Sunday, September 13, 2009

Walking with the Jornaleros

Yesterday was a beautiful day. It started with a visit to Bittersweet Harvest, the very moving exhibit about the Bracero Program now at the Smithsonian. To see the squalid conditions in which these migrants lived and yet hear their indomitable spirits and resourcefulness soar above the wretchedness in the oral histories brought tears to my eyes.

After the museum, I caught up with today's "braceros", the jornaleros who had come in from around the country to protest our country's immigration policies, particularly the raids and 287(g)-- the collaboration between La Migra and local law enforcement authorities that has resulted in so much abuse, particularly in the southwest.

Great speakers, fabulous music and some spontaneous dancing. We even had dinner in the form of Chipotles' burritos. After all those who had bought meal tickets got their food, there was extra. I asked the organizers if I could buy a burrito and they gave me one free. We all sat down on the grass in small groups and I thought that this is what it must have looked like when Jesus fed the multitudes.

After dinner, we marched over to the White House for a candlelight vigil. We heard from two Protestant pastors -- one Hispanic, one Anglo. The Catholic clergy were absent as usual. The closest I met was a former Franciscan who had been a chaplain for the farmworkers and was now working with the jornaleros. We struck up a conversation because I was wearing my Guadalupe t-shirt and his Mexican wife is a huge fan of La Morenita. We shared our dismay at the current state of the Church, its regression into a dull and cowardly conservatism.

The evening ended with a "family" photo in front of the White House. I didn't know anybody there and I felt completely at home.

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