Wednesday, July 14, 2010


A few weeks left here in El Paso. I just wanted to share the stories of a couple people that visited me in my office this morning.

Teresa, a young woman that lives in an apartment with an alley entrance and no air conditioning, came in today with her two young daughters to ask if we could give her some food from our food shelf. She is fortunate, however, because even though she is undocumented, she has managed to find work one day a week amidst El Paso's extreme unemployment problem. She works a nine-hour day each Friday cleaning a nice, large house. She is paid $40.00 for this shift. The hourly minimum wage here is the same as the federal; $7.25.

Lorenzo, a middle-aged guy who currently has nowhere to stay also came in to ask for some food today. He is a very big boy that carries a backpack; his case is one of those that no matter the size of the backpack, it always looks tiny and the straps are always too tight. He recently got a ride here from Wilcox, Arizona, where he had been working for a couple of months picking cucumbers. His knuckles and arms had scabs from the abrasive hairs of the cucumber plants. He normally worked from 6:00 in the morning to 6:00 in the evening, and was often asked to stay until 8:00 or 9:00. His wage was $8.25 per hour. Overtime pay was never given, and Lorenzo was told that if he didn't stay late when asked, he would not have a job the following day.


Tuesday, June 15, 2010


More fun and more work to tell about.

First the fun. We recently traveled to Phoenix with our roommates, which is 6 to 7 hours from El Paso. It was a fun road trip. Beautiful desert and mountains, good music, competitive alphabet game, 5 sweaty bodies packed in a Honda Civic. We stayed at the Phoenix Jesuit Volunteer community's house for two nights. Our reason for the visit was to attend the National Day of Action protest against Arizona's recently passed immigration law, 'Senate Bill 1070.' It was a powerful, peaceful 5-mile march to the capital full of families and people of all ages, races, and parts of the country.

The law states that Arizona state police officers will have the right to request people to show documentation of their legal residence in the United States, at any time, if there exists "reasonable suspicion" that they could be "illegal immigrants." We feel that this law is a civil rights violation since reasonable suspicion comes down to skin color and language spoken. In other words, many brown U.S. citizens and legal residents will be harassed because they are reasonably suspicious. We also feel that comprehensive immigration reform by the federal government is desperately needed, rather than than a harsh state law such as this one. Wouldn't it be odd if we always had to carry proof of our citizenship?

Check out a recent article on this subject.

Okay, sorry to include all of that in the 'fun' section. I continue to play softball each Sunday, which has become more exciting now that Twins are playing (I pretend I'm Joe Mauer). My roommate Carlos and I have been playing tennis. And the world cup has started! There's a great Spanish language channel on basic cable that broadcasts every game, so that has been occupying a lot of our time. It's hard not to cheer for Mexico down here. This weekend we are going camping in the mountains of southern New Mexico with the whole house and Carlos' parents from Juarez.

The garden is doing okay. We had maybe a 33% success rate. The heat and sun fried a lot of our plants, even with everyday watering and partial shade (and prayer). But we're eating squash, spinach and green beans now.

Leti has had great success with her teacher certification tests, which is nice since she has already been hired! Studying has continued to occupy a lot of her time. But not anymore! She is very happy about that. She has been in close communication with her family because there has been a lot going on. Her sister, Sheryla, is pregnant, so we are very excited to be aunt and uncle again. Natalia, who is like a sister-in-law, is doing an internship in Grand Rapids, Michigan for the summer. Leti's brother Joel will be visiting Natalia, and not us. But it's okay because there is talk of another family visit to Minnesota soon!

In other news, if you haven't heard, Senora De la Cruz has been hired to teach Kindergarten at Eagle Heights Spanish Immersion Elementary School in Eden Prairie. She's pumped, and she starts August 16th. I'm not exactly sure what I'll be doing. I might work Saturdays at a post office and also substitute teach during the week. I will continue to job search, as a few employers have told me they needed someone right away when they learn that we won't be in the Twin Cities until August. I also might go back to school for teacher certification in June, 2011. We'll see . . .

Our plan is to be home around August 15. Be home soon, and we miss you.

I wanted to inform you all of a few other unfortunate events that have happened on the border. It's a very unique place. A beautiful shared community and culture, and a shared heart-breaking tragedy as a result of a broken U.S foreign and immigration policy and a corrupt Mexican government. Prayer is needed. Please glance at the following links:
El Paso Times, June 8
San Diego Union Tribune, June 1
El Paso Times, June 7


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Where to begin?

Well, right now I am enjoying a beautiful summer-like Minnesota morning. I just finished sipping my morning coffee out on my in-laws deck, still wearing my pajamas. And, you might be wondering "are they back already?" (come on, admit you asked the question!). Well, the answer is... no. We are here until Monday (tomorrow).

Both, Chris and I, have spent quite some time, since the beginning of April, looking up jobs for when our year with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps is over in mid August. We have been very fortunate to have received calls back and invitations for interview from different places we have applied for. We have been even more fortunate to accept the generosity of our friend Shawn Helmeke who paid for our plane tickets to come here and attend those interviews. So, that's the main reason for our short visit to the cities.

Tomorrow I have an interview with Eden Prairie Schools for a teaching position that I am more than excited to get; and still trying to lower that excitement in case it does not work out as I hope it does. Chris has three interviews tomorrow. Yes, three. I wish you could see him in the interview clothes he just bought. In fact, I have never seeing him dressed like that. He looks really cute. So, we will basically drive all over the place tomorrow dressed in clothes that you would normally never see us wearing. We have been very lucky to have people around that continue to support and encourage us in all of our endeavors. That makes a huge difference in us. So, thank you.

El Paso is getting hot lately. There are ads for free concerts at the plazas and parks and that is exciting. Our garden is growing. Did we mention all the things we just planted? I can not remember. Well, here I go. We have been eating from our lettuce and carrots for while now. But a about a couple months ago we planted onions, squash, eggplant, green beans, tomatoes, zucchini, peppers (red, green and jalapeƱos), broccoli, spinach, cilantro and potatoes. For a few weeks I looked like none of them were going to make it but now everything is sprouting. On the other hand, my white gardenias are not doing that hot and the pink oleanders are trying to survive. Our community have become closer and closer and those are very good news. Everybody is kind of in the same page of "what are we doing when this is over?" section. We have a little bit less than three months left in the program and a big project ahead to plan a trip to the Great Canyon with the community without supporting Arizona's economy. (Yes, we are also banning Arizona. Just kidding... I guess. No? No, may be not kidding.)

Both our works are doing fine. Chris almost looks like a social worker. He has brought around three persons to drug or alcohol rehabilitation centers and has been visiting them. This has made his work more meaningful and has allowed him to establish a closer relationship with the people he serves. I am busy, busy, busy at my work. I do not know if it is the tax refunds or the hope for a migratory reform that have brought so many people to apply for residency, but we are swamped with work. And that is good, but it is a lot of work. I also have larger groups in this semester's English and Citizenship classes. I like it better this time, probably because I feel more confident than the first time I offered both and also because these new groups seem more motivated, driven, and committed to accomplish their goals. And people, that makes a world of a difference.

Well, I have said too much and Chris is hurrying me to go to Excelsior to play some tennis with him and Shawn (as if I could!). It will definitely be hard to leave all this green summer-ish beautiful Minnesota weekend behind and go back to El Paso. But, we are aware that we are very needed there and we have people that loves us and are waiting for us to come back "home". In short though, we will be back.

Thank you all for your support and prayers throughout this year. Just stay with us for a few more months.

With love,

Leti and Chris

PS: Please, keep us in mind and in prayers as we go through the whole interview process.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Mavi Handmade: Etsy Shop

Hi Everyone,

It's been a while and I'll be brief. I am just very excited to let you all know that my sewing passion has led me into experimenting with business. That been said, I attach the link to My Etsy Shop called Mavi Handmade. Please, take a look and shop! If you don't, please leave a message of encouragement.

Thank you all!


PS: Chris and I failed with this blog. Hopefully something new will be posted to summarize the past... what? Four months? Jeez, we suck!

Did I tell you guys that I'm pregnant?!

Just kidding! I wish I could see your faces but I guess you saw that one coming so you didn't make a face of surprise at all.

Thursday, February 4, 2010


So, it's been a while. Again. I'm not proving to be punctual in the blogosphere. Thank you for reading.

Leti and I are doing okay here in El Paso. On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd say were somewhere between 1 and 10, depending on the day. There continues to be challenges and good times alike. We are in the second semester of our year here on the border. There is a sense of a new beginning of sorts. A new vision, and a fresh look at our community after having visited home. I have some new goals at my job placement. After having learned from coworkers, from the community, and from my own experiences, I have a better sense of how to direct my efforts for the next six months.

Most Catholic parishes, like Sacred Heart where I am working, have what is called a Society of St. Vincent de Paul. It is a group of people that inflict physical pain on themselves, to be in solidarity with the suffering of Christ, you've all seen the Da Vinci Code right? Just kidding, let me start over. It is a group of volunteers dedicated to taking care of the poor and struggling members of the neighborhood. Most Societies are large and active. Unfortunately, Sacred Heart's Society has dwindled in the recent years. It is a shame, as our neighborhood is the poorest in El Paso, and one of the poorest zip codes in the US. Right now we offer a generous food shelf and some rent and utility assistance. I am hoping to recruit more volunteers, and find creative ways to raise funds.

Another goal of mine is to build relationships with the folks who come in and out of our Social Ministry Office. A big part of my job is to be available to meet with people about any needs they may have. Needs vary from finding work, education, paying the bills, attaining US citizenship, referrals to services around the city, to food, shelter, and friendship. It's easy for me to get caught up in the logistics, the bottom line, and moving people through quickly. But I find that when I spend a bit more time with a client, listening and talking, we gain more confidence in each other and doors open. I am able to interact with an individual, instead of a client. I learn their deeper struggles, and the story behind them. I also become more vulnerable and emotionally involved myself.

Leti continues to meet interesting people on their path to US citizenship, permanent residency, or refugee status. Some Cubans and Iraqis, but mostly Mexicans. She works with many families and enjoys getting to know her clients and hear their stories. She gets to celebrate along with clients when they pass the citizenship test. However, she accidentally got someone deported this week . . . just kidding, sort of . . . ok Leti, I was totally kidding.

Just recently, Leti and I together helped someone in getting her US citizenship. Her name is Claudia Hernandez, and she has two kids and a husband in Chihuahua, Mexico. She had to be away from them for months, staying with an aunt here in El Paso while she fixed her papers and attended her appointments. She came to me at the church looking for help studying and practicing for the citizenship test. We studied together and problem solved many times, and I later passed her on to Leti for some professional advice. For a while it looked like Immigration wasn't going to give her US citizenship, but just a couple weeks ago she got it. Woohoo! She has invited us to their house and to visit the Copper Canyon with them in June.

We're excited about gardening as it will begin to warm up here soon. We're still picking lettuce and carrots, they are delicious. The challenge is keeping the street cats and their dumpster fed feces away from our vegetables.

I am still training for the marathon on March 7. My left foot has been bothering me, but other than that it has been very enjoyable. I went on a beautiful, long bike ride this weekend as an alternate workout. Leti stopped training so she could spend all her spare time studying for the math and writing portion of the Praxis test; AND SHE PASSED BOTH! We are very happy and she is very smart. She will take the remaining two tests in April. Besides that, she has been sewing up a storm. She has discovered a gift.

Thanks for reading and taking an interest in what we're doing.


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Much Needed Update

So. It's been a while.  In mid-October the whole community attended the Jesuit Volunteer Corps Fall Retreat in Hazlehurst, Mississippi.  It was a much needed break to focus in building community for all of us.  One of the main things we got to do was to have one-on-one conversations with each member of our community, which resulted in clarifying misunderstanding, expressing feelings, and forgiving each other.  I can say that things since then have been better, but is still a challenge (a good one!).  

Chris and I are more seriously training for the Michelob Ultra El Paso Marathon in March 7, 2010.  This time our friends Jackie and Matt shared with us another good tool for training:  We each got a personalized training schedule to prepare for this marathon and it was free!  We are running once during the week and doing a long run on Saturdays.  Yesterday Chris ran 8 miles and I ran 6.  This is the most both of us have run ever.  Our legs are feeling it, so are our knees, so let's see how in the world we are going to do 26.2 miles!

We have also been challenging different aspects of our daily lives, especially our eating habits.  Chris gave up caffeine and know is a decaf coffee drinker.  It has helped him lower his anxiety.  As for me, I stopped drinking coffee everyday since August and have been drinking it on Saturdays.  That's a huge deal for both of us I think.  Also, in our efforts to be more aware of what we eat, we have exposed ourselves to different documentaries (Food, Inc.) and books (In Defense of Food) that have turned me into a vegetarian (as of a month ago).  And, as Chris predicted in his last blog, we are eating lettuce from our garden already!  We also planted onion seeds about two weeks ago.  Let's wait to see how those turn out.

Chris has been very busy at work these days, especially because of Thanksgiving Day.  Sacred Heart Church (his worksite) is giving away 150 turkeys to 150 families!  They will also host a free Thanksgiving meal on Thursday for which they are expecting around 1,500 people from the neighborhood.  

I attended this Immigration Law Conference that taught me a lot about the different processes that my clients go through when applying for residence or petitioning for somebody.  This conference is quite popular in the U.S. because it includes a visit to the U.S. Consulate in Cd. Juarez, Mexico.  Did you know that the U.S. Consulate in Juarez is the consulate the processes the biggest amount of applications in the whole world?... Now you know!

I am quite excited about everything coming up.  Chris' birthday is tomorrow (he is turning the old age of 26).  We are going to Albuquerque, NM from the 27th to the 29th of this month.  It should be beautiful and leaves should be changing by then.  AND, there's only 30 days left to fly to Minneapolis for the holidays!  We are looking forward to do that.

Well, that is that.  We'll keep you posted as much as we can.  Hugs and thanks for the support!


PS:  We still need financial support!  Donate here

Monday, September 28, 2009

Untitled. I mean titled.


Leti and I have been busy. Which is a good thing because being in a new place without yet having established many friendships could get boring and lonely. But boring and lonely we're not.

Besides our volunteer positions we've been gardening, going out and making new friends, exploring El Paso and finding out what there is to do around here. Leti is discovering her passion for taking care of plants. We've really done a lot with the yard already and we're hoping to be eating vegetables from our little garden in a couple of months. Leti has rosemary, chrysanthemum, oleander, gardenia, sage, lettuce, and carrots under her care. Some of the highlights of the gardening project for me have been plunging my hands into the cat-scat laden soil, as well as unearthing a hidden key with key chain and a Pepsi can from approximately 1989.

We have also become pretty excited about running and our weekly yoga class. We run maybe three times a week, which has become more fun ever since our discovery of :) . And we are loving the physical benefits and the peace that we get from our $5 yoga classes with instructor Jacob. Leti is seriously considering becoming a certified yoga instructor in the future.
I've been doing some reading, some sitting on our front porch, and other odds and ends around the house to make it feel more like home for us.

Last Thursday during work, my coworkers and I were able to attend a seminar given by Franciscan priest Richard Rohr (remember, I'm Catholic now . . .). He is an internationally known speaker and author, as well as the founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque. It was pretty neat to hear his wisdom and ideas. The reason for the seminar was so that local religious and social service agencies could explore how to live in solidarity with the residents of Juarez, without putting ourselves in danger. Other than that, I've been getting to know the people living in the neighborhood where I work through conversation and visiting them at their apartments. Some of those conversations have been eye-opening and very saddening. However, living in the midst of the the brokenness that accompanies their poverty puts my own wants and needs into perspective. It also prevents me from being able to forget about how the majority of the world's population lives: poor and broken.

It's starting to feel a little like we belong here now. Sometimes its hard; working out the kinks of community life, missing the familiarity of Minneapolis, etc. But I welcome the challenges, even if not at first, or second . . . We're making friends and getting to know our surroundings, and perhaps realizing that, most importantly, we didn't come here to be comfortable.

Love you and truly miss you,