The Caravan

 Photo courtesy of Johann Walter

Photo courtesy of Johann Walter

I’m not sure any of us who have paid any attention to the 2018 midterm elections in the US will ever hear the word ‘caravan’ without automatically conjuring up dramatic images to match political rhetoric.

While this week’s post isn’t intended to be political - it is intended to speak to the heart of our humanity in the face of any symbolic or real ‘caravans’ we may experience in life.

Yesterday I heard a poem by poet Jimmy Santiago Baca that speaks very pointedly to the heart of this matter. It is unflinching and raw and, frankly, haunting. Particularly the last verse.

I share it here for you.


Sixteen

Thirteen Mexicans each having paid from 250 to 500

to the coyote to smuggle them in the United States

to work,

crashed into a 16 wheeler and died last night.

The youngest 13.

They died wanting to work. Would have done anything for you- washed your dirty clothes, dishes, scrubbed toilets.

Yet this morning no one thinks about them.

No one cares who they were, what songs they had in their hearts,

what their dreams were, who their parents were.

Just a bunch of wetbacks. Their blood freezing on the highway pavement reflects your indifference, marinates your food.

Their disfigured unrecognizable corpses scattered heads and limbs and torsos are remembered in the white knuckled clenched fist I raise to you - who need your crops cut, fields hoed, houses cleaned, yards landscaped, children cared for.

13 of them last night.

Thousands more in grower’s fields, restaurants, all night gas stations, construction companies - offered no medical care, no education, no sanitary living quarters.

Dogs, cats, birds and rats are treated kinder. And no Georgia mule ever worked harder than my mexican brothers and sisters lacking citizen papers but with heart, soul and mind full of dreams.

Worked and not paid, greeted when needed but after the work is finished, crowded into cattle cars, truck beds, vans, jail cells, livestock pens - shot, electrocuted, beaten, exiled, robbed, jeered at, blamed - because they believed in the American dream we take for granted.


Don’t tell me slavery has ended.

Don't tell me there's no prejudice or that judges rule fairly - handcuffs, pepper, maize, cells, police and the INS, were not created for the rich corporate executives.

Imagine having worked from dawn until dusk and then being cheated out of your pay

and when you get back to your freezing tent, the boss calls immigration to drag you away so he doesn't have to pay.

Imagine your kids working all day in factory sweatshops then being herded into paddy wagons and deposited on the border.

What hypocrisy.

What a sham your prayers are

at sunday service

assuming you are more entitled to

live and breathe and eat by exploiting the less fortunate.

Jimmy Santiago Baca