Musings from November 24, 2008:
Sitting on the floor at Birmingham International Airport waiting for boarding time to return to California from a pilgrimage to Fort Benning, Georgia, to protest the continued operation of the School of the Americas or School of Assassins. Exhausted and yet invigorated by all that happened. Need to sleep for a couple of days…
My already sixty-year-old body if you count the time in my mother’s womb is not happy with long hours or with activism. It protests violently, the feet swelling and blisters appearing, and I feel as if any second, if I don’t ‘get sleep now,’ I will drop to the floor and throw a temper tantrum. I am sooo tired, and angry to an extent at my own body’s betrayal.
The other thing is that my eyes fail me; my glasses are not bifocals, so the writing is blurry. New glasses will cost about 250, and so for now, that will have to wait, I STILL HAVE the ugly lined bifocals I bought when my daughter Caterina had her accident with her eyes.
I feel as though if I start writing about this event I WILL begin to cry again, as I did so often in the past three days. Saturday we started at 9 in the morning and went on through the day, from the Convention Center to the stage in front of the gates and back to the Convention Center. The stories, each of them, gruesome and dreadful and unbelievable, and even more unbelievable the fact that these folks were coming to speak the truth and might return to be killed or tortured or both once they returned to their counttries. For it has happened before…
There was María Elena Bustamante, whose brother, a young doctor in Guatemala who was denouncing the practices of the military, was ‘disappeared, tortured, killed.’ How terrible to have a young brother who disappears and about whose death you can only make assumptions, all bad.
Mario Venegas was also tortured in Chile during Pinochet’s terrible reign of terror, after an earlier September 11th that we sponsored and supported… He comes every year to share his testimony.
Nerys Gonzalez was tortured when she was 8 months pregnant with her son Daniel Ernesto in San Vicente, her crime being that of teaching the peasants to read and write. She had worked with Padre Rutilio Granda, who was tortured and killed by the military, and whose example inspired Oscar Romero, who was in turn killed. She worked side by side with Rutilio and then with Romero. She was thus a marked woman from then on.
She was tortured by being impaled with a flamethrower until, between the terrible pain, and watching and hearing the tortured screams of the campesinos of San Vicente, all of whom were massacred, she fainted, assumed dead, and dumped into a pile of dead bodies. She was later found and taken to a hospital, and was in a coma for four months. Her baby died but she said she woke up after six months asking about him, and touching her stomach, where she could still feel a pull from her now dead child.
Noé is a unionist whose brother was tortured and shot, in Guatemala. He said that although he knows he may be targeted, the labor struggle is in his blood. He is an organizer for the banana workers in Guatemala. He said that when we eat a Chiquita banana, each of them comes with a drop of blood attached.
I interpreted twice for Gerardo Cajamarca of Colombia. Gerardo was a leader of the SINALTRAINAL union in Colombia at the forefront of the struggle of Coca-Cola workers and the international Boycott Killer Coke campaign. He closed the event; he screamed loudly, and asked me to do the same: NO VENIMOS A ROGAR JUSTICIA, VENIMOS A EXIGIR JUSTICIA. (We do not come here to beg for justice; we come to demand justice!)
Notes from September 28, 2015:
I have not seen Santiago Masferrer, who owns El Buen Amigo in Buffalo, and who was tortured for more than two years because of his help for the poor in Chile. I never interpreted for him, but every year I bought a poncho to support his work. He told me that he spent the two years in a 9 x 12 cell with 11 other men. You could not stand up in the cell, and they were locked in it from 5 in the afternoon to 8:30 in the morning, without bathrooms, but having to resort to empty paint cans. If their families didn’t bring them food they went hungry…
My son has been in “the hole” in the Deueul Correctional Center just because that is what Deueul does with temporary prisoners. They call it “administrative segregation.” Recently a man who was in jail for a parking ticket died while on “suicide watch.” He was denied medication by prison authorities and died in terrible withdrawal. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/family-sues-after-man-dies-while-in-jail-for-unpaid-parking-ticket_56044469e4b00310edfa778b
My son has been denied medication several times and gone into withdrawal. Recently he had what was later diagnosed as an “anxiety attack” while withdrawing from denied medication. The psychiatrist who had prescribed Effexor “forgot” to renew the medication. His symptoms resembled those of a heart attack…
Although the conditions are perhaps less harsh than those in Pinochet’s prisons, our prison system in the US is execrable. I am told that as a mother I have “no standing” to complain before the courts. I beg to differ. With Emile Zola when he protested the jailing of Alfred Dreyfuss, I continue to stand in protest. J’accuse!!!