Sunday, May 31, 2015

Loss of the Indispensable Ones

There are those who fight one day and they are good.
There are others who fight one year and they are better.
There are those who fight many years and they are very good.
But there are those who fight a lifetime:
those are the ones who are indispensable.
-       Bertolt Brecht

Those are words that were heard often last week after the tragic death in a car accident of Ignacio Suárez Huape and his wife, Inés Montaño. Indispensable—and incredible human beings. I knew them before they were married in the mid-eighties, and later I loved spending time with them and their wonderful children, Alondra and Mauricio (now in their twenties; Alondra was involved in the accident but is now recovering; Mauricio wasn't involved). Nacho had a more public profile (congressman, journalist, human rights activist), but Inés was supportive in all of his endeavors—besides being involved in her own causes. They will definitely be missed as the struggle for life with dignity and justice continues in Mexico.
Nacho and Inés at home one evening
I am most grateful to my great friend Gerardo Debbink for calling me immediately when he heard the sad news. Gerardo is the founding director of Quest Mexico, a non-profit organization in Cuernavaca devoted to social justice through transformative and experiential education. Hundreds of groups from Canada and the United States have taken part in Gerardo’s short-term and semester programs. And Nacho Huape was a frequent participant in Gerardo’s programs—I daresay an unforgettable one for all concerned. Thank you, Gerardo.
Gerardo Debbink of Quest Mexico and Nacho—two great persons
Nacho lived in Cuernavaca, State of Morelos, but he was always concerned about the difficult situation here in the mountains of the State of Guerrero. He called me by phone just a couple of weeks ago to talk about the upcoming state elections here in the state; the elections are scheduled for Sunday, June 7. There has been a lot of violence lately, and no one is too sure just what will happen on June 7. Indeed, in some places (including Tlapa), many groups have said that they won’t allow voting to take place. And more police and army have already shown up to see that the voting does take place. We’ll have to wait and see what happens.
The political advertising is still up for Ulises Fabián, candidate for mayor in Chilapa—a Chilapa
with order and peace, according to this sign. But he was murdered on May 1, 2015. Rest in peace, Ulises.
But life goes on in the mountains. And there are always lots of little signs of life. For example, the other day I happened to encounter Josefa, a woman who was operated on twice for cancer—once in 2002 and once in 2005. In both cases, Mission Mexico helped her get this medical care in Mexico City. She is fine now, and she asked how Padre Federico (Father Fred Monk, founding director of Mission Mexico) is. She will never forget his name.
Josefa—ten years after her last cancer operation
And in Xalpitzahuac last evening, Bishop Dagoberto Sosa Arriaga, bishop of Tlapa, unveiled and blessed a plaque beside the front door of a multi-purpose building (kitchen, health center, education center, meeting room) that is now known as the “Padre Fred Monk Room.”
Sister Lorena and Bishop Dagoberto during the unveiling and blessing of Father Fred's plaque
The light wasn’t great and I’m not a very good photographer, but the plaque (see photo below) reads:

To Mission Mexico — Canada.
Father Fred Monk
In gratitude
For your generosity and commitment
With our Nahuatl sisters and brothers
In the Mountain of Guerrero.
Thank you.
Sisters of St. Philip Neri in Xalpitzahuac
May 2015

Plaque for the Father Fred Monk Room (pretend you don't see the reflection of my image
as I took the photo). "Nahuatl" is the name of the local indigenous culture and language.
And it was a special honour to be invited on Mother’s Day, May 10, to the home of Doña Marcelina in San José Lagunas. Back in 1985, Doña Marcelina and her husband, Angel, invited me often to their home for a meal. This time it was her daughters who prepared the meal, but it was still a great visit.
Mike, Doña Marcelina, and her daughter Estela
In October of 1984, a younger sister of mine was ill in Canada with kidney problems, and I “gave” her a kidney (I put “gave” in quotation marks because I still tell her that she should pay me for the kidney that I “sold” her—no luck so far!). The doctors told me that I should take things easy for a few months, so when I returned to Mexico, I went to live in San José Lagunas for four months. I did take things easy: a bit of carrying water and firewood and a lot of visiting and learning. That was thirty years ago but I still have fond memories of those days.
Mike with children from San José Lagunas in 1985. Some of the children are
still alive thirty years later; too many aren't.
This coming Friday, June 5, I will be flying to Canada. The first week I will be in and around Calgary (is it politically correct to think of Cochrane, Medicine Hat, Bow Island, and Lethbridge as “around Calgary”?) Then I will visit family and friends in Regina before returning to Mexico on June 22. I hope to see old friends (and since I taught in Calgary in the late 70s and early 80s, yes, they will be old—okay, at least older). Have a great week, everyone.
Nacho, Alondra, Mauricio, and Inés.
Thanks for so very much, my friends.

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