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Immigrants Risk All: Cry for Argentina

Pope John Paul II has said repeatedly that the Catholic Church is opposed to capitalistic systems which give priority to profits and products rather than the good of the human person.

Argentina has been touted as one of the success stories of the global market, of the “democratic laissez faire capitalism,” preached by Michael Novak, the neoliberalism that has been so destructive to the poor and the middle class in so many Third World countries. Argentina is actually a disaster, as news reports of riots in the streets over unemployment have recently shown. The story that follows is written by a woman from Argentina who in desperation came to the United States.

by Ana Maria

My story is one of the many filled with dreams, hopes and unfulfilled promises that come from the desperation of being badly off in one’s own country.

My nephew and I came from a far away country called Argentina. When you mention this country to others, they say, “Oh! Argentina!” However, beautiful Argentina may be, life is very difficult there now.

In my country, there are three social classes: rich, middle class and poor. The middle class, of which I am one, is the largest. We are the workers and the business people. Because of the bad economic decisions by a corrupt government, the middle class has practically disappeared. The factories close, the people have no work. The big businesses take their capital to other countries. The small business depend on the big businesses and often have to close. It is all a chain. Argentina has a very high rate of unemployment. There is hunger. There really is hunger there.

My husband and I have some friends who work in Argentina. They advised us to sell everything we owned and come to Houston. They told us that life was better here, that they had relatives here who would help us and find a house for us to rent. They told us a lawyer would help us put our papers in order so we could work. I had a small sewing shop with some sewing machines, which I sold so I could travel.

When we arrived in Miami, we were just asking how to take the bus to Houston, when a young man came running and grabbed my wallet. We were left with only the money in our pockets.

My nephew ran after him, but I was worried for his life. We took a taxi to the Greyhound station, where we explained our situation to the manager. He, thank God, let us travel by paying him only the little amount of money that remained with us.

We traveled twenty-six hours on the bus with nothing to eat. When we arrived in Houston, the person who was supposed to meet us at the bus terminal never arrived. We waited for twelve hours.

I cried and cried because of everything that had happened. A woman that I will never forget came up to me, and in her struggling Spanish gave me the number of Casa Juan Diego. She told me that if I needed help, to call this numbers, and that they spoke Spanish there.

Later, at 11:30 p.m., the relative of our friends arrived. He already knew that we had been robbed. He took us to a hotel and the next day he came to tell us that he worked all day and couldn’t take care of us, that he would have to leave us in the street. There was nowhere to turn!

I was desperate because I didn’t know what to do in this faraway country where I didn’t speak the language, didn’t know anyone and didn’t even have enough money to eat. We hadn’t eaten for 2 1/2 days. Then I remembered the older woman with beautiful blue eyes who had given me the telephone number. I called it and Mark picked us up and took us to Casa Juan Diego. Louise and the Catholic Workers received us with open arms.

I am enormously grateful to this group of workers, especially Louise and her husband, Mark, for the help that they have given us, and for what they do for everyone who comes here from other lands with only the hope of working and being able to live with dignity.

I wish to say that they don’t look at religion, race, or political stance at Casa Juan Diego. They see across to the human being that is in need of help and there they are with open arms and a smile that makes you feel that you are a human being again.

Houston Catholic Worker, Vol. XVII, No. 4, July-Aug. 1997.