To the Fallen in the Deserts of Death
I spent this week in northern Mexico with a group of five Executive Presbyters who came to learn about the situation on the border. We spent one night sleeping on the floor (that's right - your executive presbyeters!) at a migrant shelter run by the Catholic Church in the small city of Altar, about 60 miles south of the border. Altar is the point of departure for thousands of migrants each week who are headed into the desert to walk across the border in search of a job in the U.S.
There is a new monument in front of the shelter, which is called the Community Center for Assistance to Migrants and those in Need (CCAMYN). It is quite tall and made of plates of steel, into which the words of a poem have been stamped. Here's my rough translation of the poem (unofficial, unauthorized and unchecked by use of a dictionary).
TO THE FALLEN IN THE DESERTS OF DEATH:
In memory of those who, when seeking a better life,
found only death,
In memory of those who risked risked everything and lost it,
Who went with hope in their eyes and challenge in their souls.
The sun calcified them, the desert devoured them,
and the dust erased their name and their face.
In memory of those who will never return
we offer these flowers . . .
To them, with respect, we say:
Your thirst, is our thirst.
Your hunger, is our hunger.
Your pain, is our pain.
Your discomfort, your bitterness, your agony
Are also ours.
We are a shout that demands justice. . .
In order that No One, ever again, will have to
Abandon their lands, their beliefs, their dead, their children
their parents, their family, their race, their culture, their identity. . .
We are a silence that has a voice . . .
In order that no one will have to look for their destiny in other lands.
In order that no one will have to go to the desert and be consumed by loneliness.
We are a voice in the desert that cries out:
Education for all!
Opportunity for all!
Work for all!
Bread for all!
Liberty for all!
Justice for all!. . .
We are a voice that the desert cannot drown. . .
In order that the country offers equality to all its children
The opportunity for a decorous and dignified life. . .
"For the right to live in Peace"
Mexico, Winter - 2004
Othon Perez (Poet)