Older and Wiser
I lived for a few months along that border. Three months in Tapachula, four months in Motozintla, separated by three months in Oaxaca, a little farther north.
Near the beginning of my stay, when I first became aware of the complications of the southern border crossing, the ten year old daughter of a Mexican family I stayed with told me the bad joke, “Salieron de Guatemala, vuelven a Guatepeor.” I hadn’t thought about how this other border had similar issues as the US-Mexican border. She already knew that people were trying to sneak across into Mexico because life was even harder just south of her city.
Later, while I was living in Motozintla, one of the Mexican agronomists who worked with the parish-organized cooperative of organic coffee farmers was arrested and beaten by the police on some pretext of drugs. After a few days, he was freed because the bishop intervened. I don’t know the details of the negotiations. But we were all frightened by the incident. It wasn’t the only one. Other local grass-roots leaders had worse stories to tell.
Part of me just cringes when I think of how lucky I was in that year. About how many stupid and careless and dangerous situations I got myself into. But I was young, idealistic and naïve then. Really naïve.
Now I turn to face the same situation as an older woman. More realistic. More afraid.
But once you’ve been in a place of misery, you never forget. Although some people try very hard. Others dedicate themselves to doing something about it.
How will I do something about it? How do I face the frightening realities without cringing? What responsibility does my lucky self still have? Since I escaped robbery, rape, death, with my intelligence, my mental health, my physical health intact, how will I use them to serve other people who have not been so lucky?
I was given, by the grace of God, the opportunity to be touched by that experience. It helps me to remember that I don’t have to solve all the problems of the world, but I can focus on the issues that are related to this experience.
I left Mexico to go back to college, to finish my degree. I said to myself at the time, I can’t throw this opportunity away. I have to take advantage of my opportunities so that I can become a better ally, a better advocate.
18 years later, I may finally be ready. How? Where? I don’t know.
In the meantime, I got that degree. I learned to think about the situation of very poor people and their governments from various angles. I worked with very poor families native to my own country. I had my own children. I got grounded in a faith tradition and a marriage.
Lately, I have been serving as a translator/interpreter for the monolingual Spanish-speaking parents at my children’s fancy private school. It’s the least I can do.
I should ask my friend Kat how I could volunteer with CARECEN. I should look into what organizations for Latin American immigrants are here in SSF and surrounding communities.
Here’s what I can offer:
I can do any level of office work, from project management to budget development to data entry to taking the garbage out.
I can cook, sew, shop, drive, babysit.
I can accompany people to office visits.
I can read, write and speak English and Spanish.
I can pray.
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