I enjoyed our trip to the Mayan Riviera; lovely beaches and a comfortable all-inclusive stay added up to a relaxing time. It was a first for that type of a vacation as several factors intersected and made it possible. While Janeen and I loved our getaway, it was not the Mexico I have known and loved. In addition to swimming, sailing, snorkeling, and resting, I spent hours talking with the wait-staff, grounds keepers, bar-tenders, and pool attendants; laughing, learning and listening; building shared respect and appreciation.
The Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras that I love and appreciate most, are the places most untouched by American capitalism and greed. These are the places where a culture rooted in relationships and community overcomes the individualism and rush of their big-brother of the north. However, the sad truth is that big-brother works relentlessly to enforce his ways on the other siblings through neo-colonialism; where multi-national corporations rule in place of the Kings and Queens of old. The workers I chatted with daily are learning to live on the frontier with these forces of change.
The wealth and power of this new royalty seek to exploit the natural beauty of these lands; for resources, expanded market share, and by converting these lands into private gated escapes. Then, in these contrived environments, these invaders can enjoy their own “foreign experience” by being in a place that is really not much different from their home. I find it ironic that while our wealthiest enjoy the best these countries provide, we seek to deny their poor a place on our shores. All they seek is a chance to work and share in the very dreams on which these resorts are built.
In response, governments create laws to restrict the movement of people that might upset the economic and social status quo. Yet, there are no laws that can prevent poor and hungry people from seeking a better life, and so people will undergo great hardship, facing danger and peril, for the dream of a better life, more fulfilling life. However the greatest tragedy of our broken immigration laws are the fractured families left in their wake. The workers at the resort told me stories of; of a brother in Anoka (“…separated for 7 years”) , a husband in Houston (“… been 3 years since he has seen his children”), a son in California (“..over 12 years since we embraced in our doorway and he left our village”), there were more stories all united by the fact their beloved family member is classified as “undocumented”. Sure, they can speak on the phone, share photos on Facebook, but they know any chance of a real face to face visit will have to wait until one of three things occurs:
1) Enough wealth is secured that the worker on the North-side of the border can move home. (this is often a moving target, as the number of people dependent on the US workers’ wages usually grows on both sides of the border making it harder to cut off this supply line)
2) The undocumented worker is detained and deported. (this is an undesirable solution; true it will return the long lost family member to their home – while at the same time separating them from family they have in the USA, and ending a needed source of cash for both families)
3) There is comprehensive immigration reform that recognizes the difference between criminals and economic refugees and would then allow for a free trade agreement that allows people and products, workers and manufactured goods to cross borders.
The temporary “Dream Act” that President Obama enacted last month is a start. It recognizes that youth who were brought here as children, and educated here as youth, should not be forced from the only country they have ever known. But the painful separation of families continues, and in a large part because of the political beliefs of people who call themselves “pro-family”
Last March I visited the Mexico I know and love. I spent a week in a village which is the home to a friend here in Minnesota. Each day guests would stream by the house to visit for morning coffee, lunch, or late in the evening. People would stop me to talk on the beach, in the town square, or the fields of coconut, corn, and mango. After the usual greetings we would share the deeper stories of life. One proud and sad story was threaded through them all: “A dear family member… has been gone for years … working in the US …raising a family that has never seen their Mexican relatives”. It was a proud story, there was great pride in the work and education they and their children were getting, yet also there was heartbreak, because of the long separation, the yearning to see grandchildren, nieces and nephews and the sense of powerless that the situation can ever be changed.
As I prepared to leave this village my friend’s mom and grandmother held me long in their embrace, in holding me I felt as if they were imagining holding their sons who had left years ago. I got into the car and as we drove away it seemed as if the pain of all the families who had lost sons, husbands, and daughters to the other side weighted down on me. I was glad my sunglasses hid my eyes as my cheeks became moist and my mind tried to find some sense of justice in a world where I have ability to travel freely and visit family at will, while for others it a luxury they cannot enjoy.
I know maybe it is too simplistic of a thought for such a complex world, but I believe the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” has a corollary, the Golden Dream – “Dream for others as you also dream for yourself” Our world is too small to not share our dreams.
Immigration Reform is needed now, not just for the immigrants living in this country, but also for the families they have left behind, who they dream to see and visit again.