Mexico

Enslaved at the Border

MARTA AND LUISA had always fantasized about leaving their small town in northern Mexico to become dancers in a big city.

As the teenage sisters sat in the bed of a rusted pickup truck speeding toward the U.S. border, they thought their dreams would soon become reality. After sunset, the truck screeched to an abrupt stop. A middle-aged man with a skeleton tattoo on his arm hopped out of the driver’s seat, gritted his yellow teeth, and mumbled, “Vamos.” The time had come to complete the journey by foot.

Marta and Luisa walked closely behind the man and his two associates for hours along the desert paths they believed led to a brighter future. When they crossed the border into Arizona at about midnight, the tattooed man forcefully grabbed 16-year-old Marta and separated her from her older sister.

He explained that although he previously offered to help the girls cross the border for a small fee, the transportation cost had risen. Now Marta would have to work to pay off her debt. Alone.

Cecilia Hilton Gomez, director of Hispanic outreach programs for Free for Life International, describes the way that many human traffickers prey on vulnerable girls hoping to emigrate to the United States from Mexico and other parts of Central America. Since girls like Marta often have little education, lack formal paperwork, and have no knowledge of English, they become prime targets for traffickers looking to profit by selling women to brothel owners in the U.S.

“This is an epidemic, and it’s increasing,” Gomez states. “A lot of people think slavery has been gone for years, but it’s one of the largest criminal enterprises that exists now, and it’s right here in America.”

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Nonviolence and the Drug War

ON A BLAZING August day last summer, Rosa Pérez Triana faced a crowd of several hundred people in downtown Tucson and held up a color photo of a pretty young woman.

“This is my daughter, Coral,” Pérez said in Spanish, her voice breaking. “A year ago she went missing. There are thousands of people in Mexico like me who don’t know what happened to their loved ones.”

A middle-aged woman from the violent state of Nuevo León in northern Mexico, Pérez had come to the United States with the Caravan for Peace with Justice and Dignity to tell her North American neighbors what had happened to her daughter—and to an estimated 80,000 other Mexicans who have been killed or disappeared during the country’s six-year-old war on drugs.

Her daughter’s story is typical. Guadalupe Coral Pérez Triana vanished on July 24, 2011, somewhere on the road between Reynosa, Tamaulipas, and Monterrey, Nuevo León. Five other young women were traveling with her. All are missing and presumed dead.

“The main purpose of the caravan is to show a human face,” explained Laura Carlsen, director of the Center for International Policy’s Americas Program in Mexico, who joined the caravan on its last leg through the East Coast. “These are people whose family members were victims.” Such are the human costs of the war on drugs that the U.S. government supports with arms and money.

According to the U.S. State Department, the U.S. government has contributed $1.9 billion through the Mérida Initiative to help Mexico wage the drug war. Not only do Americans provide the market for the drugs sold by the drug cartels, they also supply the weapons that have taken the lives of thousands.

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Been There, Bordered That. So Why Are We Still So Afraid?

Maryada Vallet stands in Nogales, Mexico, pondering this wall.
Maryada Vallet stands in Nogales, Mexico, pondering this wall that separates communities and families.

The Angels of Advent are saying, "Do not be afraid" -- we bring good news of immigration reform.

And what does fear do to us?

We disregard the good news at our doorstep, the opportunity to live with Jesus among us, and keep on building walls at our threshold. Perhaps that's why the angels of the Bible repeat this admonishment -- Do not be afraid -- over and over again, for fear inhibits our ability to see and hear a new vision.

I remember as a child wanting to leave the lights on in my room at night. The shadows and sounds were too much for an imagination that could run wild to handle. As adults, of course, it's our duty to assure children that nothing is living in their closets or under their beds. We offer the comfort of reality so that the child will go to sleep and have sweet dreams.

But you have to admit, as adults we are gripped by the same fear but on a different level. We may compulsively check to make sure the front door is locked. We don't look strangers in the eye (especially those we deem to look "strange") as we pass them on the street.

Love Bug: Kids Flourish When We Focus on Their Strengths

Close up look at the common dragonfly.

Bralyan loves bugs.

I met him during the first week of school as I conducted the standard assessment of how many words he could read per minute from a second-grade story. After the assessment, I gave him the customary caterpillar sticker to put on his shirt to show everyone that he was going to emerge as a great reader during his second-grade year.

You would have thought that I had given him a piece of gold.

"Oooh, I love bugs," he marveled as I handed him the sticker. "I have seen caterpillars around the trees at my apartment. They spin a chrysalis and turn into butterflies.

“Have you seen a roly poly bug?,” he continued. “They're my favorites!"

And so a friendship began around the pyrrharctia isabella, the armadillidum vulgar and other bugs that make up the most diverse group of animals on the planet.

This interaction told me some crucial things about Bralyan. It told me he is a smart kid, and it also told me that keeping him engaged in school would likely include bugs.

I later learned that Bralyan and his family moved here from Mexico when he was a baby. His mom and dad speak only Spanish at home. He speaks English at school.

Should a Priest Be Taking on the Mexican Cartels?

According to a piece in USA Today, the congregants of one Mexican church don't think so:

A crusading Roman Catholic priest who has defied drug cartels and corrupt police to protect Central American migrants said Wednesday that church authorities are trying to smother his activist work with migrants by assigning him to parish duties.

The Rev. Alejandro Solalinde has become well known in Mexico after enduring death threats for publicly denouncing drug gangs and police who rob and kidnap Central American migrants crossing Mexico to reach the United States.

But Solalinde's diocese said he is simply being asked to start operating within the normal parish structure, and run his migrant shelter more like a church ministry and less like a lone activist's non-governmental organization.

Read more here

Transforming Lives, One Cup of Coffee at a Time

Growers First coffee farmer, Rito Sierra with his wife, Maria, and four of their
Growers First coffee farmer, Rito Sierra with his wife, Maria, and four of their five children.

Fight global poverty, invest in agriculture. ~ Growers First

As the winter winds bite at our collars, a hot cup of coffee is a perfect antidote for healing.  But what you might not consider when you sip a mug of dark roast is the economic injustices that many coffee growers around the world face.   

Coffee is one of the largest cash crops in the world – the U.S.D.A. Foreign Agricultural Service reports that last year 15,689,340,000 pounds of coffee were distributed worldwide. Yet, indigenous coffee growers see only a tiny fraction of its revenue. 

These are some of the reasons why fair exchange programs such as  Growers First  got into the coffee business — to tip the scales of economic and social inequity that has become a way of life for many coffee farmers globally in a more just direction.

Even more importantly, Growers First exists to transform lives. The non-profit based in Laguna Beach, Calif., has a powerful story of action, conflict, struggle — and ultimately hope.

Mitt Romney and Moral Imagination

In 1884, Romney’s great-grandfather, Miles Parker Romney, fled to Mexico from Utah. Miles Parker Romney was a practicing polygamist and he wanted to protect his family from persecution. Mitt Romney’s father was born in Mexico, his family returned to the United States and took up residence in Michigan.

While Romney wouldn’t agree with his ancestor’s practice of polygamy, I am sure he understands his great-grandfather’s desire to do what he thought best for his family. Luckily for Miles Parker Romney, there was a country that allowed his family to settle and try and find a better life.

What is unfortunate is that candidate Romney doesn't seem to have that same kind of empathy for families today who are also in difficult positions.

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