|Indigenous Elders fight for their home
Elder María García is a bundle of energy. She is small brown woman in
her 70s, yet she is anything but frail. There's a lot of fire in her
veins. At a hip-hop concert done on her behalf this past weekend, she
is as involved as her supporters in making sure everything goes off
without a hitch. They have come to support her and her husband, Tohono
O'dham elder, Joseph, in their fight to keep their home.
While they are in the process of being thrown out of their Tucson home –
where they have lived for some 32 years –they are not vacating their home
without a fight.
Welcome to the human face of the world's financial crisis.
Both María and Joseph are respected elders in the community, owners of
the famed Tucson institution, La Indita Restaurant. She is Purepecha
and he is Tohono O'dham, and the attempts to evict them from their
home has sparked an outrage.
Their stand to fight for their home conjures up the idea of Tierra y
Libertad or Land & Liberty – an idea of Indigenous resistance, rooted
in defense of the land. But this is not happening in México or Central
América at the turn of the 19th century.
The ironies are all there, as are the metaphors and the imagery of
Indigenous Elders being forcefully removed by their bank. They are taking
place as Congress has approved $700 billion to save the same financial
institutions that are throwing out thousands of homeowners nationwide.
They are happening, as the government is about to pour in many more
billions to bail out other corporations, but not actual homeowners.
This is the stuff of revolts and revolutions. Before anyone takes the
García home they will have to face hundreds of supporters.
Symbolically, probably thousands… even millions.
There is no way that their supporters will permit the bank to
forcefully evict these respected Elders from their home.
As a confluence of history, the eviction of Indigenous Elders is
hardly the image that this nation wants to project as pressures mount
to solve this financial crisis that was triggered by the mortgage crisis.
As several members of Congress have noted, the purpose of the bailout
was to assist homeowners – not to turn it into an unaccountable slush fund,
with little or no transparency.
In speaking to María, how they got to the point of foreclosure is somewhat
complex, though it involves unscrupulous and deceptive dealings with a
series of financial institutions, and most of all, the lack of transparency.
The bottom line is that after being warned that they were in danger of being
foreclosed upon – and a series of mistakes by the financial institutions –
their bank abruptly foreclosed on their home in late October – despite the
fact that they have the money to pay whatever is owed.
Their attorney, Scott Gibson, who is representing the Garcías pro bono,
is confident that they will ultimately be able to keep their home.
Having an attorney who understands legalese is a godsend for them,
but that's beside the point. Financial institutions – while being bailed
out by taxpayers – should not be attempting to force them from their
home – for any reason, "legitimate" or contrived. There is something
wrong with a system in which senior citizens – Elders anywhere – can
lose their homes due to mistakes, misunderstandings or deceptive practices.
Neither are Joseph and María your typical senior citizens. They are
literally, Indigenous resistance fighters. Many of their supporters,
many of them young, look to them for guidance and inspiration and have
vowed to defend their home.
Aside from being an integral part of the continent's Indigenous
movement – having met with subComandante Marcos and the Zapatistas
this past year – Joseph and María have themselves embarked on a noble
mission to create an Indigenous health clinic (Jewel of the Sun) in
Magdalena de Kino, Sonora. Indeed, their selflessness does not stop at
the border. Their goal is to create a clinic where Indigenous peoples
can receive affordable preventive care, health education and
Rather than throwing them out, the bank and government should be
assuring them that they never have to worry about their home again.
Additionally, they might even consider donating to the clinic. It's
the least they can do. As María stated in no uncertain terms:
¡Sinverguenzas! (They have no shame!).
Roberto Rodríguez, a research associate at the University of Arizona, can be
reached at: XColumn@gmail.com.