We arrived yesterday in the town of Juchitan de Zaragoza along the coast in Oaxaca where the Caravan was scheduled to arrive this morning. We had heard about Juchitan, known for its matriarchal social structure and large community of gay and transgender residents. Turns out there is plenty more here that makes this community special.
We met in the Zapotec community center called “Radio Totopo,” which is lovingly painted with mildly revolutionary murals. Eva and Carlos created a shopping list for us and then drove us to the chicken man’s house to put in an order.
Based on our experiences last week, we were not surprised to find that the people in the Caravan were, in spite of their exhaustion and hardships, caring, peaceful and social. A group of young men playfully taunted me for 20 minutes because the apples and milk are “para los ninos!” Another group of young people approached me at the front of the food line to say they didn’t need to wait in line because they were special — “we are LGBT!”. I gave them hugs and told them they were in the right town and one of them suggested that some of them may remain here
Two young men who remembered me from Tapachula made a point to come over and say hello. One joined us on a second trip to the market to help haul crates of milk and produce in trade for a roasted chicken.
It is tragic that, except for the Red Cross, the world’s rich charities are still no where to be found –as far as I have been able to tell, the local Mexicans and the two of us are the only ones feeding these people who, as you can imagine, just cannot get enough calories.
The opposite of tragic is the generosity and kindness of the Mexican people. Those in Juchitan are still recovering from last year’s devastating earthquake and yet they treat these 5,000 strangers like the most important of guests. All of the food is made with love and paid for with money they don’t have to spare. Tonight at the encampment, our Zapotec friends Carlos and Coral got on a stage to encourage the members of the Caravan with messages of solidarity and calling their journey “historic.” And then they played “Coco” on a giant outdoor screen.
Our Mexican friends seem to view the whole world as part of their family. And they make me feel that too.