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Work 4 Peace,Hold All Life Sacred,Eliminate Violence! I am on my mobile version of the door-to-door, going town-to-town holding readings/gatherings/discussions of my book "But What Can I Do?" This is my often neglected blog mostly about my travels since 9/11 as I engage in dialogue and actions. It is froth with my opinions, insights, analyses toward that end of holding all life sacred, dismantling the empire and eliminating violence while creating the society we want all to thrive in

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Day 4 end: Barretal at last!

In case this is the first entry you've read, I'll explain about El Barretal again.

When the first mass caravan of refugees from Honduras arrived in Tijuana to legally cross the border in order to seek asylum in the u.s., they were turned away in mass numbers: illegally and immorally by border patrol under unconstitutional and anti-international law orders by tRump, enforced by immigration officials and in collusion with the mexican government (prior to Obrador taking power).

The refugees crowded into a sports complex called Benito Juarez, a few steps from the western pedestrian bridge to wait entrance into the u.s.

This complex has no roof nor asphalt but dirt ground. The last weeks of November rain turned the ground into mounds of mud and running water filled with debris and garbage. This two week rainfall was equivalent to the amount of rainfall Tijuana normally gets in a whole year!

Police then raided this camp and others, often at 3 o'clock in the morning, jostling humans from their tents, swiftly and forcefully marshaling people onto buses, often without their possessions let alone documents, to ship them far away.

Police smashed tents and destroyed the scant but precious personal property that refugees were not given a chance to gather together before being forced to vacate Benito Juarez - a police practice that has been honed in the u.s. and transported around the world.

So Barretal is very far from the border crossing: a location that refugees did NOT want to go to. But it is on asphalt. I have not been there yet but intend to go tonite to help serve after we finish cooking the evening meal.

The kitchen runs like one of a mother with 12 children: efficient, quick, with no waste or hesitation. Pots are big enough to wash a child in; aluminum containers enough to easily cover the entire first floor of a very large living room.

Finally we are ready to load the food and head out to Barretal.

Another of the beautiful and incredibly affirming side benefits of this work is the meeting of other committed and remarkable volunteers. Tonite, I share a vehicle with four extraordinary and diverse u.s.ofa. humans: a brown Latina elder, a white womon youth, a young Black man, and a 30-something Lebanese man.

After almost an hour of bumpy curvy driving thru crazy traffic, we arrive in the pitch dark at a huge solid rust-corroded metal wall illuminated only by our vehicle headlights. Our leader Cybele, jumps out and bangs on the wall, causing it to buckle a little revealing it is a gate. After many clangs, it finally squeaks slowly open, just enough to allow our vehicles inside.

Instantly, lean men materialize to help unload the trucks and Cybele has us immediately organized into teams. Within minutes, aprons and gloves are donned, tables are washed, simple white paper cloths spread over surfaces, utensils, napkins, empty plates are set out. Food trays organized.

We are ready to begin.

We are in the covered part of Barretal: it is the section where womxxn and children are given priority and are supposedly housed. We cannot see far into this complex but we can see rows of tents on two floors, as well as a large section of occupied sleeping bags with small bundles where pillows could be, lined up parallel on the ground without the benefit of tents.

When I look up from completing my assigned tasks, serving spoon in hand, ready to dish out the recommended portion, I see that people crammed into layers of sweats and coats and sweaters and blankets have been silently lining up in front of the tables and out the door into the dark, cold night.

A couple of adorable little girls, their heads only visible over the table top when they step up on tip toes, hold hands and sway in front of the food. I ask them if they're hungry and offer them a plate but they ignore me and the plate.

Cybele greets everyone as we smile warmly, ready to serve, and firmly reiterates "womxxn and children first". The line shifts as womxxn step forward and men retreat a little. The tiny girls dance away somewhere into the crowd.

And the joy begins. There is little I love more than cooking and feeding especially to womxxn and children, but here tonite, also to these men. And these are mostly men. The universal appearance here is great fatigue yet eyes occasionally sparkle and smiles cross even the most serious of faces if but only for a moment.

Lucia takes plates of food deep into the dark area where some people have not emerged to join the line: maybe they are too sick, too scared, too hurt, or simply too tired. She returns several times to the food table to fill her arms up with plates and disappears again into the dimness. 

When the line starts dwindling, Cybele goes to negotiate with the police to allow men from the other side access to the food. Men who are not attached to a female partner are supposedly restricted from this area and the rumor is police are not good at restricting men except when it comes to access to food.

Way too soon, we have run out of food and completed our tasks of cleaning up and reloading the trucks with the empties.

Then we're off to return to Tijuana and the kitchen.


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