Jesus was Crucified…a Borderlands Interpretation

This morning the Borderlands group walked the stations of the cross on the lawn of the Basilica Cathedral de San Juan del Valle. Each of us chose a different station to reflect upon and incorporate how that station relates to our experiences so far on this trip. We were then assigned to give a short meditation to the group relating this. The station I chose was titled, “Jesus was Crucified.”

In preparation for this reflection, I was shown a scriptural stations of the cross. This was a resource which coordinated particular Bible verses with each station. After meditating on the verse assigned, I decided to re-translate the verse in a way that fits my experience so far. So, below is Luke 23:33-34, a Borderlands translation.

When the soldiers of evil came to the place called “maquilladora park” they nailed the women to the cross. Transnational corporations were the nails in their feet, keeping them from running toward what God created them to be. Western consumption put nails in their hands to keep them from working for any other purpose then their own happiness. Gang, drug, and gender violence put the final spear in their side to more rapidly bring about their death.

The evil ones also nailed two criminals to crosses, one on each side of the women.

But in the midst of all this, these brave and strong women say, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

While the world watches these women suffer the pain of crucifixion, the evil ones take one last moment of advantage and use what’s left of these women to find a last mode of profit off of them by taking their last possessions and gambling them away.

Amen.

Angels Staring in Satan’s Face

I saw the face of Satan today.

I’m not one who goes around talking, or even necessarily believing in a Satanic being. In fact, I am often uncomfortable when I hear people talking this way. However, today I stood witness to a being that throws away human life, forces people to live in a way that makes gnashing of teeth sound pleasant and uses up the souls of people for their own advancement. This being is the body of transnational corporations situated on the Mexican side of the US/Mexico border known as maquiladores. The satanic face of globalization.

The Emerson "maquiladora" is one of an estimated 142 maquiladoras on the border

Our group was granted an opportunity to sit with people who live in colonias–housing areas for maquiladora workers that often don’t have electricity or sometimes even  running water–and work in these factories. These people sat with us and told us stories.

They told us about the mother of two who worked at the LG plant and recently got both of her hands cut off in equipment she wasn’t trained to use. Though the company didn’t want to help her, they were forced to provide her with the required two years severance pay–50,000 pesos or $3,731 US.

They told us about several maquiladores using the chemical exsamo, a chemical that causes skin cancer, and not telling

A far-away view of a colonia, a housing area where maquiladora workers live. This colonia sits above an irrigation canal.

the workers what they were handling (they were usually told it was alcohol). They told us how women are required to take pregnancy tests before getting hired, errors routinely being made on paychecks, chairs taken away from workers on nine hour shifts, workers right’s lawyers who are bought out by the companies so they don’t have proper representation, the list goes on and on.

But there’s another side to this story.

Combating this Satan are very brave and generous people. These angels are women who serve as promotoras, women who work in the maquiladoras and inform and educate workers on Mexican labor law and their rights and help them fight for what they deserve. These women face the risk of being blacklisted at best and physically injured by the companies at worst–but they persist.

Another angel is 82 year-old Ed Krueger. A white man from the United States who saw an injustice and decided he was going to do something about it. Thirty-two years ago he walked through a colonia by himself and just started talking to people. Ever since then he has been meeting with maquiladora workers and educating them on their labor rights as granted them by the Mexican Constitution of 1917 (birthed out of the Mexican Revolution) and discussing issues that the workers are facing. By himself, with no help from outside forces, funding streams or institutional backing, Mr. Krueger started his organization Comite de Apoyo which he and his wife run. His goal is to educate individuals on their rights so that they can educate others and help workers fight for the rights they have which these companies exploit.

Mr. Ed Krueger debriefs our visit to Reynosa and Rio Bravo, Mexico. Mr. Krueger has worked for maquiladora workers rights for 32 years.

Mr. Krueger is a gentle soul. He is an older man who’s energy is only held back by the cane he is forced to walk with. He is a man who wants to know what you are passionate about and listens with a smile. He is a man who had a picture of his face posted in the maquiladora management offices under the title of “wanted.”

As we left the house of the first group of women, we prayed and laid hands on them. We prayed that God would protect them, give them and their families protection and strength, and I prayed for thankfulness that I got a chance to meet them. It was an emotional prayer. It was the only chance we got to see of the weight of the situation on these women’s faces.

All this for a positive profit margin and to feed the extraordinary consumption habit of the Unites States.

I am forever changed by today, by these angels. Satan has no chance if he faces more people like this.

The Symbols We Use, the Stories We Tell

The Virgin of Candelaria at San Fernando Cathedral

Symbols are powerful. Stories are powerful. When they are put together, they are formidable.

Coming back to San Antonio has been special for me. Having spent much of my childhood here, this city embraces very special memories for me. Revisiting this city I love, however, has opened my eyes to the symbols and stories I was fed as a kid.

During my childhood I was fed the dominant version of history, Texans love their history and there is a “Texan pride” that they exude. I was not excluded from this. I was one of those kids who wore a coon-skin cap and sang the Davey Crockett theme song. What I never even thought of was the other side of this history I was fed, the history of the people who lived here before the Anglo settlers.

Over the last year I have had an opportunity to learn this version of history and it has opened my eyes to the symbols and stories dominant society feeds the majority of people. It has opened my eyes to the way it affects our society. What does it mean when the symbol of what a “Texan” is always bears a white face? What does it mean when the Institute of Texan Culture tells the story that reason military troops were sent to Texas was to protect the settlers from “hostile Indians” who unfortunately would needlessly attack them?

It’s not just Texas that does this, think of American history and the stories we tell. Think of the religious symbols and stories we use to talk about our faith. Symbols and stories are powerful, who are we leaving out or bringing down in the one’s we use?