Faces and Places of Colonia San Antonio
Every year we are privileged to be able to help the Medina family and all the others who help out with Desayuno de los Pollos. This year, thanks to help from so many of YOU, we have already been able to purchase 2500 whole chickens and pack up 1500 packs of despensas, or 10 days worth of food. This should feed about 13,000 families this year. We also take gently used clothes, toys and candy to share. In the slideshow below are photos of just a few of the people you touch. And, of course, they are people who very much touch us back in turn, making our holidays bright. (Click the arrows in the slideshow below to view photos more quickly. Please let me know what you think of these portraits! Thanks!)
Yesterday I went out, as usual, with Yolanda and Jorge, to meet with community leaders of Colonia San Antonio. We handed out about 900 (!) tickets for food to members of the community. Why is this important? Because Colonia San Antonio, as so many other colonias on the outskirts of town (we give out food along 7-9 routes every year; San Antonio is just one of them), is an invasión. This means that the land on which the houses are built is privately owned, and the people living there are squatters. Normal procedure in these circumstances is that poor people move in, “squat” on the land, build homes out of pallets, recycled tarp, or even cardboard or metal. Eventually they band together and string electrical wire for themselves, and lay pipes for water. They have now done this in Colonia San Antonio.
Five or so years ago, when we first started going there to hand out chickens, they had neither water nor electricity. Now they do. I don’t see any transformers or breakers or anything, pretty much just a very long extension cord running from house to house. But, they do have electricity. Once the community grows large and successful enough, the city, or municipio, decides to access the colonia. The city pays the landowner for the land, and the people living in the invasión are required to start paying taxes.
The good news is, the squatters get to own their land and their homes. Some of the people who occupy the land in these invasiones, however, do not live there full time. Some come out to visit the homes they have only on the weekend, like a (very basic) country house. Others farm the land, but live in town. They basically squat as a way of making (a bit of) money, eventually, when the city decides to give the squatters a deed to the land they occupy.
Yolanda, Jorge and I go out here to meet with community leaders, so that they can take us around, home to home. They can tell us who lives here full time, and who only happens to be here once in a while. The community leaders tell us which families are most in need (maybe they need two chickens or packs of food, or extra clothing), and which are doing better than others. In this way, we can be as equitable as possible in what we hand out. This week, we were there from about 10 am till 2:00 pm.
It is one of my favorite days of the year. I am able to meet with incredible community leaders, people who themselves have fallen on hard times, don’t have much in the way of money, but who have the caring and the fortitude, the vision and the sense of justice, to better their communities. I also have the privilege to meet the people I’ve met with over the past five or so years that we’ve been going to Colonia San Antonio. I get to visit with people we know, and get a glimpse into how people there live.
This year, I made a point of taking photos of two things: the faces and the places of Colonia San Antonio. The first slide show, above, is of some of the faces of this invasión. You can see the joy, the dignity, and the difficulty these people experience every day. I have so very much to learn from so many of these people. I am so grateful to be able to meet with them and, hopefully, share with them a bit of joy and ease their burden just a bit.
The second slide show, below, is of the places: the homes, stores, and plazas of this colonia. It amazes me how simply people here live, how hard they work for what they have, yet how clean they keep their homes, the care and love they bestow on their children. How, despite the dust EVERYWHERE, most everyone has clean clothes and skin and hair. Nearly every home is decorated for the holidays, and many of them have beautiful demonstrations of religiosity as well, especially for the Virgen de Guadalupe. (Click on the arrows in the slideshow below to view all photos more quickly.)
You are most welcome to join us on Christmas Eve morning, Wednesday this week, to caravan out to the 7-9 routes we’ll go on and hand out chickens, food, clothes, toys and candy. We’ll meet at Quince Letras downtown, 6:30 am if you have a pickup truck, 7:00 am if you are coming to help out. We should be finished by noon. Merry Christmas and see you Wednesday morning!
Part of the #MyGlobalLife Link-Up.