Friday, August 31, 2012

August in Palomas: Beans, Peanut Butter, Shoes and Blood Pressure/Glucose Testing

By Victoria Tester 

On August 21st and 22nd, beans were distributed by Esperanza Lozoya and volunteers at the Outreach building in Palomas, Chihuahua, just across the border from Columbus, N.M.

Mike Odom, founder and director of Dos Manos, a Taos-based organization created to bring hope to the humanitarian crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border, observed and aided in the distributions.
This effort is in addition to the many services that Lozoya and Palomas Outreach have provided for long-time members of the community as well as recent arrivals.  They include a summer feeding program, a school supply drive, and distribution of Easter baskets.

Bags of beans were set up in the courtyard, and representatives of families brought their id's and containers to receive equal shares of beans, along with small tubs of peanut butter.

Temperatures were high, but volunteers worked hard to serve the many Palomas families whose ability to procure daily food has become increasingly difficult. As always, beans are distributed without religious or cultural discrimination.
"It's an honor to serve the Tarahumara and other indigenous peoples here at the border and in Chihuahua. We are a rainbow of volunteers who do this work, and we serve a rainbow of people. I got off a bus the other day in a town hours from here and was suddenly surrounded by a group of Tarahumara women, smiling and kissing my cheek because they knew me from my work here in Palomas. It filled my heart." -- Esperanza Hope Lozoya
The daily meal for seniors and the disabled served by dedicated volunteers, and blood pressure and glucose monitoring, were also in progress.

Trip to Palomas Landfill
A special trip was also made to the Palomas landfill, where families are scavenging to get by. I admire these people who do the hard and horrible work they must to keep going.

At first it is hard to tell that the figure walking towards me, who turns out to be the mother of the little boy, is a woman -- the women here at the landfill work like men, their hair shoved under hats, their clothes shapeless, their faces and arms as blackened with grime. She agrees I should photograph her so that others can know about the hardships in Palomas.

The little boy who's been working alongside her is sad at being photographed. The Superman shirt he's wearing doesn't give him any magical powers against his reality -- endless hours spent digging in the dangerous, colorless world of the landfill so those he loves can live on what others have thrown away. His grandfather, who also approaches, is a brick-maker. He can make two to three thousand bricks at a time, if he gets the order, and yes, the fired bricks can go across the border. But orders for bricks, like so many other good things, are very slow in Palomas. I leave, shaken by their expressions of faith in the God who helps them.

Distributing Shoes
On August 22nd, new child shoes were fitted and distributed to 218 children in the main plaza in Colonia Guadalupe Victoria.

Lozoya and volunteers have fitted and distributed nearly 1000 pairs of new child shoes in Palomas, nearby Colonias Modelo and Guadalupe Victoria from April to August 2012, thanks to a generous shoe donation from a church in Mesilla, New Mexico.

These shoes help more children attend school. They also mean families can use what little money they have to buy food.

Rising Cost of Food
Lozoya and volunteers returned to the colonia the next day, August 23rd, to distribute, under police guard, nearly one thousand pounds of beans, again in the main plaza.

I talk to a woman in Colonia Guadalupe Victoria. I see the drought in her gentle brown eyes and in the tired faces of many others. She exclaims over the dramatically risen price of beans and now, eggs. "We used to be able to afford at least our beans, or an egg. Hasta donde nos mandan? What are they driving us to?" We look around at the hundreds of people in the plaza waiting for their portion of beans. Most can no longer look forward to a daily meal. This, this is what they are being driven to.

The quarters of a Mixtec migrant worker group from Guerrero state who attended the distribution were also visited, and the next day Lozoya returned to inquire about their obvious need.

A special September visit is planned to aid the Mixtec migrant workers, whose situation is especially dire.

(All photos courtesy of Victoria Tester)

Contact Information
Esperanza Hope Lozoya has lived and worked among the poor of Palomas and rural Chihuahua for the past nine years. She can be reached at or 575-936-0417 or P.O. Box 38, Columbus, N.M., 88029

Victoria Tester, who has assisted Lozoya with her efforts in Palomas since December 2009, recently joined the board of Dos Manos as exective director. She can be reached at She has written several pieces on the ongoing efforts in Palomas for the Bread New Mexico blog.

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