8.19.2007

Elvira's Faithfilled Fight

NO WAY OUT (by Don Terry, Chicago-Tribune - 8.5.07) is a moving account of Elvira Arellano's life in sanctuary in the aftermath of the rightwing's victory over immigration reform.

The article begins with Elvira waving a small Puerto Rican flag as she watches the local Puerto Rican Day parade from within the Adalberto Church. In a sign of Latino solidarity, Elvira's son, Saul, marches as an honorary grand marshall.

Shamefully, the spirit of solidarity is punctured by the profound ignorance and hate of someone the article describes as a Puerto Rican woman. Pathetically, this woman screeches out the ever popular "go home" racist taunt.

Nonetheless, there are wonderful and poignant moments in Elvira's story--examples of the human spirit rising above the pathetic constraints of the debased and the faithless.

Here are my favorites:

Beti Guevara, the assistant pastor at Adalberto, holding onto Saul's hand jumps on a bench and leads the crowd in a passionate chant in Spanish, "Puerto Ricans and Mexicans fighting hand in hand!"

Arellano and Saul's food and clothes are mostly donated by friends and strangers, like the man in Vermont who sends a check for $7 each week.

Elvira's only escape is to step-out onto the tiny fenced-in and blacktopped space behind the church. It's where two long, wooden planters where peppers, avocados, mint and tomatoes grow in what she calls "a garden of hope."

Elvira lights charcoal and incense in a conch shell and a bowl she calls a Poposhcome, waving the smoke into her face. It's an ancient Aztec ritual in which she asks her ancestors and the Great Creator for energy and strength and wisdom to continue her fight.

Finally--and for me the most moving, a delegation of African-American ministers gathered around Elvira in prayer, placing their hands on her bowed head. She said, "At that moment I felt very protected." The humanity and faithfulness of that image is very profound--and filled with hope.
Click here for an account of Elvira's story in her own words.