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TRAVEL and SEE

By | Changemakers, Immersions, Roots of Migration | No Comments

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Entry by P. Kofi Baah-Arhin

And he sent them out, one by one
When Jesus had called the Twelve together,
he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons
and to cure diseases,
and he sent them out
to preach the kingdom of God
and to heal the sick.
He told them:
“Take nothing for the journey –
no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra tunic.
Whatever house you enter,
stay there until you leave that town.
If people do not welcome you,
shake the dust off your feet when you leave their town,
as a testimony against them.”
So they set out and went from village to village,
preaching the gospel and healing people everywhere.
Luke 9:1-6

Going to Guatemala brought me full circle to my origins. Immediately we exited the airport building to the street just in front of it, throngs of people – some constituting themselves as welcoming groups, 20160122_134340_HDRothers as taxi drivers seeking passengers and others peddling their wares – give notice of the resilient vibrancy of the people a visitor is likely to see in the country. Like most buses and popular public/private transportation in most West African towns and cities, the buses of Guatemala carry loud inscriptions on their bodies, externally. In Ghana, private passenger buses/trucks are called “tro tro”. “Travel and see” is one such familiar inscription on a side or back of a “tro tro” in Ghana. “Travel and See” seemed like the mission we were tasked with to Guatemala where huge mostly brightly adorned and ornately decorated individuated big ex-American school buses abound. Almost everything I saw was instantaneously familiar and simultaneously contrasting.

Happily for me, we got two “spiritual leaders”, a man and his wife, to bring me up to the speed of earth. Mayans, an ancient people, of whom I had read of as a child in Middle school in Ghana, had built cities
and pyramids and an empire. Just as my ancestors had. Sadly for me, like the Mayans of Guatemala, only ruins exist as reminders of the creativity and sciences of the people. Like my folks, living and contemporary Mayans are spiritual and pour libation to invoke our ancestors. We both believe in a common One God as creator of all that is. In both Mayan and Ghanaian/African contemporary neo-religiousos regard our spiritual practices out of their ignorance and seek to suppress such. In both cases, the obvious destroyer and oppressor is of European geniture. In both cases, it is easy to see the ease with which neo-religionists were colonialists who sought to build their empires solely through the destruction of our empires. We have been pillaged. Our natural and human resources exploited. Our persons enslaved and dispersed at the convenience of the foreigners who now seek to eliminate even our languages. 20160120_125519_Burst02“We have been ‘buked and scorned”. And made to feel “sometimes as a motherless child” as a result of our tendency probably naively to welcome and nurture foreigners and strangers in our midst whom some of our mothers found hungry, famished and looking emaciated during their voyages “of discovery”, and Naase Anta and her sisters of old brought them home from the bend of the Niger River and said of them: “pity the poor white man, No mother has he to give him milk” the same white man was he who said: “give me your child so I can teach him my ways” and now says: we are  heathens and our spirituality is ‘idol/devil” worship so kill it. So, the government the foreigners, like the Dutch Boers of apartheid Azania colonized/subjugated as South Africa, formed with the complicity of big money multi-national businesses who now “know not Joseph” have waged wars, one of which lasted for over twenty recent years whose effect has been to eliminate, as in wipe out the culture, the teaching and writing of Mayan languages ALTHOUGH it uses the Mayan sacred bird as a current national symbol even on the money of the land appropriated from the Mayan people. SNAKE BIRD.

So what? We saw a resilient people. Loving and ready to give of their last and be hospitable to even us. I
believe Jesus would be proud of our host families as well as the souls that eke a living peddling their wares/crafts at the Central Park in front of the Roman Catholic Cathedral while Some mothers and mostly fathers daily flee their families with ephemeral hopes of gaining work and sustenance to care20160122_181312 for their families in numbers of eight thousand mirages a day from Maya Guatemala to cross the deserts of Mexico and thence into the USA where some of my own immediate folks had sang “Oh Shenandoah I long to see you, away deh rolling ribah ‘cross deh wide Missouri. Oh Shenandoah, I love your daughter”. See James Robeson at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K_QsVrUtLvY and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2bytFrsL4_4

So what if UNICEF in Guatemala recommends to balance the budget of Latino Guatemala tax must be increased/raised on people over 60% of whom are either in disguised employment or unemployed or unemployable in their own homeland? Is there no end to oppression from any corner? UNICEF is a United Nations agency! “La lala la, suffering in the land.” Jimmy Cliff, a Reggae Musician.

“Only we the living can build the monuments that will tell our story” indeed. May be a younger generation “will understand it better by and by.” Nevertheless, it looks like it is very easy to point fingers and/or to refuse to learn from others. Looks like the government and some of the people of Guatemala are yet to hear of decolonization or Mandela and the end of South African apartheid. Else, will there be an end to “man’s inhumanity to man” ever?

From Tierra Nueva, Guatemala

By | Changemakers, Immersions, Roots of Migration | No Comments

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Entry by Jose Toledo

Martin Luther King reminded us about the sense of belonging to all of humanity and the importance of the prevalence of the sense of the collective 20160124_143247over the protagonism of individuals: “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly….” — and that was exactly what was lived in Tierra Nueva. Each one of the people committed with the grassroots Faith Communities (Comunidades Eclesiales de Bases) transmitted the importance of knowing how to live in community from the practice and not the theory or rhetorical discourse. Maybe these people never heard MLK speak but in the practice they demonstrated to us the sense of collaboration, complicity, and responsibility that they took with each one of us. 20160123_114033This demonstration of solidarity and commitment comes about from the experience of faith and from a political commitment assumed from the responsibility of inter-dependence. Our hosts knew that each word and each action would affect not only the reputation of their families but also the harmony and stability of the whole community, and for that they needed a large dose of emotional and political maturity. None of them said anything that crossed the line that could negatively affect us. They understood their freedom in terms of the collective well-being and not 20160124_075044the subaltern interests of individual character – like capitalist, individualist cultures do, where they use freedom as a pretext to allow their egotistical and immature interests run about, where the collective passes to Second Place. Tierra Nueva was a success: from the warmth shared in the family of Sandra and Carlos it was confirmed for me the sense of human solidarity with the grassroots Faith Communities, and the aggressive individualist logic of the capitalist system as the origin for all the ills of our societies.

Globalization Unfolding

By | Changemakers, Immersions, Roots of Migration | No Comments

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Entry by Erika Katske

I am feeling very full from the contradictions and contrasts I have seen here in Guatemala. We have been moving around a lot which has both made it somewhat hard for me to digest all of the rich conversations and experiences, but also seems somehow fitting for an immersion meant to examine the roots of migration. I am still thinking about our time in Antigua, an old colonial city in which corporate franchises (McDonald’s, Office Depot, Western Union) and Mayan and Guatemalan souvenir shops fill the old Spanish storefronts – a new kind of colonization that has filled the old buildings with transnational businesses and the streets with hungry voyeurs. It was in Antigua that we saw for the first time the flip side of the impact of globalization – the influx of commercial interests, American and European tourists, and the absence of what I had been experiencing as the distinct, slower pace and relationality of Guatemalan life.

Antigua is a jarring comparison to the other places we have been — Cajola, Tecun Uman and Tierra Nueva. As a group, we fit right in – we were just a few more of the tourist-looking, English-speaking,20160117_101141 well-dressed visitors exploring the cobblestone streets of the newly commodified old city. My interactions with the people of Antigua held the visceral discomfort of a clear power dynamic – I am a person with money to spend, a visitor to satisfy and serve. So unlike the other places we have been, there is no attempt to build relationship, and it’s harder for me to have conversations that are not heavy with the awkwardness that exists between those with more and those with less. In Tecun Uman on the Mexican border, we were obvious outsiders — and we were in the way. People eyed us mostly with suspicion – sometimes annoyance – as they moved cases of beer, detergent, paper products and groups of people across the river and back. The roads were dusty, filled with strong smells, garbage, cheap street food, scrawny dogs and half-dressed children. Antigua held the comforts of home, covered by a veneer, a few tokens of Central American culture to help make the experience feel genuine. It was built for us, not Guatemalans.

As I continue to move through the contradictions – through both the surfaces and the deeper realities of all that is happening here — I am making an effort to hold the contrasts. I don’t want to simply compare and notice, but rather I want to be able to feel the incredible discomfort of knowing that these places 20160120_124958_HDRexist side by side — and sometimes they have been constructed in my name and for my benefit as an American. This is globalization unfolding – it is the movement of capital and greed like the rising waters of a river after a storm; it fills all the space it can find, growing quickly, becoming more and more powerful and taking more casualties as it flows. It pays little attention to the path of eroding land and uprooted trees it leaves along its edges. My work – our work as spiritual and religious leaders – is to stand firm in the mud, refusing to let the river wash away all that is sacred along the shore.