viernes, mayo 16, 2008

We all were (or will be) immigrants

By César Fernando Zapata

FORT MYERS, Florida -- Back in the 1950's, had you wanted to make people laugh, the best joke you could have told was this: "Spain will be a rich, first-world, country".

Those listening would think that was an excellent joke.

Why? Because Spain, during the 1950's, was a poor country, or even more than poor: Mexico (itself a poor country) was even richer than Spain.

Even Argentina was considered a wealthier and more developed country than backward Spain.

Back then, absolutely nobody would have thought that, 50 years later, the average Spaniard would have an income 4 times bigger than the average Mexican or Argentnan.

Cases like this one support what our grandparents had always said: "Life has many turns".

Unfortunately, it's not uncommon to find people who take their material well-being for granted, as if it was always so. Or as if it will never end.

Some citizens from rich countries with high immigration (like the U.S. and Spain) have forgotten that one day they were immigrants too. Or that their parents or grandparents were immigrants.

(Most of the time, they were not only immigrants, but poor, unemployed and even hungry immigrants.)

A full stomach makes us forget.

As human beings, we all are immigrants, or have been once.

And those of us who haven't needed to become immigrants, might become so in the future.

We can neither discount that our children or our grandchildren might become immigrants one day. We don't know.

"Life has many turns".

So, how can we ask other countries to treat well our immigrant children and grandchildren in the future, when we can't give this same human treatment to our own immigrants today?

Oddly, one of the best examples of human treatment to foreign immigrants is given by a group of poor women from a town called "La Patrona", near the Mexican city of Orizaba, Veracruz.

Those who saw the documentary "De Nadie" may remember the place.

Every day, the women of "La Patrona" cook for many people. But those people are not relatives, nor even their fellow citizens: They are Central American undocumented immigrants, who travel almost dangling from trains that cross the area, towards the United States.

And every day, right on time, the ladies of "La Patrona" stand next to the railroards, and throw bags full of food for those immigrants they don't even know.

The logic question the documentary producers asked these women was: Why do you do it? Why helping people —immigrants— you don't even know?

One of the women answered amid cries and broken words, in one of the most poignant scenes of the movie:

"Because I have a son too, and I don't want him to become an immigrant in the future", she said. "There are children in that train, too, and one of them could have been mine".

We all want good things (like the wealth of the rich countries) last forever. But we don't know.

"Life has many turns", it is said. To this saying, maybe we should add another proverbial truth: "What goes around, comes around". (

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