August 25, 2008
Realities are funny like that. Whichever one you're in, it quickly becomes yours, out of necessity. All realities are similar in some ways - friends, laughs, frustrations and good times, sharing meals and sharing music. They are also very different in other ways due to poverty and other forms of systemic oppression.
My reality is already quite different from theirs. But I know their reality. It was mine, and will always, in some way, remain mine. One can't be in a place for three years and not fully live there. And so I will remember the hard reality that is being lived several thousand miles away, south of the border, by normal people, my friends, and my children. Today is the first day of school, and my children are present in my thoughts today in a very tangible way. Even though I'm far away, I can guess that Victor might be putting together the map of Africa, or that Sandra Luz has sat down to remove hardened corn kernels from the cob.
Also very present in my mind is the tragedy that befell my small town several days back. If you read Spanish, here's an article. It appears that one of the warring drug cartels called the local police, told them to leave Creel, then came in and shot thirteen people, including a baby. No police or any officials arrived for hours after. Many people mentioned in the article, including the priest "Padre Pato" who is taking the lead in the mobilization of the community against these atrocities, are either friends of ours or we know of them. One of the victims was the cousin of one of my students.
Marijuana is grown in the mountains surrounding Creel by some indigenous peoples who need the money in order to feed their families. Often, they aren't paid by the local drug lords for their work, and if they demand payment, they are promptly shot and the local authorities look the other way.
Next time, when officials speak of the war on drugs, think about what happens if they wipe out one cartel. A power vacuum emerges and there is violence to gain control. People are killed and communities are terrorized. It isn't our reality, but it is a frightening reality for the people who live it. Marijuana has never killed anyone in the United States. The fact that it is illegal, however, kills hundreds and hundreds of innocent people in Mexico. Alcohol kills. Cigarettes kill. Big Macs kill. The Drug War kills.
I do know that this first day of school will be a different one, as the children have, undoubtedly, picked up on the sadness and fear of their parents. My hope is that they find comfort in the reality of the classroom - a place where they are loved, respected, and encouraged to be loving and respectful in turn. My heart goes out to all of my friends in Creel, today - Adrian, Juan, Eduardo and Maria; Gaby and Diego; Elena, Victor and Sabina; Gaby, Beto, Victor and Benjamin; Mauricio, Arturo, Adriana, Arturo and Laura, all of the Padres de Familia, and all of my students, and the many other friends that don't have easy access to the internet. Estan muy presentes en nuestros corazones - que tengan la fuerza para seguir luchando contra la injusticia, que la comunidad encuentre la paz en el duelo comun, y que sepan que los queremos mucho.