Ale Vazquez

It Was Love at First Haiku

Maria told me to contact you
When you were fresh back from El Salvador

And perhaps needing another shoulder to lean on
After re-entering this meshugah militarized greed culture

There we sat at a table
At Café Ventana

And soon you spread before me
Your final project from the previous semester

You stayed up all night to do it
It had to be that way

Had to cut through the sleepiness
To pour out all that had accumulated—

On each page a water color by you
And a special photo

And a haiku on one page in Spanish
And on the facing page your translation into English

How moved your compañeras in the class must have been!
Your multiple forms connecting

To the many people who made a place
For you in their hearts

Es verdad— the impossibility of writing an eight-page
Double-spaced, TNR font, academic paper

After a semester like yours
in the campo and San Salvador

That’s when I asked your major
And you said, Public Health

And I asked, Why, when you can do something like this—
waving my hand before your masterpiece?

But of course Public Health and poetry
Can be companionable

Like forty-something Angelica
And twenty-year-old Ale can be companionable

May you live to be 90, or 120
And always remember when you did that projecto—

You up at 4 a.m.
Aching to give birth to appreciation and awe

We Are Bound Together
by Lindsey Weston

With all of the talk of Romero becoming a martyr…
Officially, “killed in the hatred of faith”
I can’t help but think… well duh
You and I already knew that

Angelica knew that
Ann knew that
So many of our dear friends have lived and still breathe
the same faith Romero was killed for

And while I know there will be celebration in the streets of El Salvador
I know days will still go as planned
Women will wake up before sunrise with their typical chatter
accompanied by the sounds of tortillas hitting the comal
Children will walk to school
(perhaps even further, through Guatemala and Mexico before reaching the US)
surrounded by gangs that still exist
despite the reports that their presence is diminishing
Men will hike through las nubes to find work that will not suffice to support their families
In neighboring Guatemala, Daniel Pascual will be declared a terrorist
All for what?

Because they have faith
The same faith Romero taught me
And you taught me
And Mev taught me
Faith that stems from the struggle that is one
That you and I are bound together
Faith that at times doesn’t seem all that complicated
Faith that is love
Faith that is frustration with the present conditions
Faith that you have taken care of me and I will take care of you.

I plan to celebrate
I also plan to continue the fight
I think that is what this idea of martyrdom is all about
Que viva monseñor!
Que viva la gente del pueblo!

You and Monseñor

You and Monseñor are alike in two obvious respects
To me anyway

You both have expansive hearts for the people
You may say

“But you know many people with big hearts”
Ale, that’s true

But as for the other respect
I don’t know anyone else

In my circles of life
Like you

Who had an experience
Like Monseñor —

Not people who’ve been on
Some tough front lines

Not people who spent months
Or years in jails and prisons–

Monseñor received communications
That were death threats

(The infamous flier in those days
“Be a Patriot Kill a Priest”)

So too you received such communications
Not long ago from an ex-

Each morning in the face of those threats
You had the courage

To stand up
Take the next step

Like Monseñor
Countless farmers

Catechists and organizers
LGBTs and unionists

Wives and lawyers
Salvadorans and people all over the world

Who have faced and still face
Death threats

Your own heart’s agony accompanies
Others’ heart’s agonies

Some people want to see Monseñor canonized
I just want to have a three-hour lunch with you

My hands
In your hands


This weekend is commencement
Each day is commencement
Each hour is commencement

I’ve known you
Twenty months
May I know you twenty more

What spirit you manifest!
So many creative powers–
Poetry, art, organizing

Your being is blessing|
Your journey is accompaniment

Your career is la lucha por la justicia y la belleza

When People Leave Town

Ultimately, I’m glad when people leave for another city
Or continent
It happens summer, spring, winter, or fall

People enter our lives
And welcome us into theirs
For two or twenty years

Then they move on
Graduate school
Professional advancement

Following a lover or a dream
And I may notice the arising of clinging
Of wanting things to stay the same:

Wistful: “We only went to that café 72 times together”
Anxious: “Who am I going to read the Hardt and Negri trilogy with now?”
Shmaltzy: “No more walks in the park at 6 am!!!”

Irked: “Yale’s so overrated”
Snarky: “How can he afford living in New York anyway?”
Disappointed: “Damn, just when things were starting to rev up…”

But then I catch myself and so breathe in, breathe out and smile:
No, they want to go and they must go
And I can be grateful to them because

Just when I’ve gotten all cozy with the status quo
They remind me of the brilliant dharma truth:
Everything is impermanent

But don’t you leave, Martín!

Email from Jaime in El Salvador

I have an internship in El Salvador this summer and was visiting the Casa during the beatification of Romero. The house was full of The Struggle is One books and I met a Nicaraguan volunteer who was very familiar with The Book of Mev.

Culled from a Journal: A Summer in Salvador

A friend lived in El Salvador for several weeks one summer. Recently, she went to Art Hill and reread through the journal she kept those months, culled the following lines, and told me I could share them if I want…

“I am here because I want to learn how to not belong to myself”
“I fear unsatisfactory answers”

“Today was a lot harder than I thought”
“Was my ego really so big that I thought I would be good at this?”
“Thank you, thank you, thank you, Salvadorans”

“The people at the gate were screaming for water and God.”

Yo tengo fe que todo cambiara
“Will I ever pass this way again?”

“How did I get on this high horse?”

“Remembering even assholes can be good people”

“Am I supposed to love my washer and dryer more because Salvadorans don’t have them??”

Hector said: “Thank you for sharing your heart. Thanks for walking. When you stand at the bottom of the volcano, everything looks different. Don’t forget to stand at the bottom, with the people, and keep us in your heart. Don’t forget to share. Share everything you have.”

“Not at peace. There is no peace for me.”

Message Ale Sent Me at Midnight

I consider you to be one
of my best friends in the
world and I thank the
universe every day for
putting you on my path,
Marcos. You helped
shine a light that
allowed me to see past
the darkness I
experienced. I
appreciate that you
accept me, broken as I
am and always
encourage me to be
daring with my art and
writing and loving. You
remind me eery day to
be mindful of the world
and to continue
accepting its joys and
sorrows into my heart.
I love you very much,
dear friend.

Yours Truly

I am your older, calm, sutra-reading uncle
I am your younger, mischievous Tequlia-drinking uncle

I am your biggest fan
I am your sounding board for the unutterable

I am your archivist
I am your remembrancer

I am the one you don’t talk to for weeks
I am the one you text every other day

I am your detached admirer
I am your ardent challenger

I am the guardian angel of your shadow
I am the transubstantiation of your smiles

I am the available one
I am the near one

I am the one not fazed by your awesome accomplishments or your scarlet sins
I am the recognizer of Angelica in you

Share the Wealth with Ale Vázquez and Vitina Pestello

For our next Share the Wealth gathering, Ale and Vitina will share their experiences working with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and the Fair Food Program.

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ (CIW) Fair Food Program is a unique partnership among farmers, farmworkers, and retail food companies that ensures humane wages and working conditions for the workers who pick fruits and vegetables on participating farms. It harnesses the power of consumer demand to give farmworkers a voice in the decisions that affect their lives, and to eliminate the longstanding abuses that have plagued agriculture for generations.

The Program has been called “the best workplace-monitoring program” in the US in the New York Times, and “one of the great human rights success stories of our day” in the Washington Post, and has won widespread recognition for its unique effectiveness from a broad spectrum of human rights observers, from the United Nations to the White House.”

Join us
Sunday 9 November
Potluck dinner begins at 6:00 p.m.
Vitina and Ale begin sharing at 6:45
At the home of Brooke Adams
Chouteau Avenue
Forest Park Southeast

This page is part of my book, Dear Love of Comrades, which you can read here.

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