Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Que te vaya bien

I am emotionally at sea. I found out yesterday morning that one of my former students left for the US. I had seen her in school on Monday afternoon, but didn't know she was leaving - didn't get to say goodbye.

She is a pillar in her community, a young woman of such strength and commitment that she inspires me every day. And her children - three of them - are some of the most wonderful, loving kids I know. Now they live with an aunt they hardly know in a different community, where I won't see them. I want so badly to visit them, to let them know that, in the midst of so much upheaval in their lives this week, there are constants, and one of those is that I love them.

There are so many worries swimming around in my head and heart that I don't even know where to begin. For one thing, dear heaven the journey is dangerous - often deadly. We are heading into the hottest part of the year, where dehydration claims probably (and this is just my guess) dozens of migrants' lives each day. On top of this, Central Americans face an especially long and arduous path, as Mexico is not known for being terribly welcoming of the people passing through. (And I say this, of course, not as any word against Mexico - it's simply the truth that things are especially dangerous for Central Americans migrating north.) There are more borders to cross, more unfamiliar territory, more opportunities to be attacked.

Traveling as a woman makes this exponentially more dangerous. She is traveling with a male relative, which I think played into the timing of her going, but still women are targeted infinitely more than men for sexually based attacks.

Then there is the question of her children. She has three kids between three and ten years old. They are all three wonderful, but her oldest is particularly special to me. We've gone on walks a couple of times and he taught me about all of the types of birds that are native in the area - with particular attention to how good a mama the torrogoz is. Púchica. The community they live in is not far away - it's actually between Suchi and El Barío on the bus line. But I'm not sure if my visiting them is appropriate. I have to figure that out, because this is killing me.

Just as the story of my teacher's sister and nephew was, this is one story of thousands. About 750 Salvadorans (Salvadorans alone) leave the country each DAY for the US. They are women and men with families and roots, just like the ones I described having myself a couple posts back. They have kids, lives, passions, and dreams. We have to ask ourselves WHY, what could possibly compel someone to leave those they love and undertake a journey and then a life of such danger? And you know what? All I can say is that I hate, I hate, I HATE the policies and trade agreements and big-bank-greed-based economic crises and gang violence that make leaving not only an option but a necessity.

At this moment, that hate is not quite all, but almost all that I have. I am wearing that hate, trying not to act out of it, but mostly I am filled with it. I think my love for her and her kids is what is keeping this from enveloping me more fully. And the love of my compañeros here. And the fact that I still have 50 other students that I love and need to teach well. So - surprise of surprises - I find that love is the only thing that can face off against and overcome hate.

Because she is one of the countless humans who will leave their homes this week to risk their lives in this way and for this end, please, please take a moment today, and tomorrow, and the next day to hold up their safety and well being - and that of their loved ones whom they leave at home or the loved ones who await their arrival. And in this situation in which no news is decidedly good news, pray for no news.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Memorial Days

The reality about Salvadoran history is that it is impossible to recognize every massacre. There are just too many. If you then add assassinations of one, two, or three people, it is astounding. Oftentimes, these murders-not-massacres were of faith leaders, lay or clergy, who were responsible for bringing the Good News of liberation, a God who is LOVE, and Jesus as brother and worker to their brothers and sisters.

One such leader was Padre Rutilio Grande. Padre Tilo was a Jesuit priest who studied just about everywhere in the world (or at least throughout the Americas and Europe). In the early 1970s he came to Aguilares, a town just west of Suchitoto, to serve as the priest. His solidarity with poor people and his rejection of government oppression made him a persona non grata for the Salvadoran government. On March 12, 1977, he was assassinated along with Manuel Solorzano (72 years old) and Nelson Rutilio Lemus (16 years old).

His life and his death were both hugely influential in the conversion of the newly-appointed Archbishop of San Salvador, Oscar Romero, from a safe, conservative choice for the institutional church to a clear, consistent voice for nonviolence and human dignity. Grande and Romero were friends and colleagues in life and Grande's murder became a turning point for Romero.

Guillermo Cuellar, a musician who worked alongside Romero as a youth leader, used words from one of Grande's homilies for the entrance hymn of the Misa Salvadoreña:

Vamos todos al banquete, a la mesa de la creación
Cada cual con su taburete tiene un puesto y una misión

Wonderfully translated by Bill Dexheimer Pharris and Bret Hesla (don't we have gems in the Twin Cities!) the refrain says:

Let us go now to the banquet, to the feast of the universe
The table's set and the place is waiting,
Come everyone with your gifts to share