Ila L. Abernathy 
Member since Jul 13, 2009


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Re: “The Activist Question

Thanks, Tim.

Well written and comprehensive. I'm a Samaritans volunteer (more later) but am writing from Guatemala, where the global financial crisis and the aftermath of 36 years of internal conflict and almost 500 years of "conquista" make the possibility of going north overwhelmingly seductive.

This is a country that, despite great resources and more wealth than some Latin American countries, ranks next-to-last on UN and World Bank scales of human development -- apallingly skewed distribution of land and wealth, high infant and maternal mortality, feeble education in rural areas, increasing post-war frustration and violence, etc., etc.

Most rural communities have visible "success stories" of new, improved housing, a new "camioneta" for a rural bus route, a "tienda" (little shop) in the house, maybe a few cattle, all written by those returned from "El Norte" or sending back money to their families. There are tragedies, too, and destruction of close-knit families and indigneous communities; but these are less immediately visible.

Until Guatemalans can achieve "la vida digna" in their own country, they will continue to hazard the trip north.
We need immigration reform; but we also need a shift in economic policy that reduces exploitation of resourses and people throughout the developing world.

Now, back to Samaritans. In May, another Samaritan and I were checking trails intersecting the Brown Canyon Road on Buenos Aires NWR. As we returned to our vehicle, two Border Patrol agents stopped and began checking the same trail where we had just walked. One turned and shouted, "Have you put out any water today?" Later we decided they weren't looking for migrants; even though it wasn't their job, they were hoping to discover we had put out water.

I explained that it was not Samaritans' protocol to leave water on the Refuge at that time, even though we thought it a worthy thing to do. The BP agent shouted back that we shouldn't misunderstand; he loved it when we put out water, because he took it home to water his garden.

We knew he was trying to bait us, but I reminded him he must have come across dead migrants in his work, and we were just trying to prevent such deaths. His response was, "Doesn't bother me, I just call the sheriff. I sleep good."

Tomorrow, our small team of volunteers heads for the mountains, where it has been raining heavily, for a walking visit to 6 of the most remote communities of Mayan peoples who resisted joining death squads or waiting to be massacred during Guatemala's civil war. We will be beyond ANY electronic access, much less e-mail. But our prayers will be with our brothers and sisters in Arizona, as well as all those here.

Wishing a safe journey for us all,

Ila Abernathy, Samaritans Volunteer
Coordinator, St. Michael's (Episcopal) Guatemala Project
(writing as an individual, not a spokesperson for any group)

0 likes, 1 dislike
Posted by Ila L. Abernathy on 07/13/2009 at 12:55 PM

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