Buried Faith

spool of thread

On Holy Saturday, April 14, 2001, I was baptized as a Catholic at St. Sylvester’s Church in Chicago, Illinois. I was 31. My husband Picasso was deported back to Mexico later on that same month.

When I moved to Mexico in August of 2001 to live with my husband,  I was exposed to a type of Catholicism that I had never experienced in the U.S.

It was a form of Catholicism where my mother-in-law confessed to the priest of her church that Picasso and I were living in her house, but we were not married by the church.

The priest told her that she was a serious sinner, the spiritual equivalent of aiding and abetting.

When my mother-in-law came home and told us what the priest said, Picasso and I went to find him after the Sunday evening mass. His name was Father John. My husband and I had been to mass a few times at that church with my mother-in-law.

The three of us walked outside. While Picasso was just as heated as I was, he grew up in Mexico, with a grandmother who ruled through the bible. He knew how this was going to go down and stood by me quietly.

I was still new to the team, one Resurrection Sunday as a baptized Catholic under my belt. I spit my anger at Father John, in Spanish and English.

“If you knew our story,” I hissed at him, “if you knew our story, you would see the miracle that exists here.”

The miracle of forgiveness between my husband and I. The miracle of living in the same country again. The miracle that my mother-in-law opened her home to us because her love and care overruled her fear that she was doing something wrong in the eyes of God.

I looked Father John in the eyes and said, “My mother-in-law is no sinner. She’s actually the embodiment of a good Catholic, literally giving us shelter when we had nowhere else to to go.”

Father John looked at me in the eyes and folded his arms. “You two are not married in the church. What your mother-in-law did is the same level of sin as murder.”

Murder.

Father John moved on to do his version of God’s work in the state of Guerrero. In April of 2014, he disappeared. During the initial search for the missing 43 Ayotzinapa students in November of 2014, gruesome clandestine graves seemed to turn up so many bodies, bodies that were not the Ayotzinapa students.

Father John’s body was found, a bullet to the head.

Murdered.

According to Borderland Beats, “It is believed that the priest was executed after he refused to baptize the daughter of a local narco leader.” 

On this Resurrection Sunday, I’m thinking about Father John. How his belief was deep and strong and unwavering.

And how mine hangs by a thread.

 

 

 

 

 

a valentine for ms. asha bandele

asha bandele

 

dear ms. bandele,

It is one of my first trips back to New York, and I’m in my mom’s apartment. She and I are on the sofa in her living room, and I’m mindlessly channel surfing, my mother telling me to just pick a program and stay on it.

And I catch the very tail end, I mean, the very last 30 seconds of an interview with you. You’re talking about your book, The Prisoner’s Wife. There’s a black background behind you. What I remember are your eyes. What I remember is your voice.

And right then, all I know is that I have to read that book, your book. It becomes a mission the next few days.

When I finally get a copy of the book in your hands, I read it one sitting. I cannot stop.

“This is a love story, the one not generally discussed in polite or even public conversation. But if there’s one thing that I do know about myself, it’s that I know I hate secrets, that secrets mean shame, and that I am not now, nor will I ever be, ashamed that I am a woman who has loved someone, and that someone has loved me.”

I read your words for the first time and held my breath.

When my husband was deported from Chicago back to Mexico in April of 2001, I felt completely and profoundly alone. Ashamed. Angry. I didn’t have the words for talking about my husband, myself, and his deportation.

With your book in my hands, I was no longer alone. I was more willing to face what I felt ashamed about. My anger started to change shape.

After that trip to New York, I returned to Mexico and my husband, your book in my knapsack, a gift from the universe. The words about myself, my husband, and his deportation came later, but they finally started to appear.

The Prisoner’s Wife is my string of rosary beads. I turn to it in times of fierce need, and times of real joy. I turn to it when I’m afraid of what I’m writing, but I know that I need to push through the fear. The Prisoner’s Wife was in my bag the night that I performed my show with the neo-Nazis in the front row, and I held it in my shaking hands after I got back to the dressing room.

I turn to your book, I will always turn to your book, when I need inspiration from the masterful rhythm and artistry of your words.

So today I want to send you an early valentine across the wires, my heart in my hand. In reading your books that came after The Prisoner’s Wife, I know that your life journey has taken you down other paths. You and I are both living out new stories, different chapters in our lives.

But today I sing out loud to the rooftops how grateful I am for your continued courage, artistry, faith and love.

Thank you, ms. bandele. Happy Valentine’s Day.

Music=Breathing

Hello peeps. I’m ba-ack! I’ll be posting on a Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule from here on in. We’ll see how it goes!

These past few days I didn’t have my laptop. But I was thinking about music; a good friend of mine has the most insane and eclectic music collection that I’ve ever heard (or seen! )

In my previous Landslide post, I got requests from people to talk about music that I love.

So here’s a top ten list (in no particular order) of music that makes me give a damn about life:

1. Tori Amos – The Little Earthquakes album. Every song.

2. Arthur Rubinstien playing anything by Frederic Chopin. Oof. Something that a lot of people don’t know about me is that I initially started college as a music major. The plan was to be a concert pianist. That plan got derailed for a whole bunch of reasons. But man, in an alternative universe, I’d love to hear Arthur Rubinstein play live. And I’d be one lucky woman!

3. Karita Mattila: Her recording of Sibelius songs on Ondine. Touchstone for me. It always reminds me of a terrible previous job, but an amazing voice nonetheless!

4. Roxy Music -“Avalon.” Memories

5. Banda Sinaloense – “El Mechon.” This song makes me smile and laugh every time.

6. El Tri – “Parece Fácil.” A very good marriage guide! lol

7. Los Angeles Azules – “Suelta el Liston de Tu Pelo.” One of the first songs that I learned to sing in Spanish.

8. Underworld – Any album. R and I’s first date was their concert. I had no idea who they were at that time! lol

9. Grateful Dead, Rolling Stones, The Police,  Early Depeche Mode: My rock and alternative music formation.

10. 80’s music. My husband cringes! lol But I loved and love it all 100%!

What about you?

Where the Kitchen Floor Tiles Smell Like Sorbet

Hey kids.

I went to run some errands, and I walked by the Robert Brady Museum. It’s a visually astounding place. If R and I are ever in the situation financially that we can pick and choose, we’d like a house that’s our spin on Robert Brady’s version.

You can check out the museum’s website here.

And here’s a little something I wrote back in the day about the place:

Robert Brady was born in Iowa in 1928, and died in Cuernavaca, Mexico in 1986.   He’s buried in the garden of his home, next to his two dogs.

Brady wanted his home to be open to the public after his death.  The rooms are piled with eclectic pieces of art.  They seem to sag from the weight and hum from the energy of their stories. A painting of Peggy Guggenheim that makes Dame Edna look attractive.  Paper-mache masks from Guerrero, Chile and Tanzania.  A Last Supper, made out of clay, with the disciples eating slices of watermelon.

You can walk right up to the objects, and, if you like, smell them.  A teak wood armoire has the scent of a hundred hands. After it rains, the blue flower tiles in the kitchen smell like sorbet.

The bed in Brady’s room seems small for a tall man and the cranberry blanket feels like sandpaper.

Right next door is the Cathedral of Cuernavaca.  From his bedroom Brady must have watched the priests across the way.

If you ask nicely, a museum guide may open Brady’s closet, take out an armful of silk dressing gowns, and display them on the bed.

There’s a café with a pair of tables across from the three tombstones.  Coffee and tea is sold.  You can sit and enjoy a slice of cake while you listen to the trees in the garden whisper about what they know.

DREAM Now Letters and News with Nezua

Hey peeps.

Here are two important links to check out  and support today:

The DREAM Now Letters to President Barack Obama. Here’s the statement from Citizen Orange:

For those of you that haven’t been following the DREAM Act closely, we’re currently in a fight for our lives to get the legislation passed. We have about a two month window to get it enacted and we’re pulling out all the stops. The fact that we’re doing so is perhaps best illustrated by the fact that undocumented youth have taken to getting themselves arrested in the offices of legislators, risking deportation. Despite these dramatic steps there’s still far too many people that don’t know what the DREAM Act is or have yet to hear from undocumented youth. That’s why I’ve helped start a social media campaign called the DREAM Now Letters to Barack Obama, where undocumented youth write letters to Barack Obama in an effort to raise awareness about the DREAM Act.

News with Nezua is the other.

At the end of this week’s video, Nezua asks his viewers for their financial support.

Nezua’s voice is challenging, on point, and in my opinion, must continue. Scroll down to the tamale image, where it says, “Help Support UMX!”

Please support them as much as you can and spread the word.

Gracias!


This English Teacher is On Strike

Hello peeps.

You know, something that I didn’t realize when I first moved to Mexico was how easy it was to get a job teaching English.

Now let me be clear – “easy” is relative.

In my situation, English is my first language, I had a B.A. when I arrived here and I eventually got a Masters.

Depending on the institution, you can often get a job teaching English with all of the above and without any teaching experience at all. None.

I didn’t have any training or studies in education when I first started nine years ago.

My first teaching job in Mexico in 2001 was pretty cool. I taught mainly adults and I really liked the program.

But the honeymoon teaching English and the job ended there in 2002.

And what resulted was a knotty string of English teaching jobs.

When I came back to Mexico last fall after my US tour, I jumped into another teaching job at a private school. We needed the money.

I left that teaching job in January for a freelance writing job that ironically didn’t work out.

One of the issues that I’ve been truly struggling with in Mexico since this past January is how to make a living in Mexico and not teach English.

Particularly not to elementary through high school kids. School jobs are a dime a dozen here.

But I can’t do it anymore.

For some of you who read this blog and I was your teacher, I don’t think that comes as a shock to you! lol

Sure, I had some great students who made my day, particularly at my last teaching job in Mexico City. You know who you are:)

But most of the time I was just very sad. Felt completely and totally useless. A babysitter with a Masters.

And it doesn’t matter the school. I always felt and feel the same way.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m the main breadwinner here in Mexico. I’ve made my peace with that.

But what I haven’t made my peace with is how me and R’s whole economic world shakes if I don’t teach English in a private school setting.

That’s the reality of the Mexico’s economy. It wobbles on broken toothpick legs.

Within that painful reality I have a lot of privilege in this broken economy, I know.

I could go and work in the States. But I’ll be there without R.

Many of us spouses of deportees do make that decision to back to the US; oftentimes, the economic decision is made for us. I’ve previously done it for temporary periods of time. I’d like to try to not do it again.

So what happens now that this deported man’s wife is “on strike” about teaching English in Mexico’s private schools?

Stay tuned kids, stay tuned.

Radical Love from Where We Least Expect It

Hey Kids.

I’d like to post some words by Thich Nhat Hanh today. They come from his book, Peace is Every Step. Thank you to S for sharing it with me.

These words resonate for me in light of what I’m going through personally and what I’m witnessing right now from both sides of the immigration movement.

I feel that President Barack Obama is very clearly using the immigration movement as a political football. I walk around with a lot of anger and sadness about this issue, as well as other issues in my life.

But what if those of us in the immigration movement met him and the others in government with love? Radical love?

What if we all met each other with radical love?

What if we actively meditated on loving thoughts for Governor Jan Brewer?

What if we actively meditated on loving thoughts for Sheriff Joe Arpaio?

What if I send you loving thoughts and you sent them back, no matter how we feel about the immigration debate?

A Love Letter to Your Congressman

In the peace movement, there is a lot of anger, frustration, and misunderstanding. People in the peace movement can write very good protest letters, but they are not so skilled at writing love letters. We need to learn to write letters to the Congress and the President that they will want to read, and not just throw away. They way we speak, the kind of understanding, the kind of language we use should not turn people off. The President is a person like any of us.

Can the peace movement talk in loving speech, showing the way for peace? I think that will depend on whether the people in the pace movement can “be peace.” Because without being peace, we cannot do anything for peace. If we cannot smile, we cannot help other people smile. If we are not peaceful, then we cannot contribute to the peace movement.

I hope we can offer a new dimension to the peace movement. The peace movement often is filled with anger and hatred and does not fulfill the role we expect of it. A fresh way of being peace, of making peace is needed. That is why it is so important for us to practice mindfulness, to acquire the capacity to look, to see,and to understand. It would be wonderful if we could bring to the peace movement our non-dualistic way of looking at things. That alone would diminish hatred and aggression. Peace work means, first of all, being peace. We rely on each other. Our children are relying on us in order for them to have a future.

Kids, I’d love to hear your thoughts about this.

Love,

The Deportee’s Wife