Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘Mexico’

Whatever It Takes

Love Feld by Virginia Alanís.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

61eBvpsjijLA high school sweetheart, who becomes as possessive as hell, a patriarchal Mexican father, and a prejudiced school counselor, can’t stop Laura Cano from following her dream to be a lawyer and gain independence. She also learns when, and how, to connect with family, and to appreciate all those who help her along the way. Love Field, by Virginia Alanís, gives readers’ insight into growing up in a Mexican-American family in Texas, and if it isn’t told from her personal experience, reads like it is. Her parents, sisters, and grandmother, all sound familiar, comforting, and often controlling.

At age 17, Laura is looking forward to graduating from high school, and applying to college. Since she was young, she thought about being a lawyer to help others. Especially after she witnessed a tragic event from a next door neighbor’s abusive husband when she was a child. Lucky to get a job at a law office, with Vanessa Hamilton, and support from her Godmother, Toni, the narrator of this tale fights to find her way in spite of a father that believes women are only meant to be wives, and her newly married husband, Edward, who does not trust her and threatens to ruin everything.

If you (or someone you know) has ever been in a possessive, and/or abusive, relationship, what transpires between this young couple (Laura and Edward), may feel uncomfortably familiar. What first appears to be support, love, and care, slowly gets twisted and subverted, until Laura must make a choice and risk leaving the young man she once loved, without being harmed (or killed) in the process. She does everything she can legally, and gets help from her retired English teacher, Elisabeth, her mentor at work, Vanessa, and Godmother Toni.

This story encompasses a number of themes. What is family? How much does one owe family, and what parts do you leave behind? Are there any signs that someone will turn out to be abusive when you first meet, and if so, what are they? How does one safely escape from a violent, or threatening situation, without jeopardizing themselves or others? Is family history something that should be respected at all costs, or left behind when it becomes overbearing? If you like the recent memoir of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomeyer (My Beloved World), you’ll enjoy Love Field by Virginia Alanís.

More Alive Than Ever

Love: The Beat Goes On by Lynda Filler.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

51JCGXkVO9LHer life was flying, her heart was dying. Lynda Filler had a new job, loving family, and an almost too good to be true newly acquainted man she called “my cowboy”. There’d been for-warnings, “messages”, shortness of breath, but nothing really stopped her in her tracks (literally) until 2008 when she is told she has a form of congestive heart failure called dilated cardiomyopathy. Doctors told her it was a death sentence and she must “get your affairs in order”. Nine years later, after driving alone for many months between Canada and Mexico, visiting a shaman in Sedona, New Mexico, and realizing, “I was the change that needed to happen in my healing”, she wrote Love: The Beat Goes On. She’s more alive than ever.

I worked with hospice and bereavement programs for many years. Most people I met was dying, or had had someone die. Whenever I heard about someone having this or that “terminal” disease (or as the author calls it “dis-ease”), I accepted it as reality and tried to help them (and their loved ones) prepare as much as possible, and live whatever life was left to the fullest. Ms. Filler not only didn’t go along with the “program”, but somehow trusted something inside, and outside, herself. Against medical advice she took her own road. Her journey was not random. She learned to honor her intuition, take some risks, and, pardon the clique, follow her heart.

The chapters in this journal are most fitting and include – “The Widow Maker”, “Every Breath I Take”, “Swollen Heart”, “You Are Not Your Diagnosis”, “Red Rocks and Thunderstorms”, “Doctors and Doctorates”, “Is it a Miracle?”, and “It’s a Mind Game”. There is a perfect mixture of describing an event, what her personal reactions, thoughts, and feelings were about the experience, and her understanding and actions (if any) in response. Even though this pattern progresses throughout her writing, Lynda also becomes acutely aware that she is not what she writes about. “I have huge respect for all who survive anything, but I am not my story.”

Love: The Beat Goes On isn’t melancholy, or sanguine; it is as real as real can be. I know of few people who have learned to believe in something beyond themselves, willingly take steps into the unknown, and trust their own gut, as has Ms. Filler. Her life is example number uno of how to live a life of genuine belief and faith. Not in a religious sense, but with practical down-to-earth actions and spirit. This memoir is interesting for personal reflection, and provides a number of suggestions on how others can use what Ms. Filler learned for their own challenges. She doesn’t claim that her way is the only way, but her still being alive gives a lot of credence to what she has to say. “When I walked down from that vortex, my step was light. My heart beat normally again… and I knew it.”

 

I Can’t Hear You!

A sleep-deprived excerpt from Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire.

There was an older man named Alejandro, who lived down the road from the Abbott’s monastery. He loved playing music from Mexico and the land of the Incas and played it night and day. He was hard of hearing so he had to play the music as loudly as he could, so he could hear his own voice and accompanying drum. Sometimes, he would drum and sing until he fell asleep just as the sun rose.

A number of the nuns were upset with Alejandro and complained to Abbott Tova about his annoying, and off-key voice and drumming, keeping them awake night after night.

The good Abbott knew that Alejandro pined for his childhood sweetheart, whom he’d married and lived with for sixty years. She wasn’t about to ask him to stop, but also understood how difficult it could be to sleep when his voice and instrument’s sounds traveled through the night air and seeped through one’s pores like slow torture.

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“Please, do something,” one of the senior nun’s, Sam, implored Abbott Tova.

“I cannot ask him to stop, nor will I,” the Abbott replied.

“Then many of the nuns will fall asleep during practice and miss their chance for enlightenment,” Sister Sam retorted.

“If they are not able to awaken during sleep, then I have taught them nothing.”

“Many of the chores will not be done if they are sleeping during the day,” Sister Sam continued. “The garden will not be planted. The meals will not be prepared and the floors will not be swept.”

“So what?”

“So what? We’ll starve and live in filth, is so what.”

“You are only seeing two alternatives Sister Sam. Telling Alejandro that he can no longer sing for his lost love and find what little comfort it gives him, or letting him sing and our community goes to ruin.”

“I don’t see any other way,” Sister Sam surmised.

“Then you are caught in Limited Mind and must have slept badly. There is always another way.” Abbott Tova went to her chest and began rummaging around and throwing out one item after another. “Ah, here they are,” she said, and handed a bag to Sister Sam.

Sister Sam opened the bag, picked up a small wax ball and said, “What in the Goddesses name are these?”

“Are you blind, as well as sleep-deprived?” the Abbott laughed. “They’re earplugs.” Abbott Tova took a pair from the bag and placed them in her ears. “I’ve been wearing them for years and sleep like a baby. Hand them out to the nuns and there will be no more problems.”

“Oye veh!” Sister Sam exclaimed. “Why didn’t I think of this?”

“What?” Abbott Tova said, as she began replacing the items she’d removed from her chest.

“I said, I should have thought of this!”

“What? Speak up.”

“I said . . . oh it’s nothing.”

Sister Sam bowed three times, turned around counter-clockwise twice, and left with the bag of earplugs, amazed as always at the wisdom and compassion of the great Abbott.

More deaf-defying stories at: Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire.

Held In Hell

W1312EAIAR3It took Miriam Isaura López Vargas several weeks to piece together what happened to her.

On Feb. 2, 2011, the 30-year-old mother of four had just dropped three of her children off at school when two masked men forced her into a van, blindfolded her and tied her hands. The men drove her to military barracks 50 miles away.

Soldiers raped and otherwise tortured her repeatedly, trying to force her to “confess” to drug trafficking and incriminate other detainees, unknown to Miriam. She was held in this hell, without charges, for 8 months before being released.

Urge Mexico’s Attorney General to conduct a full, prompt and impartial investigation into the torture of Miriam López.

Miriam is not alone. Torture cases have skyrocketed in Mexico.

According to Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission Reports, torture and ill-treatment rose an astounding 500 percent in Mexico from 2005 to 2012.

Miriam has identified those responsible, yet no charges have been filed. Even if charges were filed, convictions for such crimes are rare.

December 15 is a key day for Miriam’s case: it marks two years since she filed an official complaint and yet there is very little progress.

Who do you turn to when government soldiers rape with impunity? The massive global human rights force of Amnesty International.

Miriam is one of 10 urgent human rights cases highlighted in Amnesty International’s 2013 Write for Rights campaign, the world’s largest and most effective letter-writing event.

Together, we’ve helped free enough prisoners of conscience to fill Madison Square Garden – twice.

Today, I’m asking you to help Miriam live free from fear. Make your voice heard – demand justice for Miriam.

In solidarity,

Jasmine Heiss
Campaigner, Individuals and Communities at Risk
Amnesty International USA

The Tex-Mex

The Tex-Mex
by Gabriel Constans

Jicama is a root vegetable similar to the turnip. It is popular in Mexican dishes throughout Mexico, Texas, California, and New Mexico. This smoothie is sweet, hot, nourishing, and filling.

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Yield: 5 cups

2 cups chopped fresh pineapple
1 small jicama, peeled and sliced
1 large mango, peeled and sliced
1 teaspoon chopped jalapeno pepper*
Juice of 1 lime
2 cups filtered water
1 banana

Place all the ingredients in a blender, and blend on high speed for 1 minute.

Pour into tall glasses and serve.

*Jalapeno and other hot peppers must be handled carefully. Don’t touch your face
and wash hands thoroughly.

Illegal Doctorate?

Excerpt from The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Academic Purgatory: An illegal immigrant earns a Ph.D.Now what? By Ilan Stavans

Jorge Arbusto isn’t the type of person who seeks the limelight. In fact, for years he has thrived in the shadows. But ask him today what he wants, and his answer is unequivocal: to be recognized.

A sweet, passionate, steadfast student originally from Mexico, Jorge (his name has been changed for this article) may be the only undocumented immigrant to successfully defend a doctoral dissertation in the United States. Certainly he is among a very small group. Yet his case poses questions that not only affect thousands of undergraduates today—some sources put it at around 50,000—but also challenge our ideas about hard work, the choices that colleges do or should make, the value of education (for students and society), and, yes, that thorn in our political side—immigration and the Dream Act, which is still stalled in Congress.

Having defended his dissertation on Spanish-language popular culture, Jorge received his Ph.D. in Hispanic studies this past spring. To reach this point, he has gone through astonishing hardships, which include beatings and imprisonment, not to mention the shame that comes with being illegal. He has endured all by focusing on achieving the highest academic degree. But now he may not be able to enjoy the fruits of his labor: No university I know of will offer him a full-time, permanent position.

Jorge is a criminal with a Ph.D. Is that what America stands for, education without reward?

Read complete article at: The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Building for Generations

If you would like to support a wonderful responsible and effective organization that works in Tanzania and Peru (so far), then I encourage you to learn more about Building for Generations. Here’s a brief description from Cory Ibarra (the director).

Building for Generations

We support education projects with a focus on persons with special needs. We build appropriate facilities to meet the needs of the community. We enhance existing programs with materials and equipment, and reduce physical and social barriers through community education, outreach, and advocacy. We develop sustainable programs and increase economic opportunities.

To build on the strengths of the community with local participation in assessing, planning, constructing and staffing. We are committed to the inclusion of people with special needs in the Millennium Development Goals of 2015. Our projects address these four goals in particular:

(I) Alleviation of poverty
(II) Universal primary education
(III) Improved lives for woman (heads of household)
VIII) Productive work for youth

MORE INFORMATION

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