Friday, September 27, 2013

Hunger and Misery in La Montaña

I first met Father Lawrence Moran, CSB, in 1978. He was visiting St. Mary’s High School in downtown Calgary. This was the school where he had been a teacher for decades before retiring and moving to Mexico.

Father Moran told me that he wanted to move from his present location in the State of Puebla to the area of La Montaña in the State of Guerrero. He had read in the newspapers that this mountainous region in Mexico was having a very dry rainy season and that thousands of indigenous people were confronting hunger and misery. Father Moran wanted to accompany these people and offer the solace of his presence, his love, his solidarity, and his gospel message.

Jump ahead thirty-five years. The indigenous people of La Montaña are again confronting hunger and misery. Only this time it is being caused, not by the lack of rain, but by the torrential rains caused last week by Hurricane Manuel.

This has been, according to the government, the worst “natural” disaster in the history of the State of Guerrero. The raging rains caused massive mudslides that destroyed homes, parts of villages, and roads. The flooding rivers washed away people, homes, animals, crops, belongings.

Perhaps the worst part is that the poor peasant farmers here in La Montaña try to eke out a living by planting corn and beans on the mountainsides. The rains were so heavy that in most places, the layer of topsoil that allowed such planting was also washed away. The soil was stripped away, and now the fields are bare rock or hard clay.

At the moment this disaster has caught the attention of all Mexico, and help is streaming in from all over the country. But the fear is that once this stops being headline news, these efforts will end, and the people will be left to strive on their own to stay alive in this challenging environment.

The Catholic Church is most active here in trying to make a difference. The local retreat center is still housing hundreds of displaced people. Priests, seminarians, sisters, and lay people—coordinated by the beloved local bishop, Don Dagoberto—are doing what they can to see that food, water, clothing, medicines, etc., are delivered to isolated communities whose roads and telephone services were destroyed.

Mission Mexico wants to help. People here appreciate this solidarity. At the same time, people suggest that the more important time for solidarity from Mission Mexico will be in the future, after the television crews and the government officials move on to other “big news” stories. That’s when the real struggle among the people for life will begin.

Thank you, reader, for supporting Mission Mexico and, through Mission Mexico, these beautiful people. I know that many readers can identify with the challenges of a major “natural” disaster. God bless, and have a great week.

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