Buenas Dias dear reader! I have just finished another wonderful breakfast here at Hotel Jovel. I am sitting at the table conversing with Patsy, Erin, Neil, Traverse, Ann and Theresa. We are talking about how we are reacting to how “life as usual” here is quite different from what we are used to seeing in the United States, particularly the more militaristic sights, like a man in camouflage standing watch outside the airport in Tuxtla Gutierrez with a very big gun.
For me, the first sense of being somewhere different happened as I entered the airplane in Phoenix to go to Mexico City. I experienced a slight internal reaction as I first noticed all the brown faces in the seats. Oh! Duh! We are going to Mexico City. It would follow that the flight would be full of people with brown skin. I was disconcerted by my reaction. I had entered the plane in Minneapolis and did not have that reaction, even though the people on that plane were all strangers to me. But, they were mostly white, like me.
In Mexico City, we got off the plane and headed for Immigration. There were two lines–one for Mexicanas and one for Extranjeros—Foreigners. This was a reminder to me that I do not belong here. I am a guest. A visitor. On our van ride on the way to San Cristobal we drove through a couple checkpoints. This is where the military and the policia federal stop vehicles theoretically to “keep the community safe” but interestingly enough we were not stopped. Two van loads of foreigners were not stopped. There were some vehicles that had been stopped. Amy asked Teresa about the checkpoints and why it was we could drive through. She told us that we could get stopped, but most likely not. It was the locals that were stopped. “Where are you going? Where have you been? What is in your car? Who is with you? Do you have your ID? It is the local people who are regularly stopped and question as they go about their daily lives.
I tried to imagine what that would be like in the Twin City area. What if there was more than one checkpoint like that on my commute to and from work? It is far from my reality but it is a daily reality for the people here.
Last night some of the group went out for dinner after our worship time. Theresa came back with the following thoughts: “Tonight I enjoyed supper at Restaurante Tipico. I felt full and decided to go outside to smoke. Outside stood a man with a pretty powerful looking gun. Question…how does one distinguish who represents who? Was this man military, paramilitary, police, or perhaps a Zapatista? Who is safe? Who is not? It is not normal at home to walk the streets and see people openly brandishing such weapon.”
In a poignant contrast to seeing people with guns, our group is experiencing a comfortable and safe experience. In a few moments we will meet and walk downtown to catch some taxis to take us to the Universidad de la Tierra. We have no sense of fear. In fact, even though we are foreigners here we are feeling well cared for and perfectly safe. How different that is for the people who live here.