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  • Edición impresa de Marzo 3, 2009.

People in the United States are rising to the current economic situation. One constantly reads about the fundraising efforts of every nature trying to compensate for the bad luck that is affecting so many people.

It is very comforting to know that people have the means to help others while keeping their quality of live. Meanwhile there is another kind of fundraising going on. The informal economy is also growing and many families are banding together in order to live and cook together, thus avoiding higher living costs. What’s more, they are cooking all sorts of wonderful ethnic dishes and selling them within the immediate community.

Every week we receive calls offering tamales, enchiladas, mole, quesadillas, etc and they would like to have more clients in order to survive with the little income they derive from their family enterprises.

People are also offering bartering services and doing odd jobs for very low fees.

All these efforts are worthwhile and help those in need keep their dignity; but the reality of not being able to pay mortgage or rents, or not having money to pay the energy bill, brings them closer to despair.

The current economic situation has become the passing trial for those whose resilience is stronger. They have become experts in cutting expenses, at the same time being very creative and resourceful with their meager assets and opportunities.

When talking to immigrant families who at this point are jobless and about to lose what little they have, I have noticed several common answers.

The first thing is, they trust in God and work as hard as they can to survive. Second, they do not blame anyone for what is happening, nor are they resentful. On the contrary, all their energy is focused in positive changes that may alleviate their situation.

They still get together to talk, celebrate and joke around all this in the midst of loud music and excellent food basically made with corn, beans, lettuce and maybe a bit of cheese. They have always known how to stretch money and care for each other. In doing so, they pass on those values of solidarity to the younger generations.

People trade child caring and drive each other to apply for jobs; and when the painful time to say good-bye to those leaving comes along, they raise funds to send them with a ‘little something’. Like the widow of the parable, they give out of their own poverty and they do it gladly.

Trying times are excellent learning opportunities. Through the years I have had the opportunity to listen to organizations talk about ‘teaching’ the immigrants about budgeting and how to use their resources. They also tried to teach them how to ‘eat better’ and enjoy some recreation. Little did the organizations realize how much budgeting, caring and enjoying goes along in the immigrant community.

Immigrants have a lot to learn when coming to the U.S. Most of them come from tropical third world countries where processed food is not the norm, even though the U.S has brought it about in their countries.

Because there are no seasons, they are not used to ride with the seasons, buying during the months of crops and canning or freezing for the winter. They also do not know about many cultural issues, like feast gatherings and noise.

The time to learn from each other is winding now. Now is a time for separation and assimilation for those staying.

I hope the lessons of kindness and sharing will remain in both communities as they become one.






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