October 30th, 2019
Ruben Garcia is an impressive man. He has been running Annunciation House (parent organization for Casa Vides, Casa Romero, and Casa de Refugiado in El Paso) for over forty years, so he knows what he’s doing. Ruben sat with our group at a table in the Café Mayapan. He ordered himself an avocado salad, and stared at us for a moment. Then he asked us why we had come from Wisconsin to participate in the Border Awareness Experience. I’m not sure what answers we gave to him, but he did not seem to be impressed.
Ruben responded to us like this:
“YOU DON’T BELONG HERE! You don’t belong on the border! You belong back home in Wisconsin! You let Trump get elected! Why didn’t you do your homework? You need to go home and make sure that Trump, and Pence, get impeached! Failing that, you need to make sure that they do not get re-elected!”
Okay, we love you too.
From there, Ruben launched into a rant. It was a passionate, intelligent sort of rant. He knew his stuff, and he knew how drive home his point.
He told us, “Things here are BAD!”
Like really bad. Like they have never, ever been this bad before.
I was mildly irritated. Having served in the Army, I have been yelled at by professionals. Yeah, I guess we were all just ignorant tourists, but we were trying to do the right thing.
I spoke to Ruben, “Okay, so, I was initially a little shocked by what you said, but you’re right: we don’t belong here. I figured that out when I pulled into the driveway at Casa Vides. However, I had to come here in order to know that I don’t belong here.”
He smiled faintly. He said, “I am sure you all know that what I meant was that you all have work to do back home.”
Ruben had many other things to say to us (in a calmer voice). He spoke about our country’s responsibility to the migrants. Our country keeps the drug trade going. Forty billion dollars a year flows from us to Mexico to pay for illegal drugs. That money pays for a lot of corruption and violence, in Mexico and throughout the rest of Latin America. Our insatiable hunger for drugs has caused this humanitarian disaster.
Ruben gave examples of families fleeing from the gangs and the cartels. Someone asked him if it would help if we told people back home about the personal stories of migrant families. Ruben didn’t think that would necessarily help. He said,
“Justice has to stand on its own feet.”
I think he meant that the abuse of migrants by our government is obvious. Our complicity in their suffering is obvious. If people can’t see all that, then telling them a sob story about a poor migrant family won’t change their minds.
Ruben told us that we shouldn’t have a War on Drugs. We need a War on Addiction. The Border Patrol and the Wall won’t stop the flow of drugs to the north. The market is too big and too lucrative. Ruben said that the emphasis has to be on helping addicts and reducing consumption. If people in America stopped buying smack, coke, and meth, then there would be no market, and there would be no cartels.
Eventually, the discussion ended. we had to go somewhere else to listen to somebody else.
When we left, I noticed that Ruben had barely touched his avocado salad.