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January 5, 2007     Cape Gazette
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January 5, 2007
 

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56 - CAPE GAZETTE, Friday, January 5 - Monday, January 8, 2007 CAPE LI.FE Solving undocumented migration a complex problem :By Alison Gaffney Special to the Cape Gazette August, 2006: The town of Todos Santos Cuchumatin, Guatemala, is a welcoming place for travelers. As I amble along its steep streets, children shout "Hola!" from yards and porches, and members of the elder genera- tion stop me to inquire about the origin, destination, and purpose of my walk, and give their blessings, "Que le vaya bien" or sometimes, "Que Dios te bendiga". During the rainy season, afternoon clouds cling to the mountains. Squeezed between the houses are neat rows of corn. I have been here since the last week of June, taking classes in Mam, a Mayan language, living with a host family, and volunteer- ing at a rural school nearby. To reach Todos Santos, the road from the department capital of Huehuetenango winds up and up tO the altiplano, a wide open land- scape of stunted trees, volcanic rocks, and maguey, the giant aloe plant. The Cuchumatin Mountains are rugged and steep, claiming the highest non-volcanic peak in Central America - La Torre, 3837 m (about 11,500 ft). After the town of La Ventosa, the road descends along the side of a deep valley carved by the narrow Todos Santos River. The road is a dirt road, but in good condition - much better than before," residents will tell you. After winding :through curve after curYe, the road bridges the thin s'lce of water and here, perched on a rela= tively flat area, is the town of Todos Santos Cuchumatdn. Todos Santos is one of the many towns in Latin America that have been profoundly affected by migration. The cycle of migration impacts both sending and receiv- ing communities. We in Sussex County have experienced many changes in recent years as resi- dents in small-town communities receiving relatively high numbers of immigrants. Living m Guatemala has given me the opportunity to see some of the changes migration has brought to a town on the other side of the border. In Todos Santos, it seems everyone has at least one relative currently in the United States. The head of my host family here, Dofia Eusebia, told me that seven of her cousins are in the U.S., and for most of them, the choice to migrate has brought more hard- ship than they bargained for, pri- marily in terms of living so far from home. For those who remain here, the structure of the family is torn, with women, children, and the elderly often left behind. Dofia Eusebia lamented that one of her daughters, Josefa, despite living in a nearby town, rarel# visits because with her husband is working in the U.S. Josefa is left with all the work of maintaining her household and raising her children. The pattern Of migration also brings hai'der consequences. Last week, the community radio station notified listeners of two deaths - separate incidents, one person fr Todos Santos and one from the town of Buenos Aires - 'both drowning accidents when the migrants, 22 and 20 years old, went swimming in the Pacific Ocean on their days off. Frequent deaths of Todos Santeros in the U.S. is a recent phenomenon, of only the past three or four years, particularly in the past two years. One cause is gun violence, espe- dally in cities like Los Angeles; accidents are another. Many Todos Santeros are pineros,- forestry workers in the Pacific Northwest, for" whom the leading cause of death is not linked to chainsawS or falling trees but van accidents, in inadequately inspect- ed or uncertified vehihles. Across the U.S., immigrant communities raise money to send the bodies home. If migration entails so much hardship, why do people choose to leave home? One of the first answers, common to towns all over the world affected by migra- tion, is what Dofia Eusebia told me: "No hay trabajo. Los pobres se van." There is no work, so the poor people go. This straightfor- ward answer masks some of the complexity involved in migration. In Todos Santos, many people are constantly working, including many whom this American observer would expect to be long- retired or starting primary school. Of course, this cannot be extricat- ed from the migratory cycle: with so many able-bodied adults gone, both the very old and e:very Submitted photos Alison Gaffney stands with one of Dona Eusebia's daugh- ters, Dominga, and two of her children, Feliciana and Michael, outside Eusebia's home. two- or three-Story cinderblock houses boast of owners working in the U.S. Looking for employ- ment not connected to the U.S. economy, I come up with a limit- ed roster. Most adults with a for- mal education are schoolteachers. The bank, post office, and corn- young put in long hours in the: ,munity :radio 'station employ a fields. There is a good deal of con- handful of people, and there are struction going on in Todos bus drivers or men who ferry pas- Santos, but the houses being built sengers in pickuptrueks and vans are funded by .migrant dollars, for a fee. There is a small health Towering over the adobe homes, clinic, but to go the doctor, people take the bus to Huehuetenango, two hours away. There are plenty of stores, and market day is bustling. With the surge in tourism after the 1996 Peace Accords, the market for the traditional intricate weaving expanded. Ultimately, however, chances to earn a living that would support sending kids to school beyond age thirteen, let alone college, or that would enable one to pay medical bills, build a bigger home, buy a car, or Continued on page 57 Even airport prompts men to talk As the New Year gets under (:way, we have to ask ourselves, as phil" osophers have for hundreds of years, profound questions that may affect the quality of our future. These are questions like:. did you ever notice that men seem to talk more outside the home? It's especially true around areas where large crowds gather and oratory skills are reduced to the basics; places such as arenas, sta- diums, soccer fields, ice hockey finks, basketball courts, baseball fields and the classic, the office Christmas party. Even the airport has an appeal for this need to verbally commu- nicate with everyone within a hundred mile radius outside the home: Recently I was sitting in an air- port lounge, waiting for a plane to arrive from another city so that we AROUND TOWN Nancy Katz final destination. The airlines do this, not because they can't make it there on time to pick you up, but just to show you who is boss, in case you want to ask for a lot of extras on the flight, like space for end of runways so as not to show up too soon. Airline executives feel that they need consumer cori% plaints to increase at least by 50 percent so as to ensure their repu- tation as a busy airline. The good thing though is that your luggage is never late; it's on time, but unfortunately that's in Honolulu. You of course, will be landing in Philadelphia. As I was sitting there, a group of men took seats across from me. This, in itself is surprising since all women today fly without make-up. It's easier than dealing with the security issues of having ten plastic bags filled with eye liner, mascara, three liters of con- cealer and a gallon jug of bronze Tahitian foundation. So, as a group, we are quite a sight. I've had ticket agents recoil, put their hands 0ver their,heads, could board and then the plane your legs. empty their cash drawer and beg culd continue on itsioume-" "--:-- - Some planes just hang out at the ..... : ....... r ....... _vJ ........ -_ :=-- not to oe nurt. trot l ve mso naa agents who seem to have more stamina and just assume I am with the Japanese Kabuki theater com- pany. Anyway so this guy starts blah, blah, blah in a loud voice all over the place. His cohorts are killing themselves laughing. He's cov- ered everything from the compa- ny's secret new product line to the president's ATM pin number, which he happened to see by mis- take. Nothing is sacred. The dialogue drones on and on, reaching new levels of sound and annoyance until everyone else's optic nerve is severed in half, like a Velcro lined coat pocket is being slowly ripped open. I have readthe same paragraph over and over again in the one book I brought with me. It took me 250 pages to get to the killer in this book, but now I can't find out who he is anymore because I lost it a hundred pages ago when I went to the bathroom and contem- plated slashing my wrists, but couldn't find a razor. What's even more irritating is that I know this guy is mute at home. The last.time he had a con- versation with his wife was when the headlines read, "Dewey Beats Truman." Even the fact that her brother called to say that he was quitting his high paying job to run off with a nun to the South American rain forest to set up an herb shop, does- n't equate into the courtesy that he should tell his wife. Hey I knew it before I left the airport. Women have their moment too, but not in front of strangers. Please. We are too busy figuring stuff out that impact the future of our lives; stuff like how does Angelina Joline get those big puffy lips. Is it the high salt diet or W hat? . .. =