My reason to come to America differs from most other people: I am no longer a tourist, I am not an Immigrant, I am not in search of education or employment
I am here to help a poor segment of the population I have chosen to serve and I am privileged to serve: the Native Americans.
The onslaught of the earlier Immigrants from Europe, pushed the native americans into unwanted corners and remote areas so I find myself in places that no visitors to the USA or even americans themselves do not go
How many of you have visited
Eagle Butte, South Dakota?
Eagle Pass, Texas?
So I have very little contact with the reality of american life, especially in the polemic times we are living now.
I am treated well at the airlines, airports and rent a car counters. I shop at Trader Joe's where I buy my weeks supply of food before venturing to the interior. So my contact with "real" america" is limited indeed.
Yesterday I had a glimpse of what is happening in a part of this country. It will take more than a person to make this country "great" again, it would take the collective will and a complete change in consciousness of this very class divided nation.
I visited a Walmart Store in a medium sized city in Iowa. For those of you who want to learn more about the mentality of the people who live in those parts, please read Bill Bryson's comical book A LOST CONTINENT, travels through small town America.
Walmart is a symbol of globalization, exploitation and marginalization and cheap imported goods. I wanted to buy some bananas (organic bananas three times the price of ordinary bananas) but water extremely cheap.
I tried to smile at people, like I would do in Cuba but no one returned the smile. People looked morose and downtrodden and there were symbols of poverty everywhere. The place was full, it was a Sunday, with Mexican labourers off for the day shopping with their families, and gaggle of burqah clad somalis( why did the US government place them in this harsh climate?), american blacks and poor white people.
I felt sad, I missed my little island of laughter where there is no Walmart and where finding water especially with gas takes work and walk and missed my friends there. A suitably chubby girl of mexican origin with a rather lovely name Marisol served me, but she looked at me under her heavy mascara with no trace of friendship. My Hello was not returned and when I began speaking Spanish, she completely turned off. As Octavio Paz, the Nobel Prize winning Mexican writer has said: Mexican Americans are a race of Shame, they are not proud of their ancestries. If Marisol had been a Cuban (first of all she wont be working at Walmart but instead at home doing her homework), even if she were born in USA, she would have happily replied in Spanish as Cubans are proud of their language, even if they are proficient in English. Mexicans take knowledge of Spanish as an inferiority complex as if they cant speak English. I am a native English speaker and I love speaking Spanish!
The only cheerful person in that conglomeration was the older lady greeting people entering the store, she returned my smile, not the burqah clad somalis with stern faces, Black Americans with their sad faces and the Mexicans with their shamed faces. A Black American looked at me threateningly as I pushed innocently my cart too close to him and cursed me beneath his breath.
I felt indeed very sad.
They are poor, I said to myself, their hopes for the future has already been defined by their limited capacity to reach the measure of success in this country: Money. Mexicans have lost their symbols and rituals and thus any source of strength, the Somalis are trying to create something without realizing that their creation is taking them away from their American dream. Poor Immigrant women from Morocco or Somalia wear buqah in the west, and their sisters in their home countries wear traditional clothes, so they are trying to create a tradition which is alien to this society which prides in integration and not separation. and to which they have willingly migrated.
I have been a recipient of the best of the American culture, hospitality, open mindedness and generosity.
I will never forget when I arrived here as a Exchange Student while studying Medicine in London, the Faculty and Staff went out of their way to make me welcome, make sure that my life was comfortable and that I learned as much as I could. I am always grateful to them. I especially think of the late Dr Howard Lessner and Dr Phil Glade both of whom helped me at JMH when I was a Foreign student in these shores. I still remain foreign, but I am well integrated into the psyche of the America, I understand the aspirations and desperations but as my good friend Lincoln Myers of Trinidad said: we don't share its future goals and directions.
As I write this, I realize that the best antidote to these social upheavals in Europe and USA is to continue devoting my professional and social time to others.
American Indians believe that goodness of your action is reflected in the generations that follow you. I know LBGS is blessed so is the miracle recovery of my sister JRC-S.