Saturday, October 3, 2009

Immigration News Roundup - 10/3/2009

1. Arlington County Board Passes Resolution Supporting Immigration Reform: On September 29th, the Arlington County Board unanimously passed a resolution calling on the federal government to "enact comprehensive immigration reform that will include strong border security and provide sufficient resources to ensure an effective and timely processing of those eligible for legal permanent residency or naturalization." The resolution sets forth a vision of Arlington as "a community that welcomes and values all of its residents, treating them with human dignity and respect, regardless of immigration status." Thank you, board member Walter Tejada, a Salvadoran American who was also elected president of the National Association of Hispanic County Officials this year.

2. Hispanics, Health Insurance and Health Care Access: A study released this week by the Pew Hispanic Center shows that six out of ten Hispanic adults in the U.S. who are neither citizens nor legal permanent residents lack health insurance. That is more than twice as high as the rate among Hispanic adults who are citizens or legal permanent residents and more than three times the rate for the adult U.S. population.

3. Undocumented Students: The number of undocumented students in our nation's public schools is growing and with it, a host of legal issues that the schools may or may not know how to deal with. In response to this concern, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) and the National Education Association (NEA) have released a publication designed to help school districts answer questions about the legal rights of undocumented students in public K-12 schools. Legal Issues for School Districts Related to the Education of Undocumented Children offers practical information for schools as they deal with this complicated issue. Sixteen national education organizations have signed onto the guide, which will go to every school district in the United States. The guide provides answers to 13 questions that school districts face as they navigate the growing trend of undocumented student enrollment. If you are a parent or working with immigrant youth through your church, download a copy so you can help if our children's rights are being ignored.

4. Latinas en el Gobierno Federal: Two new nominations/appointments to mention:

  • Carmen Nazario, puertorriqueña, has been confirmed by the Senate as Assistant Secretary for Children and Family in the Department of Health and Human Services. Until her nomination, Carmen Nazario was an assistant professor at the Inter American University of Puerto Rico, where she taught social policy and coordinated the Social Work Practicum at the School of Social Work. She has also served as administrator of the Administration for Children and Families for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

  • Sara Manzano-Díaz was nominated this week by President Obama to head the Women's Bureau at the Department of Labor. An attorney born in Harlem, Manzano-Diaz has served in numerous federal and state posts, most recently as Deputy Secretary for Regulatory Programs at the Pennsylvania Department of State. She is a member of the United States Hispanic Advocacy Association.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Leave the Church Doors Open!

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, the archbishop of Vienna, Austria, is urging priests to pray well, and to help all people dialogue with God by opening church doors to those who want to show devotion. The cardinal offered this suggestion in the context of an international retreat for priests that he is leading in Ars, at the site of St. John Vianney's parish.

He noted, however, that "in Austria we carry on a constant struggle to keep our churches open, accessible to the faithful and to others who are seeking, as it is a grave wound to the Body of Christ that churches have their doors closed."

Cardinal Schönborn urged, "Do everything possible, and the impossible, to allow the faithful and persons seeking God -- whom God awaits -- to have access to Jesus in the Eucharist: Don't close the doors of your churches, please!"

He observed that there are many people who no longer go to Mass, but will still step inside a church if it is open.

They may come to light a candle, he noted, or a grandmother might visit with her grandchildren to show small signs of devotion.

For these, the prelate exhorted, "Let us leave our churches open!"

He also affirmed the benefits of lay people seeing their priests "in the act of prayer before the tabernacle."

Cardinal Schönborn shared a childhood memory with the priests: "In Vorarlberg [Austria], in the afternoon, there was always a light in the church: It was the parish priest who was praying there. That remained engraved in my memory."

He concluded, "The combat of prayer is truly the combat of our life."

Cardinal Schönborn also told the priests about a time when he was truly treated as Christ (translated here from an article on famillechretienne.fr):

Cardinal Schönborn cited an "unforgettable" event : a visit to a village in Sri Lanka on a tea plantation at the invitation of a bishop. The villagers had poured 500m of fresh sand, freshly raked, leading up to the village, and had decorated the pathway with flags, and gradually as he advanced, they threw carpets under his feet as a token of welcome for a "choice guest."

Arriving at the little church, the cardinal was told by the old Jesuit priest, Fernando, who has been there for forty years among the very poor: "Your Eminence, do not think that people did this for Christoph Schönborn, they did it for Jesus Christ." He concluded: "This is what gives us true joy, humility, simplicity in our ministry: let us rejoice to be instruments of Jesus Christ, because if we take ourselves too seriously, we forget that people love us and venerate us for Christ's sake and not for ourselves, who are merely instruments."
Photo of Cardinal Schönborn shamelessly "borrowed" from Archbishop Daniel Bohan's blog where you will find lots more news and photos from this retreat.

Mercedes Sosa Given Extreme Unction

Argentinian folk singer Mercedes Sosa's medical condition has deteriorated substantially. Fr. Luis Farinello, social activist priest and founder of the Fundación Padre Luis Farinello, which Sosa had supported, came to the hospital at the family's request this afternoon to pray with the singer and give her the Annointing of the Sick.

Fr. Farinello told the press that the singer's life is now "in God's hands." He spoke for all of us when he said that "we are hoping for a miracle."

The priest reflected on Sosa's life, saying: "Mercedes' voice has always moved us. She is marvellous...We shared many things...Mercedes was always very generous with me and the poor children."

"We prayed with her and I think she heard me perfectly."

Padre Tamayo: "The people need shepherds"

Clarín (translation by Rebel Girl)
10/1/2009

Bad news and good news for Zelaya. Yesterday they dislodged a base of the Resistance that continued to denounce the "dictatorial repression". But in the Brazilian embassy, where he is hiding, he celebrated his wife's birthday with news of a grandchild. One of the most influential men accompanying him is the Salvadoran [sic] priest Andrés Tamayo, who spoke with Clarin about Zelaya ("a man of deep faith")'s hope that the dialogue will go forward. He came in 1983 (the de facto government is seeking to expel him and take away his citizenship) and, he says, "I have always chosen to get involved in the life of the people as most of the church is dedicated to sacramentism and religious service." Although he believes that several priests have repudiated the coup like he has, "they say little for fear of the hierarchy, of problems or penalties, since there are positions in the Church as in any organization."

Tamayo presides at Mass in the embassy, where Zelaya and his family pray, take communion and sing. "He asks me to read the psalm of hope or others about forgiveness; he wants to forgive," he says.

"Honduran life is very hard," he says. "It's a country impoverished by power and the destruction of natural resources, but in the Church many are seeking to accommodate themselves, live well, be with the elite, play at diplomacy."

"I," he continues, "made a very firm decision: I left my parish in Salama Olancho to come to the people's struggle. According to canon law, I lost it by abandoning it, and it was my procedural error, perhaps -- they say -- because of partisan bias, but not an error of conscience. The people need shepherds, not a Church that has adapted itself, accommodated itself to the system.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The world prays for Mercedes Sosa

Momento 24
October 1, 2009

Millions pray for her. Mercedes isn’t adored just in Argentina. The warmth and strength of her voice broke all possible boundaries and moved the crowds. Today, the world hopes for her life at the Trinity sanatorium in Palermo. The most renowned Argentina’s folk singer is connected to a respirator, fighting for her life.

Friends and colleagues visited her giving her strength. A somber Victor Heredia left the clinic saying he had no good news: “One foresees these things far away in time, but they actually happen it devastates me, it’s terrible.”

The singer stressed that La Negra (Mercedes Sosa), despite her delicate situation she’s completely lucid. Yesterday, her son wanted to change the news channel and she stopped him: “No, leave it, I’m interested.”

Even the Health Minister Juan Manzur went to the clinic this afternoon. “I came to give support to the family.” And he let know he was instructed by the President to “be available” to Mercedes’ relatives.

“She’s an icon of our culture, democracy and very important for my province, Tucuman,” pointed out the official.

Fito Paez was there last night as well. He stayed for an hour and a half. Julia Zenco, Teresa Parodi, and Facundo Saravia, are other personalities who were also present at the clinic.

The last medical report was given at 17hs and it reads:

“Mercedes Sosa remains hospitalized in an intensive care unit of this institution since September 18 due to a kidney dysfunction she has evolved with progressive deterioration to cardiorespiratory failure. She’s under respiratory care, with guarded prognosis.”

“She’s being assisted by her personal doctor and team of professional staff from the sanatorium.” “We thank the family for the concern and discretion of the media. Signed: Medical Directorate. Sanatorium of the Trinity.”

The singer has a career of more than four decades that made her one of the most representative voices of popular songs in Argentina and Latin America, to which she devoted 40 albums.

The interpreter is currently nominated for three Latin Grammy awards for her album “Cantora” released in early 2009, where she had the participation of Joan Manuel Serrat, Luis Alberto Spinetta, Caetano Veloso, Shakira, Gustavo Cerati, Charly Garcia, Calle 13 and Joaquin Sabina.

Before this work, the Argentinean singer who built a remarkable career with her privileged voice, englightened a folk repertoire in Latin America and worldwide.

Mercedes Sosa achieved international renown from the 70s, but was threatened for her communist militancy in Europe and was forced into exile during the dictatorship in Argentina (1976-1983).

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Immigration News Roundup (and October 13 Rally Announcement) - 9/30/2009

I feel like I just did one of these updates (because I did) but the second Arlington Diocese "Comprehensive Immigration Reform Meeting" last night has generated more items...and ideas. Catholics in the Arlington (VA) Diocese who want to participate in this campaign should send an e-mail to weneedimmigrationreform@gmail.com or go to the blog at weneedimmigrationreform.blogspot.com

1. October 13 Immigration Rights Rally: Please join us on October 13th at 3 p.m. at the Capitol Building in Washington, DC (West Lawn, E. Capitol Circle and Maryland Ave. SW; Metro: Capitol South). This peaceful rally calling for just and humane immigration reform, an end to the raids, and an end to the collaboration between local police and immigration authorities is being co-sponsored by Reform Immigration for America, Families United, and the National Capital Immigrant Coalition. For more information call 1-888-624-2001 or go to http://www.ncicmetro.org/.

2. Congressman Jim Moran's Meeting on Immigration Reform: Several participants in last night's meeting reported on the meeting Congressman Jim Moran (D-VA) held with constituents on September 21st at Culmore Methodist Church in Falls Church, VA. The congressman plans to co-sponsor Rep. Luis Gutiérrez's comprehensive immigration reform bill when it is introduced. Participants were pleased with Moran's responsiveness on this issue as well as his ability to answer critics. In response to a question on legalization, Moran cited an August 2009 Cato Institute study showing that "the positive impact for U.S. households of legalization under an optimal visa tax would be 1.27 percent of GDP or $180 billion." The congressman also reportedly said that deporting all of the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants would cost at least $80 billion. For the record, we think this figure is too low based on earlier studies of the question.



3. Respect Life... including undocumented lives: Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia who chairs the Committee on Pro-Life Activities for the USCCB and who will preside at the Mass during this week's Justice for Immigrants regional meeting, has just issued a statement for Respect Life Sunday (October 4th), and he doesn't leave our undocumented brothers and sisters out. Reflecting on the health care reform legislation before Congress, the cardinal says: "Many people insist that undocumented persons living and working in the United States should not be allowed in any new system to purchase health-care coverage, and that poor legal immigrants be denied coverage for the first five years they are in the United States. Do immigrants forfeit their humanity at the border? How can a just society deny basic health care to those living and working among us who need medical attention? It cannot and must not." Amen, Amen, and Amen.

4. ACLU Calls U.S.-Mexico Border Crossing Deaths "A Humanitarian Crisis": U.S., Mexican and international officials must recognize the deaths of migrants occurring during unauthorized crossings of the U.S.-Mexican border as an international humanitarian crisis and respond with reforms that make human life a priority, according to a new report released today by the American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego and Imperial Counties and Mexico's National Commission on Human Rights (CNDH). The report, Humanitarian Crisis: Migrant Deaths at the U.S.-Mexico Border, finds that border deaths have increased despite fewer unauthorized crossings due to the economic downturn.

The release of the report marks the 15th anniversary of the border enforcement policy Operation Gatekeeper that concentrated border agents and added walls and fencing along populated areas, intentionally forcing migrants to hostile environments and natural barriers that increase the incidence of injury and death.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Massacre at Bagua

I was reminded of this incident in Peru in early June where police clashed with indigenous groups blocking a highway in the Amazonian province of Bagua and protesting laws that turned their ancestral lands over to oil and timber companies. Numerous indigenous protestors were killed and injured, as were some of the police. I was reminded, because a British Green Party member wrote a commentary on my posting about Chris Bryant, Britain's new person responsible for Latin American affairs, criticizing Bryant for not speaking out against the massacre. In fact, Bryant did speak out in his own way, though perhaps not as publicly and forcefully as the Green Party member might have liked.

Anyway, the whole exchange made me go back and look again and I found an article witten shortly after the massacre by a friend, Jesuit priest and sociologist Fr. Miguel Cruzado, SJ, about the incident titled La Masacre de Bagua o los Frutos del TLC entre Perú y Estados Unidos. Fr. Miguel is a former coordinator of the Jesuit Social Apostolate in Peru and has lived and worked extensively in his province's Amazonian missions. He is one of the authors of A más universal, más divino / misión e inclusión en la Iglesia de hoy ("More Universal, More Divine: Mission and Inclusion in the Church Today", Universidad Antonio Ruiz de Montoya, 2008).

UPDATE: The Apu Awajun leader Santiago Manuín Valera, who is mentioned in the article, was discharged this week from the clinic in Chiclayo where he had been recovering from his wounds in the June 5th massacre. The Peruvian Congressional Commission that has been established to investigate the Bagua incident will hold its first meeting today, September 29th. The members are Eduardo Espinoza of Unión por el Perú, Wilder Calderón y Elías Rodríguez of the Célula Parlamentaria Aprista, David Perry of Alianza Nacional, Víctor Isla of Partido Nacionalista, Güido Lombardi of Unidad Nacional, and Martha Moyano of the Grupo Parlamentario Fujimorista.

Those wanting additional information on the Church's response to Bagua should also see Pronunciamientos de La Iglesia Sobre Bagua.




The Massacre at Bagua or the Fruits of the Free Trade Agreement between Peru and the United States

by Fr. Miguel Cruzado, SJ (translation by Rebel Girl)


The Prelude in Peru:

1. This conflict began at least a year ago. Last year there was a strike in Amazonia that lasted several weeks demanding the repeal of laws which "changed" the systems of land ownership in the jungle. It was 36 decrees adopted by the government as part of the package of the Free Trade Agreement with the United States. Finally, some of the laws were repealed. The natives returned to their communities. There were many days and there were moments of great social tension. The government offered to open dialogue tables and work teams on these issues.

2. But this year, a few months ago, they readopted several decrees revising the timber rules in the jungle and 72% of the Peruvian Amazon territory was granted for oil exploration. They never consulted with the indigenous communities. Again it was "basic laws" to implement the Free Trade Agreement with the USA, the foreign trade minister said.

3. The indigenous communities protested. They were not listened to and the laws were enacted. The indigenous communities began a strike 55 days ago, leaving their communities and taking over the highways to their own territories. They were not listened to. Dialogue tables were created in Lima that solved nothing. Thousands of Indians continued to wait, living on the edge of the highways. They were lied to and lied to.

4. On Thursday the 4th, the Congress rejected the unconstitutionality claims filed by the Ombudsman's office, some political parties and other institutions. They had no interest in them. That same day, hundreds of police moved into the area of highway in Bagua where thousands of Awajun and Wampi indigenous people were living and shutting down a road. On Thursday evening, you could see what happened on Friday coming.


Acts of Violence:

5. On Friday the 5th, in the morning, a contingent of several hundred police attempted to evict thousands of Indians. The police showed up through the hills surrounding the highway with orders to disperse without talking. Santiago Manuin, an indigenous leader, who was in the front line, tried to talk to the police but the police continued firing tear gas canisters which angered the assembled group. More helicopters appeared, throwing tear gas canisters. While the indigenous people had not yet withdrawn, the police began firing their regulation weapons, first in the air and then at the ground. Some of the bullets ricocheted off the ground, killing one and wounding other natives. The group got upset and tried to advance towards the police officers who began firing directly at the people. The area around the highway became a battlefield.

6. 169 natives were wounded, half of them by gunfire. The wounded were carried by their comrades and taken to posts or houses nearby. The dead were left on the road that was then taken over by the police and they did not allow anyone access for the rest of the day. Only the helicopters landed, carrying bodies, wounded police and corpses of dead natives. We're aware of 31 dead. The indigenous leaders say that according to their calculations, there were 103 natives killed. The government says only 3 natives were killed in that battle (and another 6 in clashes elsewhere). It is obviously impossible to have 169 wounded, half of them by bullets, some very seriously ... and only 3 deaths. Santiago Manuin alone, an Apu Awajun whom we Jesuits are directly charged with protecting by the bishop, had six gunshot wounds. That he is alive is a miracle. [Translator's Note: The casualty figures from this incident continue to vary depending on the source.]

7. In the general conflict a group of natives surrounded, disarmed and killed eight policemen. After that the battle spread to other sites. Another group of 11 policemen at a gas station in Imaza, who had gone into the jungle, were killed. They were part of 38 who had been held for days by the natives. They were attacked by angry people who had been receiving confusing news about the death of relatives, friends and native leaders in the earlier confrontation. The State was unable to anticipate it: it abandoned the 38 police hostages to their fate. The police, like the natives, are again the weak end of the chain, the poor who die. The government sent them to face thousands of natives. It was impossible to think that they would not be hurt or injured. We do not know if the government was hugely inept or directly criminal, but the fact is that police and natives were put in a situation where it was impossible not to kill each other. The pain of the families of policemen and decimated indigenous communities is immense.


Later:

8. This is a Jesuit mission area, therefore we have dedicated our efforts to help the wounded, to accompany the families of the victims, to try to calm things down. The government declared a curfew, a state of emergency and it transferred the Army. The natives are returning to their communities frightened, bewildered by what happened. We spent a few days running here and there in various humanitarian relief efforts.

9. June 5th will be remembered as a day of horror in our history. President Garcia and his government stress that there is an international "connection" behind these protests. Those who know the Awajun community know that this is impossible. The underlying issue is simple: money. The jungle has been conceded to oil and timber companies and they can not go back. They can not discuss anything with the natives, they can not give up.

10. We are frightened by what happened. According to Lima and much of the media, the violent Indians are to blame. The government is satisfied that the law has been restored and the highway has been taken back. No one talks about the illegal unconstitutional laws that were passed. Nor is there any mea culpa for the many Peruvian dead and wounded.

Now the curfew continues, they are looking for leaders and disappearing them, there are dozens of natives in the jails and dozens more in hospitals. There is an official line that emphasizes the responsibility of the jungle savages, manipulated by [Venezuelan president Hugo] Chavez and [Bolivian president Evo] Morales.

This Thursday there is a national strike and we fear that once again government repression will create terrible and lamentable situations. Some government leaders are trying to retrace their steps, to open dialogue tables. Today, the bishops' conference was called to mediate. The laws are not repealed but their implementation will be "suspended".

There is a tense calm. Let's pray that it stays that way. The problem is that the Peruvian economic model can not be carried out without imposing on indigenous peoples. If things calm down now, it will only be for a while. The big companies are already in the jungle and continue to arrive. There is much, much money to be made from the wood, gas and oil. And for them, the natives living in the woods caring for the water and animals, are a problem that needs to be eliminated or minimized.

Photo: Another Jesuit priest Fr. Miguel Cuevas, SJ comforts an indigenous man returning to his community after the massacre.

Monday, September 28, 2009

A Salute to Padre Miguel on his feast day

Tomorrow is the feast of all of the archangels and it makes me think of my friend Padre Miguel Gabriel Cruzado Silveri, SJ who, thanks to a conflict of naming traditions in his family, is "dos veces santo".

So I did what I usually do when I miss someone. I "Google" them to see if anything turns up.

So, for those of you who, like me, are missing Padre Miguel, here is a video interview with him last year about a group of indigenous musicians, Ensemble Urubichá, who play baroque music. It is a fascinating journey into the history of Jesuit evangelization in Latin America as well.

The interview has been divided into six parts. Here is the first one and there are links to the rest of the videos below it.



Honduras: From Bad to Worse

The situation in Honduras is going from bad to worse. The article below that includes eyewitness information provided by Fr. Andrés Tamayo summarizes the major developments. We also like the fact that EDLP correctly calls the priest "Honduran", as opposed to some media outlets that seem to want to join the coup government in stripping him of his citizenship by referring to him as "salvadoreño."

The article does not include the latest diplomatic faux-pas of U.S. Ambassador to the Organization of American States Lewis Anselem who labeled President Zelaya's return to Tegucigalpa "irresponsible and foolish" and saying that Zelaya "should cease and desist from making wild allegations and from acting as though he were starring in an old movie." Perhaps President Zelaya does not have the right to return to his own country? Even the controversial Law Library of Congress report that determined that the coup itself was legal under Honduran law concluded that "the removal of President Zelaya from the country by the military is in direct violation of the Article 102 of the Constitution" as the Constitution explicitely prohibits the expatriation of Honduran citizens.


Eva Sanchis (translation Rebel Girl)
El Diario La Prensa
9/28/09

New York - From the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, where he has been confined for eight days with the only president of the country considered legitimate, the renowned Honduran leader, Father Andres Tamayo, summed up the situation in the country in a nutshell this morning: "This is totally a dictatorship."

"They are the law, the law does not exist here, frankly there is no law," Father Tamayo said, referring to the suspension Tuesday by the coup government of five constitutional rights and the decree of martial law for the next 45 days.

Father Tamayo said he feared for the lives of people who are part of the popular resistance movement which he is part of, because significant constitutional rights have been canceled: personal freedom, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, freedom of movement and rights of detainees.

"Now they can pick out anyone they see as dangerous or suspicious because they are walking in our march, and especially they can go looking for and picking out leaders and can raze any house without an arrest warrant," the well-known Honduran leader stated.

Father Tamayo said the circle is closing in dangerously on those inside, some 70 people among whom is the deposed president Manuel Zelaya, his wife and other family members and followers.

In addition to the ultimatum to leave the Brazilian Embassy in 10 days, this morning the coup government ordered the closure of the only two communications media in the country that conveyed news of those inside -- Radio Globo and Channel 36 television. On Sunday, Roberto Micheletti's coup government also prevented a delegation from the Organization of American States (OAS) from entering the country.

The harassment of those inside is constant, the well-known Honduran leader, who is one of the close aides of the deposed president, said. Father Tamayo said that the embassy is surrounded by over a thousand military helicopters constantly flying over the area and there are snipers on buildings near the embassy.

"They don't let anyone enter here now," he said, speaking from his cellphone.

Father Tamayo also denounced the physical torture to which those inside have been submitted, for example, the use of strong magnetic waves and chemical gases by the army.

Father Tamayo said that those inside are sleeping on the floor of the embassy, but that the government is allowing them to get food and water, and that the mood is good among the trapped.

Yesterday the priest celebrated a Mass and gave communion to President Zelaya.

"Here, thanks be to God, despite the attacks against us, we are strong," he said.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The migrant experience in poetry

Yesterday we went to hear two poets as part of the "Bittersweet Harvest" exhibit.

Diana García was born in a migrant labor camp in California's San Joaquín Valley. She went on to become a poet and professor of creative writing and literature at California State University. Diana read from her book When Living Was a Labor Camp (Univ. of Arizona Press, 2000) which won the American Book Award.

Most of Diana's poems are about the nitty-gritty world in which she grew up and it was clear that the exhibit touched a nerve in her. She teared up as she read the following poem about her family, stopping to regain her composure as she explained: "So many of [the people in the poem] have died..."

THE YEARNING SEASON

Another spring done up in blue-eyed grass,
palms studded with orioles, canyons
against premature dawns: who can corner
this yearning season, flyways lapping endlessly?
My garbage disposal's on the blink.
Perhaps this is the year I'll build
a worm farm, red crawlers chubby
as fingers, fattened with mango peel.
The woman who sells me worms suggests
herbal teas, tells me sage survives
Colorado red soil. Six fingers per hand,
she amends raised beds regardless of drought.

On their fiftieth anniversary, my aunt
and uncle renewed their wedding vows. Encased
in white brocade, the bride took
the floor for the opening dance. Violins
curled, horns erupted, guitars plinked.
Baritone mariachis quavered
María bonita-a-a-...
Love notes sifted like incense over all.
The groom converged, glasses steamed,
wrinkled from life's ceremony. What to make
of enveloped years as I joined parents,
cousins, everyone my cousin,
spinning in that dim-lit hall?

Transformed by the flickering waltz
younger aunts emerged, high-breasted,
lips unlined, gardenias pinned to marcelled
waves. And men in pleat-stiff pants, hair
ungrayed, honored all their Marías.
Sepia-toned, the scene cobbled memories,
photos snapped in migrant camps decades ago.

Some say seasons never change here; some say
air keeps to sixty in this southwest corner.
But Western and ring-billed gulls endure
a first then second year. Mid-April, inpatient
tanagers troll the avocado canopies. Turned loose,
even parrots go feral. Inviolate, I survey
oaks beyond my deck for other lapsed migrants.

The night I spied my first spotted owl,
a friend turned my head with the moons
of Jupiter. One moon sidled by. If a bird,
I couldn't have claimed it for my life list.

But on my life, though no one sang me
a love song, air riffed that wedding night.
Barely visible, air waved like window glass
touched by a vagrant breeze. Aunts, uncles,
mother, father, claim the floor for one
more dance and show me how it's done.


Diana was followed by Quique Aviles, a local poet and actor who came to the United States as a teenager from El Salvador. Quique graduated from the Duke Ellington School of the Arts. He has been very supportive of a variety of social causes and I remembered him from a protest last year organized by Casa de Maryland in front of the Organization of American States on behalf of domestic workers. Quique and his friends entertained us with street theatre.

Quique doesn't have any published books of poetry in this country yet but I was able to find one of the poems he read to us on the Internet:

THE IMMIGRANT MUSEUM

At the Immigrant museum there are accents
language mishaps
dance lessons for people with no rhythm
fake documents
foreign heroes
military medals
gypsies and comadres
mafiosos and compadres

The museum halls offer
Polish poetry
German doubts
Mexican colors
Negro insight and essays
Irish midwives

At the Immigrant Museum, there are accents
historic oil drum barrels from the Persian Gulf
replicas of holding cells for aliens from the tropics
A sequential installation on the life of the nanny
morning tasks: washing, drying, folding, ironing
dinner prep
and dinner
the first bilingual robot
confusing translation manuals
primitive art for western tourists

At the Immigrant Museum there are accents
Russian vodka
bilingual answering machines
herbal potions
Jesus paintings
Chinese noodles
Vietnamese sandals
the first dream to enter Ellis Island that wasn’t fulfilled

At the Immigrant Museum there are accents
jubilation
song and prayer
circumcision and baptism
wedding dresses
hard hats
baby bottles
joy dancing in colors
dreams posing as day laborers

hyphens
fear
orgasms
prayer
apprehension
ambivalence

Yes
At the Immigrant Museum there are accents
accents
accents