Most popular images and traditions associate Easter with the rising sun; sunrise services, and morning lilies. At the end of what was a Holy Week, I witnessed Resurrection not in sunlight, but in moonlight. The Risen Lord rises and shines soft, white light into darkness that is not blanketed evil, rather shadowed existence, beautiful in its own right. Subtle refractions into the course of our everyday humming reality tend to be God, more so than intense moments of blinding light.
Moon beams led me through the searching of an empty tomb, Tijuana. It is just grey silted dust, air hazed with pollutants, burning trash, haphazard, crisscrossed electrical wires, and a chaos of frenzied people and dogs. Yet this tomb is the site of something greater, not seen, but felt. Six days of returning to what I’ve deemed as the ugliest, most joyful place that has allowed me to call it home, helped me to know beyond the emptiness. I felt the carpeted green of the colimas, the unobstructable fence with still visible slats, open windows of a minivan trailing Latin music in the night through unmarked streets, a vibrant archway of bougainvilleas outside a shanty by the railroad tracks, and los Tijuanenses who time and time again shine soft light into the marvelous obscurity of their city.
Conchita, la ama de Francisco Real, wrapped me in a warm embrace as I thanked her unnecessarily for her graciousness our first night across the border. A few days later in preparation for a fiesta for the community, Conchita, with her arms around us all, directed a group of girls in the making of guacamole with her very own recipe, laughed and chided me to apurate mija as I flipped tortillas on a stove to warm them, and ended the evening dancing la meringue on a concrete slab with Padre Jesse. This woman is selfless love, joy to music, manifestation of la Madre.
Cristobal, a father from Zamora, graced me with presence and vulnerability from across the table as we shared a meal of beans, tortillas, and beef stew. I heard of his three young adult daughters as he joked with pride that they don’t know how to do anything but study. He spoke of his wife of twenty-six years, not quite sure how he got lucky enough to marry her. I nodded, knowing exactly why. Cristobal shared with me how he had planned to cross with a visa and participate in cyclical migration, working a few months in construction and returning to Michoacan by late summer. Tricked into fraudulent papers, he was apprehended soon after he handed them over for examination to Border Patrol. So much time, so much money, for nothing. No opportunity. I shared my hurt and frustration with the brokenness of our immigration system and how I had cried out Estámos en la lucha on the lawn of the Capitol building; waiting, wishing, and fighting for legislation to give dignity to those such as him. We’d both been turned around. Tears filled Cristobal’s eyes. My heart sobbed. It’s not our people, it’s our system.
Maria, called me over to a table where she sat in her wheelchair folding toilet paper to be used as tissue by the women who are no longer forgotten and invisible at Casa de las Madres. ¿Eres Mexicana? No, yo no soy Mexicana. Apparently my lighter eyes and skin were not enough of a giveaway. But did it really matter anyway? No. I knelt beside Maria, offering to help her fold the toilet paper. No hija, me lo mantiene joven. Claro, it keeps her young a little while longer. But the end wasn’t far away she said, not her choice as to when, the will of Dios. Was she ready I asked? Yes. We chatted about the freedom, joy, and awe of the afterlife. How exciting to be with the creator somewhere beyond our imagine. Let us not wish death, but celebrate it when it comes. For a short period of time Maria was my grandmother, recently gone from this life. I felt her peace in the soft, wrinkled hands that held mine. Vaya con dios abuelita.
My Easter Moon, Tijuana. La Luna Llena, that rose to reveal a tomb of visible emptiness and despair, but so full of deeply felt hope in our shared humanity. I raised my hands, in a chapel filled with students from San Diego and families from the colonia. Together, dancing until we sweated; celebrating existence under same roof while the carne asada grilled outside awaiting our fiesta. As the speakers played, abre tus ojos, mira hacia arriba, disfruta las cosas buenas, I opened my eyes and looked heavenward, enjoying the good things.