Posts Tagged ‘repatriation’
Arlene M. Sanchez-Walsh
See across the field
See the sky ripped open
See the rain comin’ through the gapin’ wound
Howlin’ the women and children
Who run into the arms
“Bullet the Blue Sky,” by U2 from The Joshua Tree, 1987
I came of political age in the 1980s, attended my first political rally against the Reagan Administration’s policies in Central America, wrote op-ed’s for the late great L.A. Herald, and even supported the Sandinista government in Nicaragua with my modest college-age wages. With the stories of the Central American children crossing the border and being met with invective, insults and generally appalling behavior, my mind went back 90 years, to more appalling behavior, perpetuated by U.S. officials under the guise of public health–the fumigation of Mexican workers and immigrants, some of those crossing back and forth were Pentecostal missionaries, this is one of their stories. I think it demonstrates that the regulation of Latin American peoples, whether 90 years ago or today, is fraught with danger, colored by nativism, and usually anything but the idealized site of refuge where people fleeing violence can find relief.
|Delousing of bracero workers 1950s.|
If you were shocked that a U.S. Congressman from Georgia was spreading horrendous rumors that the mostly women and children, nearly 60,000 of them fleeing horrific violence and near anarchy in Central America, were coming to the U.S. to spread the deadly Ebola virus, you are unfamiliar with the centuries old narrative that held that Latin Americans crossing the border were: disease-ridden, criminals, subversives, and hostile to the “American” way of life.
For some though, adding a human dimension to this story is a waste of time, because they have already succumbed to the fast and furious paranoia of incoherent conspiracy theories that buttress the most frightening reality of all. For a significant portion of the white population, they feel like they’ve lost their country.
Ironically, religious groups, of all kinds, conservative evangelicals, liberal Protestants, Jews, Catholics, are all in on the conspiracy. Religious-run refugee resettlement agencies, who, according to the Tea-Party affiliated website, Refugee Resettlement Watch stand to gain millions of dollars in federal contracts by resettling this new rush of refugees. This same website claims to serve as a watchdog for refugees from the Middle East, since part of the paranoia and xenophobic character of U.S. history has had its roots in the fear of contagion: the new contagion is the plan to bring Sharia law to the U.S. through the importation of refugees, immigration and rising birthrates among U.S. Muslims. The contagion in the case of Central American kids is a multiplicity of imagined threats that have worked for over a century to ensure that immigration, detention and deportation policies against Latinos/as are viewed as the only to America’s economic, political, social, cultural, and public health concerns.
The constant steady shout to go back home, the stares, the often mis-spelled signs, the detention facilities are scenarios Latino/a immigrants have faced for over a century and they show no sign of abating. The narrative of the lost land, for some, only goes one way. Losing America after all, is much more important than losing Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, or Honduras. The late 19th century depiction of an America morphing into an octopus, the Colossus of the North, is the shadow of a security state they know all know too well.
Federal laws in 1989 and 1990 require all federal agencies and museums that receive federal funding to inventory the human remains, burial remains, and items of cultural patrimony that they possess, and to notify Indian tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations about these items. 20 U.S.C. 80q; 25 U.S.C. 3000-3013. The goal behind these laws is to return such items to the proper Indian tribes, Native Hawaiian organizations, and native individuals.
Similarly, Yale University recently returned items to Peru that were taken by Yale researchers from Machu Picchu in the early 1900s.
Also, on March 10, it was reported that the remains of 138 indigenous people from the Torres Strait Islands in Australia are set to be repatriated from the London Natural History Museum.
The museum agreed to return the skeletal remains to the islands after holding talks with Indigenous leaders and the Australian government over the last 18 months.
Ned David, a representative of the Torres Strait Islands (TSI) community, said islanders were “deeply touched” by the decision to repatriate the ancestral remains, most of which were removed from a cave locals held sacred. “The return of our ancestors… is a key step in the healing process for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from injustices committed against our people in the past,” he said.
Richard Lane, Director of Science at the Natural History Museum, said he was pleased the museum had been able to work closely with the TSI community for the first time.
The Natural History Museum has a collection of around 20,000 human remains including teeth, hair, bones and entire skeletons, some of which date to the prehistoric era.