I felt I had to write something to express my experiences on this trip so far.
I see families living in ramshackle quarters,
Earning in one day what I earn in 15 minutes
And working much harder for it,
And I ask “God, where are you?”
I hear stories of violence and fear,
Killings and disappearances,
Injustice and complicitiy,
And I call out “God, where are you?
I feel sad and discouraged,
Angry and helpless,
Guilty and overwhelmed,
And I cry out “God, where are you?’
And You answer “I am here. Where are you?”
In the morning we played a Global Awareness game. There was a map of the world divided into regions and we had to place markers where we thought they should go. The markers represented such things as the world’s wealth, permanent housing, debt, military spending, abject poverty (less than $2 US/day), and so on. Very interesting. We were rarely right on our guesses.
Then we watched a very disturbing video called “On the LIne” about the School of Americas, now called WHINSEC. It’s a training center in the US that trains soldiers from Latin America. The training manual used to include torture and interrogation techniques. A large number of graduates have gone on to become members of “death squads” in Latin American countries. I could not find the video we saw online but there are others on youtube that I definitely intend to check out. It’s information I’m ashamed that I never knew. It’s information I’m sure a lot of people don’t know. If you are willing to check it out, just be warned – It’s disturbing. But important.
In the afternoon, we visited Gloria Cruz and heard her story. Gloria grew up in El Salvador. She saw many in her village slaughtered by death squads under the orders of the government. Her two young sisters and her mother were killed in another attack. Gloria and her two children (the youngest being only a few days old) were captured and held for a week. She and her husband and their children fled to Mexico, but had to leave Gloria’s younger siblings behind. They were placed in an orphanage. Her story was frightening and very personal, and not easy to hear.
Because the day was so emotionally exhausting, we went out for supper for Tacos El Pastor. The best way I can think to describe it is Mexican Donairs. Very good, and a much needed break from the difficult realities we had experienced that day.
In the morning we had to take a bus down to the central market and try and purchase some grocery items that a typical family would need. We were in two groups. Our group’s grocery list included rice, avocados, eggs, and tortillas. We were given 80 pesos (a day’s pay at minimum wage). That had to pay our bus fare to the market and back as well. That was 48 pesos gone right there. We found the market, but with only 32 pesos to spend, there was no way we could buy everything on the list. We managed to get rice and tortillas, but did not have enough for avocados or eggs. We had 2 pesos left, so we bought some tomatoes, thinking that at least a family could eat those. They couldn’t eat 2 pesos. It was eye-opening to say the least.
That night we learned about the history of Mexico from Ross Gandy – a professor at the university in Mexico City (where there are 300,000 students, by the way!). He was an excellent speaker and we have a new understanding of the way Mexico works and how it got here.