Yes, Hawaii is not perfect and there are social ills here. There are ongoing environmental, social, and cultural battles to be fought here here. But we are also blessed. When you hear about the struggles in other places, sadly still ongoing, in particular the persecution and execution of those who dare to speak out, you have got to be thankful for what we do have here.
When your aim in traveling is to be a better citizen of the world, you have to be open to learning about the world. Traveling, to me, is not about stimulating the senses, although I love this too, especially when it comes to food. Traveling takes you out of your comfort zone, and this makes you open to learning.
When my friend Nuria invited me to travel with her to Mexico, I was eager to go. For some reason, I have an affinity for Mexico. I did not do much preparation for this trip though and it was a good thing, because we ended up changing our original plans. As I said in my post about Vancouver, my traveling is a mix of serendipity and planning.
One of the things she needed to do in our short stay in Mexico City, was visit a mural painted of Maria Guardado, a Salvadoran immigrant to the US, who fled her country after being targeted by the army for her activism. She is a friend of Nuria's and Nuria had promised her that she would go to her mural and take her picture there. She told me a little about her so that when I came back from my trip, I wanted to learn more about this woman.
A documentary was done about her in 2002, when she had been in the US for 20 years, in which she describes what was done to her. She was captured, beaten, raped, tortured, and left to die. By some miracle, she lived. She continues to fight for social justice today, a refugee in Los Angeles, participating in protests having to do with immigration, union organizing, and against US intervention abroad. One of the most infuriating aspects of her story is the fact that the US, through the CIA, had a heavy hand in the horrendous murder and torture of these civilians, who dared to protest injustice.
You may say, past is past. This was another time. Too bad this happened, but so what does have to do with us today? My answer is, there is injustice today! Maria mentions in the documentary that she uses Jesus as the model for what she does. "If Jesus Christ can die for injustice, then so can I." I don't think I have that kind of courage. I think God knows that because in my life, I am not called to put my life on the line for a great cause. We do live in a comfort zone, especially in Hawaii, but travel takes you out of your comfort zone. Travel and connecting with other people's stories have the potential to make us more empathetic, more of our brother's and sister's keepers. I don't want to be "just" a sensory tourist, interested in the sights, tastes, smells, sound, and touch of a different place. That is part of traveling and I love it. But if it doesn't somehow make you more educated, more knowledgeable about the world, its culture and history, then it is selfish.
Today, in Mexico (far from where I'll be) there is terrible news about student teachers who had been on their way to stage a protest against the state government. 43 of them have "disappeared," last seen being taken away by local police. Yes, it happens today, and it is happening in a country that I will be visiting. No, I am not afraid. Also today, in the US, unarmed US citizens can be shot and killed if they are not the right color. So, yes, there is injustice and cause to fear everywhere. And it is not Ebola.
Today, I am reading up on Buenos Aires. And I will write about that later. But it will also break your heart. World history is one heart-breaking story after another. But better to know it, than to be ignorant. And the survival stories, like Maria Guardado's, are inspiring, and put things in perspective.
Diane Aoki is a writer who explores other modes of creativity as her intuition leads her.