Saturday, September 6, 2014

Day of the Migrant

Just got word from the Catholic Parish in Zacualpa, Quiché, that today they are celebrating the Day of the Migrant. One of the Franciscan nuns who has worked at the parish for many years, Sister Ana Maria, is my friend on Facebook, and when she communicates with me via that medium, it's usually something interesting, and so when she messaged me today I paid attention.

Zacualpa is a town that was the site of many atrocities during the armed conflict. The church was used as a torture and killing chamber, and the church community has resisted efforts to erase that history.  It is also a municipality that has had a large outmigration to the U.S.  Probably about a third of the Guatemalans in New Bedford are from the Zacualpa area, and throughout the municipality one can see signs of migra-dollars: new construction, houses with two or three stories and all sorts of ornate architectural curlicues. Some years back, on my first trip to Guatemala, I met Sr. Ana Maria and she took me to a "Misa del Migrante" (mass for the migrants) that was being held in the home of a lay religious leader.

Apparently, this has become more institutionalized, and now it has moved to the church proper. According to Sr. Ana Maria, yesterday a representative of the Papal Nuncio visited Zacualpa, and they performed the "stations of the cross" of the migrant. I assume that this a version of the stations of the cross that marks the hardships of the journey north - -we did something similar in New Bedford one year for the commemoration of the anniversary of the Michael Bianco raid.  Several men took turns carrying a large wooden cross from the church,and as we walked through the streets of New Bedford, we marked stations that had to do with migration, but also the experience of migrants in the U.S. It would be interesting to compare notes on what exactly were the "stations".

Today they are going to be having music and messages in the atrium of the church, then a mass, and afterwards they will set loose balloons with a message of peace and blessings for everyone. The offerings from today's service will be sent to the "House of the Migrant" in the parish in San Marcos -- another municipality from which there has been substantial outmigration.