Another gem in Bishop Seitz’s pastoral letter on racism is his reflection on Our Lady of Guadalupe.
46. Year after year, after fall winds bring cooler weather into our desert valley, the ground beneath us in El Paso literally begins to hum in the evenings. Throughout the land, danzantes and matachines are rehearsing their ritual dance in preparation for the explosion of rhythm, chant, theatre, light and color that will take place on the 12th of December. It is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The origins of devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe are veiled in mystery. But to generation after generation she reveals the solidarity and closeness of God.
Why do they dance?
47. Perhaps like nowhere else, the people of our border community identify with Our Lady of Guadalupe. She is in shopping malls, restaurants, Ubers, hair salons and family altares. There is a beautiful Virgin in the Chamizal special to the women there who lost their manufacturing jobs, whom they lovingly call Nuestra Señora de los Desplazados, Our Lady of the Displaced.
A person willing to approach and encounter Mary would find some solace in the many aspects of modern displacement. Even before the pandemic, so many millions around the world felt the displacement: the ejection from homelands and the refugee status, the loss of employment as corporations and bosses shifted priorities with more thought to making money than those actually making a product, shifts in religious climate, distrust of leaders both religious and political. When the virus hit, so many millions more were displaced from schools, jobs, social life, friends, loved ones, and many enjoyable activities. Topping it off, we have the revelation of an outbreak of racism. Now it is a death sentence not only to murder in cold blood, but to be accused of passing a bad check, of fleeing police, and to be a person of color in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Bishop Seitz speaks of being in-between. He wrote this document before the crises of 2020, but he might as well have been writing to most all of us.
48. Despite everything others tell us, we in the borderlands know that this valley between the Sierra Madre and the Rocky Mountains is home to one binational cultural reality. We live in a state of in-betweenness, neither here nor there, ni de aquí ni de allá. The weight of a violent history, gross nationalisms, politics, walls, passports, the global economy and the legacy of race compete to define our people, to define us. To make our people feel like foreigners in a foreign land. Truly we are suffering from a heart sickness ‘that says we are able to be only one or the other.’ (Gloria Anzaldua, Borderlands La Frontera (San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books, 1999), p. 41).
Are you sick in the heart? Are you feeling suspended between life before and the uncertainty of life going forward? Trust me (if you dare): you won’t find solace in a political leader, or even in science. You certainly aren’t going to avoid suffering by wallowing in lies and propaganda. You’d better find a friend who has the experience of ni de aquí ni de allá. Asking her intercession isn’t the very worst or most stupid thing you can do today.