Save Brujo, our dear friend!
I was seventeen years old and taken into custody by the undercover Federal police that came to the subway after the demonstration. They pulled aside about fifteen of us, drove us around to confuse and scare us, then put us in depravation for 8 hours. They took pictures of me naked and kicked me every time I moved from a squatting position. They threw me out in the streets half naked. I had to cover myself with fabric from the trash outside of the police station. It was one of our demonstration banners. I got home however I could.
Months later in Mexico City was militarized. I was again stopped and questioned on my way to friend's house to make t-shirts. They ripped my backpack open and saw transfers for new printing ideas. Then they uncovered a tattoo on my right arm and said “look it’s him!” They said, “We know where you live and what you do! If you keep doing this you will be in deep trouble!” And they told me the street and house number where I was living.
After that I moved out of Mexico City, but found no peace. I was detained in Queretaro City for two days for not looking like the others from there. I was set free because I was not talking and not eating inside the jail. In Culiacan, Sinaloa, where Cartel activity is rampant, I was detained for the same reason, and after washing the bathrooms and being called clown I was set free. In Nogales Sonora on the Mexican-US border, I was harassed again. They held me for 36 hours without any registration on their books. In that jail I was sexually harassed and I had to protect myself by not sleeping and by acting macho so no one would try to rape me.
In late 1997 I met an American woman in Oaxaca City, who offered to lend me money to come to the US. With few other options, I walked three and half days through the mountains to come to US. I decided to come to Philadelphia, where she lived, because she offered me more help.
I had to pay the Mexican embassy in New York City $100 dollars, to free my army card so I could get a passport. Without the army service we can't get a passport, so we cannot get out of Mexico the legal way. I did not do the army service because the Mexican government sends the army mostly to small villages to oppress the native population. If I return to Mexico, I could face persecution or get killed because the Mexican government - especially the PRI - do not like people that think in a radical humanitarian way. This is because I work to preserve indigenous art and culture from Mexico. Today it is easier to see what the Mexican government does to their own people, thanks to Youtube and Facebook; but when I came to US it was not easy to prove why I decided to run away from my government. If I return to Mexico, without a way to get out to another country, I could face several hardships, as I did before, or even worse endings.
In Philadelphia I was able to make friends in the punk scene and find housing. It was easy at first, but I felt lonely because I didn't fit in and I couldn't get services for my situation. I had a lot of stress, but I found Vipassana meditation, which is still helpful to me today. After a few hard years I knew I needed to seek citizenship, so I began taking steps.
Over the past fifteen years I have spoken with many immigration lawyers. They start out saying "this will be the year!" First they tell me that applying for a visa has to be done from outside the US. Then they talk about marriage, but that's not the right path for me. They say “I cannot change the laws for you”; but they tell me to wait for the next President. OK, NEXT year. Then they can charge thousands of dollars for their services.
Once in the year 2000 I was detained after a routine traffic stop in New Jersey due to racial profiling. After being found not guilty, the lawyer told me that he could get me a wife for $7000. I said no thanks, there are too many complications; and what immigrant has that kind of money?
Once I even worked with a refugee lawyer, who said the same things and couldn’t find a way to seek asylum either. No country in the world takes Indigenous refugees from Mexico; Mexico does not give IDs for “Indian” reservations because there are no reservations. My Aztec descent means nothing to them, and many Catholics of Spanish descent look down on me. Mexico treats you as a Mexican or NOT, so there is no such thing as a Mexican refugee. When police detain you, they don’t book you; they don't respect your human rights, and they don't keep records. Cartel activity is illegal, so it does not count as government oppression. That’s why my case is not considered severe enough to grant asylum.
A few years ago I looked into the National Interest Waiver. As a memory keeper for my culture, and a student of ancient skills, I fit many of the guidelines. Other immigration categories are out of my reach. However, I am stopped by the same technicality: you can’t apply for a visa from within the US. Guidelines have gotten harder today. Even within a marriage, they require evidence of extreme hardship, like if my wife was on suicide watch. Lying is expensive and complicated, and it’s morally wrong. I have not committed any fraudulent acts. And I do not want to marry if I’m not in love.
Nineteen years have passed. Today I'm a teaching artist and community worker in Philadelphia. All I want is to share my skills for the commonwealth of humanity. Unfortunately current immigration law has no provisions for someone like me. I am here now to ask for help. I want to comply with documents so I can come and go as I please. My father is aging; I haven’t seen him since I was 20. I have decided to go to Canada if they accept my visa application, even though my entire adult and professional life has been built here. From there I may be able to re-apply in a few years for entry into the US. This way I can still use my resume and show my accomplishments. If they accept me, I will be able to travel freely after six months, which means I can also visit my father.
I need to raise these funds as soon as possible, for obvious reasons. However, the visa process is so expensive,and includes fees, several tests, and requirements stating how much money I must have in the bank. Without these funds, I can't start my new life."
Please join us this coming Sunday January 13 at 6pm as we hold a fundraising dinner for Brujo at The Rotunda here in Philadelphia. Bring your friends, family, children, anyone! We will have delicious tamales (made by Brujo!), stuffed peppers, orange & pomegranate salad, sweet potatoes & greens, black eyed peas, lavender cookies, coconut chocolate chip cookies, and chocolate bundt cake; a short film on indigenous communities in the Philly area; acoustic music by friends of Brujo, and more. Check out the beautiful attached postcard image by Mandy Katz, and visit http://www.therotunda.org/event/save-brujo-fundraising-dinner-for-our-friend and https://www.facebook.com/events/1947430205561560 for more info.
Just a quick update - Brujo is now working with a Canadian immigration lawyer on an updated application. Also, we are going to hold a small fundraising event at The Rotunda, 4014 Walnut Street in Philadelphia, on Sunday January 13. Stay tuned for more information. And of course, please tell your friends about this gofundme. No donation is too small!
We need more help!
It's been a while since I updated you, so here goes. After over a year of waiting, Brujo finally heard from Canadian immigration. Much to our dismay, they refused his application, claiming that he had not shown significant evidence to back up his status as a self employed artist. If you know what Brujo's been up to during his two decades in the States, and/or if you had seen the application he submitted, then you know he is a self employed artist, culture worker, educator, and much more, with lots of proof. We believe strongly that this decision is incorrect. Therefore, Brujo is going to appeal with the help of a lawyer. Unfortunately, immigration lawyers are expensive, and Brujo cannot pay the lawyer from this campaign because those funds have to remain in his bank account as part of the immigration application. He needs to pay the lawyer 7,500USD. We are waiting to hear about a payment plan and possible discount. Thing is, he has to appeal the decision by the middle of next week or else it'll be too late to do so. He can afford some of the lawyer's fee, right now but not all of it, so we are asking you to donate to this campaign again and/or get friends to donate. Every little bit counts.
Brujo is so close to the finish line! Let's do this! Thanks!! ---Gina