by Pat Rogucki, Mary’s Pence Board Member
In November of 2012, Mary’s Pence had a booth and sponsored a panel at Call To Action in Louisville, KY. In addition to the work, we were treated to illustrious and learned speakers, some well seasoned on the theological journey and others bringing new ideas. Their microphone delivery from well written papers was impressive and inspiring. However, for me, the highlight was a Monday night trip to the Catholic Worker, in downtown Louisville, where we met a diminutive indigenous woman from rural Guatemala. Juanita was a member of La Casita Center, a network of women’s groups engaged in education, advocacy, wellness and mutual support in support of the health and well being of the local Hispanic/Latino community.
Juanita shares her story of migrating to the U.S. with Pat in Louisville. Juanita spoke eloquently from the heart, without paper or microphone, as she recounted her story. She was a poor single mother who had worked on a farm until the owner finally sold the parcel where she had worked. She sought other ways to support her family, but found none. This is not unusual. The history of Latin America is one of exploitation of the land’s resources and its native labor force (for more information see Eduardo Galeano – Open Veins of Latin America). Military dictatorships and rule by the wealthy had little interest in creating jobs in order to have a ready supply of cheap labor for coffee, cotton, fruit, and vegetable farms.
Thus, Juanita made the decision to endure the rigors of the dangerous journey North and leave her children in the care of family. Juanita was not able to cross the border successfully and returned home. With the help of family, she made a second attempt and eventually was able to send for her children. Juanita is most grateful for the Catholic Worker where she is presently employed. Her oldest son had walked over with her on this dark night and would accompany her home. He is nineteen and a sophomore in high school. Juanita is determined to have him graduate.
In 1987, Mary’s Pence came into being, followed by our ESPERA program, in 2009. If ESPERA had been available when Juanita was looking for work to support her family, maybe she would not have had to leave Guatemala. Some of her “sisters” in rural Santa Cruz del Quiche, are benefiting from having access to credit through ESPERA to start small businesses. They are becoming economically empowered and can make their own decisions and a better life for their children. This is a small solution to the big economic problem that looms over Latin America, but it works.
Pat is a member of Sisters for Christian Community and spends each summer in El Salvador in a poor parish in San Salvador, the capital. Pat has a big heart and great love for the women of Latin America. She shows it by her many years of solidarity with them, here in the U.S. and in Latin America. She frequently travels with Gilda Larios, Mary’s Pence ESPERA Facilitator.