Letter from Director of Anunciation House, El Paso, TX 2012

Thursday, August 30, 2012 7:43 PM

Letter from Director of Anunciation House, El Paso, TX 2012
Summary of Caravan 4 Peace Events in El Paso

THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! 

A profound thank you for your time, effort, and hard work in helping to make the US Peace Caravan’s visit to El Paso so impactful, meaningful, and successful. It was gratifying to see so many organizations and individuals come together in a common effort to bring emphasis to issues and a reality that all of us only know too well

I know that all of us received feedback from many different sources of how important and affected people were by the various events programmed for the Caravan’s visit. Time and again, Caravaneros themselves came up to me to express their gratitude for the welcome and support they felt in El Paso,

Beginning with the BNHR’s organized bienvenida, the Caravan’s organizing staff told me that it was overwhelming and the largest reception they had received up to that point on the journey. Equally impressive were their comments about the passage, by both El Paso’s City Council and El Paso’s County Commissioners’ Court of the Resolution in support of the five issues of the Caravan and the Arms Trafficking Code of Conduct. Other cities have also passed resolutions but none as strong and to the point as was done in El Paso. The discussion by city council members just prior to its passage underscores the challenges faced in having constructive dialogue about the issues that have cost the lives of so many in Mexico.

A special thanks has to be extended to the BNHR and the Food Committee for providing meals to so many. Mercado Mayapan came to life with the voices of so many who gave witness to the challenges that human rights face in our border community. Likewise, in a very different way, the Multipurpose Center at St. Patrick Cathedral came to life with the mariachi music, the incredible food service provided by the St. Patrick community and the Chaparral Prison Ministry members, and the art posters on display at the Cathedral from Peace of Art..

All of the feedback I received on the Encuentro affirmed the superb job that the Encuentro Committees did in providing a forum where a real interchange between the Caravaneros and members of various sectors of El Paso’s leadership was held on the issues that the Caravan is raising as it travels across the country. A repeated complaint from the Caravaneros was: “We didn’t have enough time. We wanted more time.” Caravan organizers told me that the Caravaneros was a daring experience in bringing together community leaders in a setting where the Caravaneros were able to share their stories directly with individuals who have influence in different sectors of the El Paso community. The Encuentro experience should serve as “food for thought” for future possible Caravaneros here on the border.

Perhaps the committee that ended up facing the greatest challenge was that of the Gun Trafficking Sign-On Committee. It was eye opening to see how difficult it was to get even one local gun shop owner or dealer to publicly sign on to the Code of Conduct. The committee contacted many gun shop owners and dealers only to receive a “thank you but no thank you” response. Perhaps more surprising was the difficulty that the committee had in getting representatives from churches to publicly speak on in support of the Code of Conduct. Everyone is in agreement that a very high percentage of the guns used in the violence in Mexico come from the U.S. but many are so reluctant to say anything that might be interpreted as being in favor of gun control. Even though the Code of Conduct is categorically NOT about gun control and is only about voluntary responsible gun sales, there is a real fear of speaking publicly. Kudos to Brother Nick, Cathedral High School principal, Father Arturo Banuelas,  Socorro and Sunland Park Mayors Trinidad Lopez and Javier Perea, and Jamye Ward, Member of First Christian Church, for their public witness on the devastating consequences of gun trafficking from the U.S. into Mexico. Congratulations to the members of the Gun Trafficking Sign-On Committee for bringing emphasis and focus to an issue that is extremely important to the Caravan.

One of the most emotional and moving moments of the day was the march/procession from the downtown Plaza to the site of the projection of the names of victims on the walls of the Annunciation House building. Seeing the names of thousands of victims from throughout Mexico slowly scroll up the walls of the building was both extremely difficult for the victims traveling with the Caravan as well as powerfully re-energizing. At the end of the evening as well as in the early morning right before departing, Caravaneros shared, “Seeing all of those names on the walls reminded me why it is that I am on this Caravan. It renewed me and all the rest of the Caravaneros I and now we can continue on our journey.

The Caravan’s visit to El Paso was extremely successful. Press coverage of the visit was non-stop and the media committee’s constant issuance of press releases helped ensure good local coverage but also national and international coverage. The movement of so many people to and from so many events was done so very well. One of my fears was that of timing and it was amazing to see how “on time” we managed to keep everything. Committee Chairs were amazing and enough cannot be said about how smoothly the housing of well over 100 Caravaneros went. When the Caravan arrived on Monday night, host families and centers all connected with their respective Caravaneros. One of the things Caravaneros mentioned to us was that El Paso was the first city where all of them were provided a bed on which to sleep on. Evidently in some cities sleeping accommodations included sleeping bags on gym floors. Transportation from the pick-up points and then returns the following morning all went well and on departure day when the Caravaneros had to be at Annunciation House at 5 AM, they all were. The Food committee was amazing in seeing to it that there was food in all of the centers used to house Caravaneros as well as in packing tons of sack lunches for the Caravaneros to take with them on the road.

All of us know that in 2010 Juarez became the epicenter of the violence in Mexico. No other city in all of Mexico has seen the violence that Juarez has. No other city has had so many of its residents displaced. Circumstances have placed on El Paso, sister city to Juarez, a special responsibility in responding to the violence, reality, and human rights violations that emanate from that reality. We are all aware of the challenges involved in raising consciousness of what so many in Mexico face and the state of human rights in this border community. To the extent that hosting the U.S. Peace Caravan is an example of that response, El Paso did well.

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