I am shocked and disgusted by the San Rafael Police officers who used unnecessary force and unjustified violence against the gardener who goes by “Matteo” in Marin County, as reported by the local news.
This story brings to light the horrific treatment of our local hardworking, family oriented, trustworthy, honest and inspirational immigrants, most of whom work for substandard wages and are treated with disrespect. It’s activism I’ve been behind for years, trying to address it on a more systemic way. And when I do, I too am pushed down and told to shut up. It is time to scream justice.
Four years ago I journeyed to Guatemala to pay my respects for the death of the beautiful 20 year old Mayan Indigenous woman Claudia Patricia Gomez Gonzalez who was shot dead by our border patrol in Texas, for no reason. She simply was trying to find opportunity for a better life and give back to her family. I sat with her parents in the Mayan community of Guatemala, parents who were salt of the earth and believed in dignity and honesty. Apparently I was the only American to pay my respects and apologize for the violence in my country that killed their daughter. I shared letter with them from people across the country so they knew that there were many of us trying to change a violent system and who cared about their daughter.
I continued on documenting the lives of our local and Guatemalan residents to humanize this amazing community we have in Marin County. They have been our laborers, nannies, gardeners, roofers, baristas. . . helping to raise our children and take care of our homes, often, again, below fair wages. What they have shown us is how to take care of your own, how to collaborate and that honesty and hard work will pay off. . . and it will, with our help, and if we stand by them.
We have history with those of Guatemala and Central America, dirty history that needs healing. Let us not forget the war years under Ronald Reagan who called them communists and ushered in military violence against even the Mayan Indigenous villages, slaughtering men, women and children. S. Brian Wilson, one American, continues to shed light on this with his two missing legs, given he was one to throw himself under a train filled with guns leaving California for Central America in the 1980s.
As for this county taking Human Rights issues seriously? I applied for the Human Rights Commission position this past year, driven by the fact there is no Latino voice on the commission. I come from the working class culture and I felt given many of the Latinos in this community are in a state of working class survival, perhaps I could step in and support them, given no one else on the board was doing so. I was unanimously rejected by the entire Board of Supervisors, in favor of a man who had no connection to the Latino community, leaving once again the commission without a voice for the working Latinos in Marin County.
I gave a photo exhibit at Dominican UC honoring a Latino family, showcasing resilience and beauty. Not a single Board of Supervisor showed up despite the fact the Consul General of Guatemala came. I was embarrassed by my community who could not take time out to honor resilience and welcome the new Consul General of Guatemala.
I have asked Supervisor Donnally to take the opportunity with his position and apologize to our local Guatemalan community for the war atrocities of the 1980s. He chose not to, despite the fact most in his district have deep Mayan and Guatemalan roots.
I hope Matteo and the rest of the Latino community stand up for themselves. Because as they do, they will find there are many of us behind them. They could teach us resilience, sacrifice, collaboration, nurturing qualities, friendship and so much more. They have already taught me so much.