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A Wonderful Latina/o Workshop

I recently attended a workshop in New York, USA, for Latina/o people from throughout the Americas. It was led by Lorenzo Garcia, the International Liberation Reference Person for Chicanos/as. There were about forty of us, nine to sixty-nine years old, from many nationalities and class backgrounds, with diverse sexual and religious identities, and with our beautiful white, Indigenous, and Black physical characteristics and attendant cultures. What an amazing group!

Lorenzo started by giving the non-USers an opportunity to discharge in front of the group on what it had taken for them to get to the workshop. He then put attention on the young people and young adults.

Several men were assigned traditional female jobs: snacks, beauty and order, and thinking about the young people and their families. And they weren’t left alone to perform them. We consistently worked as a group.

We talked about race. That was useful for me as a white Cuban, because I could see that the racism directed against Black people is not a personal, family, or Cuban phenomenon but a much larger issue. I’ve always known this, but it’s hard to remember, because we usually work on racism within our own constituencies (in my case, with Cuban Co-Counselors who are mostly light skinned).

On Sunday we took an unhurried hour or more before lunch to say goodbye and appreciate each other and ourselves. What a wonderful experience! This is frequently done at the end of workshops and feels rushed. What a gift to be able to enjoy each other and savor our time and accomplishments together. What could possibly be more important? I certainly didn’t get a chance to say goodbye and appreciate people as a young person when I left Cuba, transferred to different schools in United States, and so on.

PEOPLE TARGETED FOR DESTRUCTION

In a class on people targeted for destruction, Lorenzo talked about the self-destructive patterns installed on our people by genocide, imperialism, and colonialism, and how these patterns are passed down through generations within our families. I don’t believe one can talk about Latina/o liberation without addressing people targeted for destruction.

Veronica LaCrue wrote an article, “People Targeted for Destruction,” in the July 2013 Present Time. I use it as a reference whenever I think about the topic. In it she stated that this constituency is composed of “those of us who have difficult lives that are made more difficult by the systems that are designed to ‘help’ us” and that “it’s difficult to sustain stability in the face of addictions; suicide; homelessness; abusive relationships; single parenting; single grandparenting; being in the foster care, legal, court, and school systems; . . . having children that have been shot, imprisoned, and beaten and have beaten others.” She added, “I know firsthand the callousness and indifference toward people who are unable to sustain themselves in the way society dictates.”

I’ve repeatedly struggled to understand the “why” of addictions within my family. Sooja Kelsey wrote an article, “Quitting Sugar and Unhooking the Pull of Addiction,” in the July 2014 Present Time. She said, “I think that sometimes feelings kill people. They can feel so unbearable that any escape from them, including death, seems better than continuing to feel them. For groups that are systematically denied access to vital resources of society, addictions can be an alternate choice. They can enable people to stay alive and cope.” While I’m not happy with the addictions, I’m thankful that for the moment my loved ones are alive.

The medical community has recently coined the term ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences). It’s now widely accepted that people who are exposed to certain stressors in their early lives (physical and sexual abuse, domestic violence, parental substance abuse, parental incarceration, homelessness, and so on) are sicker and die younger than their counterparts who haven’t been. Well, duh [how obvious].

Over the years I’ve felt a constellation of feelings—anger, confusion, heartache—about loved ones who are targeted for destruction, but the hardest has been hopelessness. To counteract the hopelessness, I remember what Tim Jackins says about hope—that there is hope as long as we are alive and have our minds. I also understand that hopelessness is only my early distress and try to work there consistently. It is always old and totally dischargeable.

Berta Ramos-Ramirez

New York, New York, USA

Reprinted from the RC e-mail discussion list for leaders of Latinos/as and Chicanos/as

(Present Time 186, January 2017)


Last modified: 2021-06-01 12:29:59+00