August 27th, 2014
I wrote a short essay, “A teaching moment on driving while brown,” that was published today in my local newspaper, the Marin Independent Journal. If you’re reading this, you may be able to relate. I’ve pasted the first few paragraphs here. To read the rest, click on the link.
Last Sunday evening, as I swept the kitchen floor and loaded the dishwasher, my 9-year-old son Mateo cavorted around the room, telling me about his day. My sister and her family were visiting from Boston, and we — my sister, her girls, my daughter, and I — had gone into San Francisco to shop while Mateo stayed home with my husband, to do, as my husband calls it, “guy stuff.”
After a report on fixing the drip irrigation system, Mateo regaled me with tales of their trip to the hardware store, where they bought lumber to build a rack in our basement, and stopped at the food truck to indulge their shared passion for giant hot dogs smothered in onions and ketchup.
“When Dad and I were driving home,” Mateo said, “we saw seven police cars parked on the side of the road, and a Latino man standing next to a shiny, fancy car with his wrists handcuffed behind his back. Dad said maybe the police thought the Latino man committed a crime.”
August 23rd, 2014
One of the benefits of clearing out clutter is that stuff you forgot about resurfaces, including this letter my son Mateo wrote to me in January 2012. In it, he addresses a theme that remains ongoing: his pining for a dog. Reading Mateo’s letter helped me realize he’s wanted a dog for at least two years, a very long time in the life of a nine-year-old. Not that I’m planning to relent and get a dog. Just that Mateo’s desire is not new.
My son’s writing feels so energetic to me. His spelling and punctuation could use a copy-editor, but I love his voice.
I think Olivia an me shood get a DOG!!!!!!!!!!!
BECAUSE it will giv us xrsize.
If she didn’t want to do it I would do it for her.
Il give them a bath evry day.
If it’s a school day il do it after school.
If it’s a weekend il do it after brakefast in the morning.I’l take rely good car of the pupy.
“I promis promis promis”
Please Mommy i beg you.
August 5th, 2014
The average per-capita income in Guatemala may be $5,200, but take a ride around the upscale neighborhoods of Guatemala City or Antigua; dine at a fine restaurant and stay at a luxurious hotel; go on a shopping excursion to Tikal Futura; or get yourself invited to the symphony, or an art opening, or a fancy wedding, and you’ll see that plenty of Guatemalans earn more than that. Way more. This article in Bloomberg tells the tale of one such wealthy person: Mario Lopez Estrada, founder of Guatemala’s ubiquitous mobile phone provider, TIGO, and the country’s first billionaire.
This June, out driving with a friend en route to Lake Atitlan, I saw miles and miles and miles of white wooden fences, much like the ones you might see in horse country in Kentucky. “What’s with the fences?” I asked. My friend answered, “The guy who started TIGO owns all that land. The fence keeps people out.”
And I said: “Wouldn’t it be amazing if that guy turned out to be the Guatemalan equivalent to Bill Gates? A brilliant, smart guy with lots of money, who dedicates a large part of his energy and fortune to promoting education, health, and quality of life for the millions of his fellow Guatemalans who need it. Wouldn’t it be amazing if that guy turned out to be a visionary and a leader, with so much money he couldn’t be corrupted.”
My friend smiled, the indulgent smile of one who has seen it all, and knows better. “Maybe.”
Oh well. I can dream, can’t I?
August 4th, 2014
From a very good editorial in the Washington Post, by Michael R. Strain, titled The problem isn’t Central America’s child refugees. It’s the countries they come from: “Congress, the president and opinion leaders are haggling over how to deal with the immediate crisis of the children coming to and crossing our border, but are not discussing what we can do to improve the situation in those countries to make them places in which parents want to raise their children, not send them away.”
July 30th, 2014
Seven years and 27 trips to Guatemala later, the Kern family of Missouri finalizes the adoption of their son Hudson, born in Guatemala. Congratulations!!!!
Here’s the link to TV news coverage.
It’s hard for me to understand how living in an orphanage for years while a family waits for you benefits a child. Yet that was the reality for Hudson, and for all the children whose cases stalled after adoptions between Guatemala and the US closed in December 2007.
Reform, yes. No doubt the adoption system was broken and needed to be fixed. Or shut down permanently. But to allow a small boy to spend seven years in an orphanage when he doesn’t really need to: Why?
July 15th, 2014
The recent large influx of young migrants from Guatemala has been the subject of heated debate among adoptive parents on one of the adoption chat boards to which I belong. Someone posted a link to this article by Saul Elbein in The New Republic, “Guatemalans Aren’t Just Fleeing Gangs: The media misses what life there is really like.” The article is one of the best I’ve read anywhere. The piece encapsulates sentiments many of us have heard said by Guatemalans, from all strata of society.
Thanks for reading.
July 13th, 2014
Related to the Washington Post article about the documentary When the Mountains Tremble, posted on July 7: I recently read a memoir titled Escaping the Fire that I recommend to anyone interested in Guatemala’s armed conflict. It’s a testimonial by an Ixil Evangelical pastor, Tomas Guzaro, as written by an American who has lived with her family for many years in Guatemala’s Ixil region, Terri McComb. David Stoll contributed the book’s Afterward.
The book is fascinating for two reasons: First, because it describes Tomas Guzaro’s evolution from Mayan priest, to leader in the Catholic faith, to Evangelical pastor. (Evangelical churches are everywhere in Guatemala, particularly in areas affected by the armed conflict). And second, because in excruciating detail, Tomas Guzaro recounts the experience of his town of Salquil being caught in the crossfire between the Guatemalan army and leftist guerrillas, and how and why that caused Guzaro to lead 200 fellow Mayas from Salquil to the relative safety of army territory. Here’s the link on Amazon.
July 11th, 2014
A few months ago, a friend told me about a phenomenon founded by Ann Img called Listen To Your Mother, in which writers submit essays about any and all facets of motherhood or mothering, and read the pieces aloud on stages in 32 cities across the country. The official description is “A national series of orginal live readings shared locally on stages and globally via social media.”
I submitted an essay about my mom, “My Mother, the Rockette,” and was thrilled when the producers in my region, Kim Thompson Steel and Kirsten Nicholson Patel, chose me to read it for the May 2014 performance at the Brava Theater in San Francisco. The evening’s show, including my reading, is posted on on the Listen To Your Mother YouTube channel.
I urge you to check out the Listen To Your Mother website for information about next year’s auditions. The experience was challenging, positive, and fun from start to finish. Try out if you can! Or look for a live performance. Hope you enjoy!
My Mother, the Rockette on YouTube.
Image credit: Damian Steel
July 8th, 2014
We’re weeping for Brazil here. Olivia now is a fan after watching the World Cup in Guatemala, where in the most remote hamlet, tienda, restaurant, or cafe, Guatemalans cheered: “Brasil! Brasil!” Every transistor radio, every TV set, tuned, round the clock, three games a day. FIFA! Futbol! Absolute soccer madness, contagious.
In the photo above, taken during our most recent trip to Guatemala, crowds cluster outside a coffee house in Antigua with a large-screen TV: they’re non-paying customers content to watch the contest from afar.
Can somebody say “Gooooooaaaalllllll!”? We’re converted.
July 7th, 2014
I’m probably not the only person who watched and was very affected by Pamela Yates’ 1983 documentary, “When the Mountains Tremble.” Narrated by Rigoberta Menchu, the film contains graphic scenes of violence and terror as it was inflicted by the Guatemalan military on the people of Guatemala.
This article in the Washington Post describes how filmmaker Yates plans to amend the film to show that a scene showing survivors of a massacre in the town of Batzul, which the film attributes to the military, was actually committed by guerrillas disguised as soldiers.
From the article: “Long viewed as one-sided repression by the brutal governments of the time, the 1960-96 civil war that claimed about 200,000 lives now is being recognized as more complex….
David Stoll, an anthropology professor at Middlebury College who has worked extensively in Guatemala, said that Yates’ original depiction of the Batzul massacre could be attributed to the ‘fog of war.’”