Ingrid, Arizona:

POOR correspondent - Posted on 30 June 2010

"Indigenous peoples, in particular those divided by international borders, have the right to maintain and develop contacts, relations and cooperation, including activities for spiritual, cultural, political, economic and social purposes, with other peoples across borders."
--U.N Declaration on Indigenous Peoples, Article 35

Tony Robles/PNN
Wednesday, April 28, 2010;

The manongs traveled 10 thousand miles, heading back home to Manilatown and the I-Hotel. They passed through every single place, heard every single sound--remembered every single face. They passed through Arizona, walking miles and miles, wading in the wetness of sand. The manongs were Filipinos who had not yet become old but they read the faces in the sand and in the rocks and one of the manongs saw a face in the rock. “It is Ingrid” he said, “Look at her beautiful face”.

The other manongs gathered around the rock and soon the birds circled above. The manong told the other manongs that they should plant something in that spot for Ingrid, to honor her when she arrives. The other manongs said he was crazy and told him that he had dragged them all the way to Arizona in the middle of nowhere—the desert.

The manong convinced the other manongs to start planting. They planted and planted and they traveled north to south and returned north. The manongs spent a lifetime planting. They could read the sky and could catch birds in the stillness of their bones.

Ingrid left Guatemala in the morning. Her heart whispered tengo miedo, mucho miedo. She kissed her kids goodbye and walked across the sky of rain and dirt and rock. She boarded a bus and read the faces, each one a sun waiting to rise. She fell asleep dreaming she was falling. She awoke and saw the coyote getting off the bus. She ran after him and was pushed into a car jammed with people.

They came to a wire fence, crossed it and walked for 6 hours. Ingrid’s feet were tired, the night was cold. The sound of crickets filled her ears. Everyone was thirsty but they found lemon and mango trees everywhere. And the voices of the manongs cried, “Ingrid, Ingrid”. Ingrid kept walking on the ancestral land that was hers: tengo miendo, mucho miendo.

Ingrid walks across the face of Arizona where the manongs honored her in every season. The blood of Arizona is in her veins. The Arizona white man looks at Ingrid and says she’s nothing, that she doesn’t belong. Sometimes the voices of her own people echo this, drowning her ears like the sound of crickets under the moon when she came across the mountains. Fences are erected and the Arizona white man tries to erase her face from the rocks, the sand, the trees while he takes a day off for a Cinco De Mayo beer and pickup truckfest. It can’t be done because every part of the landscape bears her scars, her name, her face, her mind. The manongs planted with love and the roots are too strong to break. Ingrid’s voice flows in every drop of rain and passes in every moving cloud.

Ingrid has traveled home 10 thousand miles and has met the manongs. Her face and her mother’s face and her mother’s mother’s face and her father’s face and his father’s face and his father’s father’s face and every face she saw on that bus is the face of Arizona. Ingrid is the heart of Arizona. And her hijo’s name is Alexander. Some day Arizona’s capital will bear his name.

*Manong--a term for respect for elderly Filipino men...many of whom came to America and suffered discrimination and racial segregation.


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