, the memory of his awe-filled eyes can summon tears. With a child's unvarnished simplicity, he broadcast an unmistakable departing message: You must be a really wonderful person!

In his gaze, I realized that this had been, for them, an act of unparalleled generosity. I felt affirmed--and yet at the same time inadvertently exposed as fabulously wealthy, and thereby, perhaps somehow condemned. They, in turn, had gifted me with a dining experience that I hope I will never forget.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

New, Notable Info about Mexican Migration to the US

Some surprising new facts I discovered in this week’s news ~

Regarding how many Mexicans are coming:

The number of Mexican immigrants entering the US has fallen sharply. It has hit a 10-year low (in the 12 months ending in March 2009).

Regarding how many are here:

A third of all foreign-born US residents and two-thirds of Hispanic immigrants to the United States come from Mexico.

Nearly everyone who leaves Mexico heads for the United States.
The US is currently home to one in 10 people who were born in Mexico.

Regarding how many illegal entries are caught:

2008 saw the lowest number of apprehensions of would-be illegal immigrants from Mexico by the US border patrol in 25 years.
Regarding Hispanics who die on the job:

The number of Hispanic workers who die on the job in the US has risen by 76 percent (since 1992), although the nation's total number of on-the-job deaths is on the decline.

Regarding the economic downturn’s affect:

While traditionally Mexicans living here send money back home, reports are surfacing on the Border of the reverse. Some Mexicans are sending money to support their relatives in the United States due to the economic crisis north of the border.

Latinos, especially immigrants, are suffering a disproportionate share of the joblessness that is officially rising to engulf
close to 10 percent of the overall US population.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Blogger Meet-up, Awards, Protest, Inspiration--this post has it all!

When I began blogging here at Border Explorer, I met so many wonderful people. I especially remember the moment I discovered Carol, of A Peace Carol (although at that time she was blogging on a different site). I identified with her immediately because of her activism. She'd participated in Camp Casey in Texas, Cindys Sheehan's attempt to engage George W Bush in dialogue on Iraq. She had stood with Women in Black locally for years.

We struck up a blogging friendship. With my stepson and 2 grandchildren living in the next town over from Carol, I harbored a secret hope that one day I'd be able to meet her. My opportunity arrived last month, when in a best-case scenario, I was able to meet her at the Women in Black gathering (!) and stand in solidarity with that committed band.

I stand for peace weekly in El Paso, but this was something different, and I felt it. The black. The silence. In my mind I was standing for all the women who mourn in this war-torn world. Mr. Carol for Peace stopped by to take some photos, and I can see now that my emotions were evident on my face:

Not the smiling, happy, joyful, peace-filled presence I try to embody in El Paso. The hour was profound for me: a somewhat grim hour of being present to those who mourn due to wars we cause in lands far away. But I'm sure it means something different to everyone who participates as well as to everyone who observes it.

We spent the rest of the afternoon together at the home of Carol and her husband. It was amazing. We chatted as though we had known each other all our lives with mutual interests galore. It happened to be our birthday weekend--for both of us!--and we each felt like our time together was a gift. Carol delivered me to the wedding I was in town to attend. I felt like a visiting dignitary, she and her husband were so good to me.

Our conversation turned to the spirituality of peacemaking. It was providential for me, who perhaps tends to move too quickly into action and neglect the meditative underpinnings that maintain a peaceful presence in the world. This was all so meaningful and has stayed with me in the ensuing weeks.

I want to pass to Carol this award I received from Utah Savage. It means a lot to me: a sisterhood award. The relationships we form here are so real. So authentic. We put our hearts and souls on our blogs. Some people denigrade "virtual relationships" as inauthentic. They are wrong. Pure and simple. I am so happy that my family has expanded through the relationships I've made here. Carol, you're my sister across the miles, and I love you. Give your sweetie my best regards and thanks, too.

We shared favorite movies, books and authors that afternoon. I want to close with the words of one we discussed:

The world is holy. We are holy. All life is holy. Daily prayers are delivered on the lips of breaking waves, the whisperings of grasses, the shimmering of leaves.

Terry Tempest Williams
from Talking to God: Portrait of a World at Prayer (anthology)

The time I spent with you was unforgettably holy time. Thanks so much, Carol!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

A Statement of Courage: Why a Honduran Woman Still Resists the Coup

It is confusing and painful to me that events in Iran receive so much attention and coverage by the mainstream media while the dramatic Honduran military coup and mammoth popular resistance to it is almost ignored.

The following statement was hastily translated and provided to me by Carlos Marentes, a US citizen and member of Via Campesina, who traveled to Honduras to accompany the people's resistance last weekend. I hope you'll read it:


Sisters and brothers of the World,I write this testimony with my eyes full of tears and a sadden heart after an intensive day of struggle with my sisters and brothers of Honduras.

I am a woman from a humble family. I am a peasant. I have gained my militancy and class consciousness along with the peasants who work every day under the hot sun, and who see no future for their sons and daughters who have to migrate to other countries seeking better living conditions because in our country, Honduras, the bipartisan political system (Liberals and Nationalists have shared the power for more than 100 years) the majority live in extreme poverty, neglected, without access to health, to a dignified home, without access to a piece of land because the national oligarchy owns the whole country and have pushed 90 per cent of the population into extreme poverty and social exclusion.

Today, Sunday July 5, we have completed eight days of peaceful resistance. Today we marched, more than 500 thousand persons in the city of Tegucigalpa towards the airport of ToncontĂ­n, with the expectation of welcoming president Manuel Zelaya Rosales. While us where waiting the arrival of our president, the army started to shoot us with tear gases and real bullets. Three Honduran were killed only because they were demanding peace and the right to live in a country with real civic participation, and not the false democracy we have been living for 100 years. The dead persons included 21 year old, Isis Oveth, from the village "Alde de Santa Cruz", Guayape, municipality of Olancho and another young man, Alexis Zavala is among the many persons who were badly injured by the army' repression.

Alter the violent attack I was afraid to be arrested by the police because we have a curfew and by the time we escaped the repression it was already night, past the curfew hours. But despite the repression, my spirit is stronger, because I have the dream that one day my son (15 years old) and my daughter (10 years old) and all the future generations will enjoy a country with equality, equity and more than that, a day when all of us will be the actors of our destiny.

I would like to tell all the men and women of the World who have expressed solidarity with our struggle, that all of us in Honduras are determined to achieve VICTORY and to restore the legitimate government of our president Manuel Zelaya in the memory of the martyrs of this Sunday July 5, 2009.

Long live the martyrs for the defense of our rights to be actors of our own destiny!

Long live ISIS OVETH and all the brothers killed today!




Tegucigalpa, MDC. Honduras, C.A., July 5, 2009.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

4th of July: Quotes from Howard Zinn

“There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people.”

“We need to decide that we will not go to war, whatever reason is conjured up by the politicians or the media, because war in our time is always indiscriminate, a war against innocents, a war against children”

“Americans have been taught that their nation is civilized and humane. But, too often, U.S. actions have been uncivilized and inhumane.”

“In the United States today, the Declaration of Independence hangs on schoolroom walls, but foreign policy follows Machiavelli.”

“Dissent is the highest form of patriotism.”