A community joins together to receive the Caravana de Madres Centroamericanas
We had 150 people over for dinner on Friday. The conference room was packed: mothers holding photos of their missing children, activists, journalists, dozens of social justice organizations, television reporters, and Casa volunteers and guests. The Caravan of Central American Mothers searching for their children, lost while trying to cross Mexico, have returned to the Mexican capital and to Casa de los Amigos, and we opened up our doors as wide as we can to honor their work.
The “Caravana de Madres” are mothers from Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador. They have uprooted themselves to search for their children who disappeared while on Mexico’s deadly migrant trail. Bearing photos of their desaparecidos, the Caravan is traveling across the country looking for any clue about their loved ones. The mothers participate in public actions every day, while visiting migrant shelters, jails, morgues, town centers and government offices. The powerful image of grieving mothers searching for their children cuts through the daily news cycle and the apathy of the public.
Casa de los Amigos serves as the meeting point between the Caravan and the vibrant migrant rights community in Mexico City. Last year, we held a large public event with testimony from some of the 33 Madres, and an information session in which groups working to defend migrants in Mexico gave updates to the Caravan. Since then, despite new legislation in Mexico, the situation has changed little and, in some areas, worsened. NGOs have reported the disappearance of thousands of Central American migrants in recent years. In response to the ongoing crisis, the Caravan this year has not 33 participants, but 59.
This year, to recognize the incredible work of the mothers in this time of violence and impunity, we wanted to do something very special. We decided to once again invite our partners in the NGO community to join us, but this time, for something different. This would not be a conference, a work meeting or a panel discussion. It would be a huge, unforgettable dinner, made by all of us. We invited our allies over to the Casa to wash their hands, put on an apron, and help us make enchiladas, salad, beans and rice for 100 people or more. We wanted to celebrate the journey of the Madres and the brilliant organizations that the Casa has the honor and privilege to work with. We wanted to bring people together in a genuine environment of hope, joy and action in the way that the Casa has done for generations.
In this case, our plan took a lot of work. The Casa team set all else aside and started last Monday, counting every spoon, cup and plate in the house, and then going to buy more of everything we didn’t have at least a hundred of. We bought 8 salad tongs and a dozen pitchers. We bought casserole dishes, serving bowls, silverware, and everything else. We bought more than 60 pounds of food at the market, we started soaking beans, making cake batter for five chocolate cakes, and salsa from 30 pounds of jitomate. It was not a completely rational plan-we do cook a lot, but the Casa is not a banquet hall. We prepared a meal that far outsized our capacity, and for three days we prepped dishes in the back patio, every kitchen, the dining room, the guest lounge, and the apartment.
On the big day, fifteen organizations answered our call. Our allies got the idea completely, and were excited about doing something out of the ordinary. Some brought donations of food, others showed up many hours early ready to chop, dice, wash, cook, serve and of course, clean. Casa guests and former volunteers came to help too.
A broad community, dedicated to the protection of the human rights of all people in Mexico, was able to come together and give a straight from the heart welcome to the Caravan, through the collective preparation of one giant cena. The food came out stellar, and making it was about as fun as it gets. Colleagues who usually see each other at presentations and forums helped fry tortillas, make 10 gallons of agua de jamaica, arrange flowers, and set up tables and chairs. Mexican and international journalists helped grate cheese and roll enchiladas. A congresswoman was spotted balancing a stack of 10 bowls of diced cilantro. The Asamblea Popular de Familias Migrantes and Doctors Without Borders spooned out helpings onto plates, while Sin Fronteras and the Jesuit Migrant Service served food and coffee to the Madres. It was a completely Casa night.
We have written to you many times describing what we do and the ways that we use our modest resources the best we can. We have written about the unique role of the Casa, putting community building at the center of peacework. Community building happens not only in neighborhoods but among peace and social justice organizations too. On Friday, we aimed straight for the core of everything that we love about this place, and all that today’s Casa has inherited from those who came before us. And as we’ve learned, when we focus our energy on the marvels that the Casa is unquestionably known for: community, solidarity, friendship, fun and food, the work hits home.
We are grateful to be able to put the Casa at the service of these courageous parents and their powerful witness.
En paz y amistad,
the Casa de los Amigos team
Hayley, Erika, Ramsés, Esther, Bertha, Nico, Susan, Carey, Gerardo, Lis, Teresa, Blanca, Sara, Pancha, Miguel Ángel, Noemi, Paula, y Rebecca