Every year, when I go out with Yolanda to pass out tickets for chickens for Mazatlán’s neediest to eat on Christmas, I am amazed at people’s resilience. Living in such difficult conditions—tar paper shacks with rain water trickling (or sometimes crashing) through makeshift roofs and running in on dirt floors, they smile joyfully, decorate their homes with Christmas decorations, plant their yards with flowers, fruit trees and vines, hibiscus and vegetables, and build altars and shrines to those they worship. We find them working hard: washing clothes, sweeping their earthen floors, cooking on outdoor, makeshift stoves. Click on any photo to view it larger or watch a slideshow.
This year, instead of Colonia San Antonio, as we’ve done the past seven years, we went to Rincón de Mazatlán, in Colonia Universo. It’s always difficult. We can’t give chickens and foodstuff to everyone; we only have enough for 2500 families. We try to find the neediest: the disabled, the elderly living alone, those who are ill, injured or unemployed, widows with sick children, families living 13 or 18 people in one tarp-covered lean-to. There are so many of these, sadly.
I was tired when we finished today, yet Yolanda has gone out for the last five days straight, morning and night, to hand out tickets. She seems truly tireless, much more passionate and dedicated than I can dream of being. Oli and his crew have been packing rice, flour, sugar, oil, coffee—two weeks’ worth of foodstuff—every other day for two weeks. Many of you have contributed money, time and talent. A lot of work goes into feeding 2500 families over Christmas, and I am blessed, indeed, to be able to be part of the team. It’s a family tradition; our 22 year old has helped out since he was just six years old. Our nieces make and sell brownies to buy toys for the kids. One local 12 year old this year donated all her Barbie dolls with clothes and accessories in order to make other young girls happy. It’s such a beautiful effort.
Handing out tickets is always challenging. Whoever has a ticket will get a chicken the morning of December 24th. Community leaders want to tell us who to give things to, often because they want to buy votes for their political party with our donations. Or, they don’t want to give a chicken to a family that hasn’t paid their water or gas bill. We don’t want that. We want to help those in need; not play favorites or make demands. Churches will help people, too, but require them to attend their services. We are blessed with people in our community who build homes for the poor, but we are also told how neighbors scam the system, getting ministries to build homes that people who don’t ever plan to live in them rent out to make money.
Today we saw a manufacturing warehouse with an orchard next door, all surrounded by an expensive fence. The owner, we were told, lives in El Cid, and some government official gifted the person seven lots in this squatter community, despite the fact that most living here can barely scrape enough together to pay the property taxes required to eventually claim ownership of the property. Ah, corruption. Finding those who need the most help, who don’t have a voice, is not easy. We were cussed at by one man today when we refused to give him a ticket, yet neighbors told us he sells the surrounding land to unsuspecting buyers, even though he doesn’t own it, cheating them of their life savings. He lived in a nice brick home, and had a late model SUV, in big contrast to most who live here. Different members of families will come to us begging for a ticket, so that can get several sets of chicken and foodstuff; that’s why we need to keep track by house number, and travel with local people who know one the neighborhood and who’s who. Yet, so many people play favorites.
I look forward to Sunday morning, when we hand out the chickens, food, toys and clothes. It is so much fun. It makes Christmas. People are so happy when we arrive, so grateful. If you’d like to help, please join in. It’s a great experience for kids to see how people live without running water and other amenities. The information can be found at http://www.VidaMaz.com/Pollos.
Merry Christmas!I trust your holidays are filled with love and joy, and that the New Year brings you health, peace and community!