January 22, 2010
Tavares, FL- More than 250 miles into our walk the body has become used to the “abuse”. Imagine, everyday I have to wake up at 5 AM, because Juan doesn’t let me sleep until 5:30 AM like everybody else… then I get ready and leave to another amazing adventure. As Carlos mentioned, yesterday we had the opportunity to meet three incredible nuns from the Apopka Hope Center. They have been working with youth and social justice causes for several years.
At one point, Sister Ann asked me who had inspired my personal desire to fight. The first person that came to mind was Maria, the Executive Director of the Florida Immigrant Coalition (FLIC). I have had the privilege to work closely with her while been part of FLIC. Maria always acted like one of the lakes we encountrered in the trail today. Many perceive them as tranquil and harmless, however, their enormous beauty and depth go beyond our understanding. Maria always spent every minute that we were together to challenge me and to help me to create a holistic counciousness about how to adress issues in the world and respond to current events.
The trail today was full of pleasant surprises and a few setbacks. We started walking on 441 today and later we were joined by the same high school students that accompanied us yesterday. Sonia, the person who gave us lunch today, helped us deliver a letter to Publix that we drafted in support of the Coalition of Imokelee Workers’ (CIW) campaign for fair wages for farmworkers. We did so to highlight one of our four core princinples for just and humane immigration reform -workers’ rights. When we set out to travel the 1,500 miles, we also wanted people to understand that our work is also valuable and must be respected.
The connection between us, those who are currently walking, and those who are in their community is that those who stayed behind have it much harder. When we said good-bye to the high school students that shared their hopes and fears we acknowledged that those who were working on the day to day basis will continue to impact them beyond our undestanding. For some reason, Maria believed in me and she felt that I could accomplish my dreams despite all obstacles. I’m not sure exactly what it was but I saw in Sister Ann’s eye the same gleam of hope I felt when I met Maria. They truly understand social change but most importantly; personal change. In the most difficult moments of the last few years I could count on Maria’s love and guidance. It’s because of people like Sister Ann and Maria that I trully feel that real change is possible.
-Felipe Matos link
January 22, 2010
1/21/2010 Apopka, Florida.
We began this morning walking just off the outskirts of Orlando. During our first stop at a local coffee shop to use the restrooms, while waiting for my turn, I could hear some of the employees behind the counter whispering and smiling to themselves. Immediately, I thought to myself that they must have seen us the day before on the local news channel. So I approached the counter and started explaining to them the walk. Soon enough they offered all six of us free coffee! They were so blown away with our courage and with our community efforts that they gave us $40 bucks in donations to the cause. I told Felipe it would be pretty awesome if we got that kind of greeting every place we walked into, because we definitely need the money.
Approximately, after walking five miles, we stopped around 11:00AM in order to go make a congressional visit and an interview. Yesterday, we visited the offices of a couple of House Representatives and Florida’s two Senators, Sen. LeMieux and Sen. Nelson (Read Juan’s Blog y/day). Gaby and Felipe went to do an interview with the local Univision channel, while Juan, Andrea, and I went to Rep. Mica’s office. That visit was rather short; nonetheless, it was productive as usual. Rep. Mica’s immigration advisor had a tough stance on immigration, but we were able to get her to understand that deporting millions is simply unrealistic.
After eating lunch at nearby park, we convened ourselves, and we headed out to the Hope Community Center in Apopka, FL. I was in complete surprise when we arrived to find so many young leaders from the community. Most of them are the teenage children of the local farmworkers in the area. I was so happy to know that at least these kids where fighting to get their voices heard and were representing their migrant communities. They were seriously challenging the fear of being undocumented. I never had that same opportunity in high school because I was so scared to tell anyone about my situation; mostly because I really didn’t know anyone else in my shoes. Their passion for human rights and their sheer energy excited us all. Afterwards, we began walking around 4:00PM with about 40 of those youth leaders. It was quite an amazing sight! We got car honks left and right, and a lot of laughter and joy from the experience.
At the end of the night, after dinner, we went to the house of the local nuns that manage the Hope Community Center to take showers. It was by far the highlight of the day. I have never sat down with Sisters in the struggle. Their perseverance for justice, solidarity with our cause, and funny sense of humor by far exceeded my expectations here in Apopka! I am especially sure that I am going to miss Sister Ann after we leave town. She is just such an amazing individual and it was a privilege to learn from them. It is always interesting to see people can make such an impact in the lives of so many people and transform entire communities.