Friday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

The child refugees from Central America are back in the news. This Washington Post story and Think Progress report on missing children — and murdered deported children — from Honduras was intense. It made me shudder, but also so grateful that I was born to the parents and country that I was.

I pray for a day that a child’s well-being isn’t based on where she was born.

If this issue is breaking your heart as much as mine, please consider signing this MomsRising outreach to Congress and the President. We have garnered more than 20,000 signatures and plan to deliver them soon.

Many thanks!

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Monday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

ICYMI: Images of children as young as infants in detention facilities in Texas have emerged. Because Congress has failed to pass comprehensive immigration reform and countries such as El Salvador and Honduras are plagued with breathtaking poverty and violence, the U.S. has a humanitarian crisis on its hands. As many as 90,000 unaccompanied children are in these detention facilities that the think tank Center for American Progress has released a fact sheet on the kids and the violence they are escaping in their home countries.

While MomsRising is not a direct aid organization, we are an advocacy group promoting certain policies and structural changes. We just went out to our members asking them to sign a pledge that will be delivered to Congress and the White House this Wednesday. We are asking for administrative relief from President Obama on deportations and for Congress to act on immigration reform. Can you please sign and share?

Many thanks all! What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


If You Happen to Be in Honduras…

Hi all! I am back from a 10-day vacation — four days in Honduras and six days in Puerto Rico — visiting family and playing tourist at the same time. I didn’t take my computer and didn’t even know what time or day it was most of my time away so it was definitely a vacation.

But I missed you all and am so ready to catch up on MT news!

First of all, I want to send my thoughts and prayers to our beloved tjb22 and her family in Ohio. I was shocked and sad to hear about her son-in-law’s passing after his valiant fight against renal failure. T, please know that you have an entire community here behind you.

Also, I was excited to “see” some new faces on our site. Welcome Abbie and rbt1!

I haven’t gotten a chance to read any news as I completely checked out the entire time I was abroad. But I have lots of photos to share from my trip. First stop: Honduras.

I’ve written about our previous visit to the Copan Ruins, which are worth checking out. This time we stayed with Markos’s cousins in San Pedro Sula, the second largest city in the country.

What hospitality. They had a birthday cake and piñata for Eli, who officially turned 4 there:

Markos’s cousin, Mario, took us to some amazing spots in San Pedro Sula while his wife and children were in school. (Our cousin Elena is a preschool teacher.) First, we rode through the mountains on a motor car:

One caveat: because San Pedro Sula is surrounded by beautiful mountains, the smog is trapped in the city. Normally, I am not an allergy-prone person like my husband, who regularly pops a Claritin pill for congestion. But this time I did find myself having to take the Claritin to keep a runny nose at bay. I have never had to do this anywhere, including San Salvador, Havana, or even Los Angeles, which makes me think the air quality in San Pedro Sula is not that good — or its beautiful greenery just didn’t agree with me.  

Nonetheless, I enjoyed the views and experienced my first ever behind-the-scenes tour of a zoo at the Zoológico Joya Grande in Santa Cruz de Yojoa, which is approximately 50 miles south of San Pedro Sula:

The zoo, by the way, had a multitude of offerings, including a zipline — canopy en español — and river tour on these “amphibian” car-boats. As a parent, something I always enjoy when I visit Latin America is that children are welcome everywhere, including the canopy. The kids, who were secured by rope like the adults, rode on a worker’s lap.

Also, there seems to be less judgement of parents. No one cares if the kids are in car seats, if they cry, and I feel free to reprimand my children in public — no matter how ugly. After Eli had a meltdown, Markos and I commented on how grateful we were that it took place in Honduras. No one batted an eye.

We selfishly took in more breathtaking views of San Pedro Sula’s mountains from the Museo de Antropolgía e Historia (the Anthropology and History Museum) in San Pedro Sula:

Most of all, we enjoyed each other’s company. After our museum outing, we went to eat at a seafood restaurant by the beach, and were serenaded by a mariachi quartet. My requests? Serenata Huasteca and Lastima que seas ajena. I have Alejandro Fernandez and Vicente Fernandez’s versions respectably on my iPod. Mario requested the song Mujeres Divinas. We sang along, drank and just had a good time. I would absolutely return with the kids.  


Wednesday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

My apologies in advance for being absent on the blog. My stories are running, but I am not commenting in any of them because I am out of the country. We are visiting Markos’s cousins in Honduras.

Two Christmases ago in El Salvador, we had the pleasure of hanging out with Markos’s cousin, Mario, his wife Elena — who is Honduran and that’s why they live there — and their three children. I think part of the reason Ari cried when we left El Salvador is because he had so much fun hanging out with them on the beach and was convinced that they had no jobs or school like we do.  

Well, we are going to get a dose of day-to-day life in Honduras, specifically San Pedro Sula, the second-largest city in the country. There is a lot going on in the country politically, including a former president in exile and a national teacher’s strike, so it should be an interesting four days.

After that, we are going to Puerto Rico to visit my mother’s family, including my grandfather, aunt, uncle and cousins. We haven’t been to the island in six years, and Eli has never met her great grandfather. Also, unlike our previous vacations, my mother-in-law and her partner are coming in from El Salvador, and my brother-in-law and sister-in-law are coming in from New Jersey to hang out with us. It will be Markos’s family’s first time in Puerto Rico.

With our families so far away — although admittedly living in desirable places to visit! — we have decided that we are going to start inviting immediate family on our vacations. It’s the only way to fit in a vacation and be able to see our families, too. I’ll let you know how it goes — and post lots of pictures. :)

For those of you who live far from family, how do you balance the need to see them with the desire to go on a “real” vacation?

In other news: my friend Aparna wrote this great piece for the non-profit DC Action for Children about Phyllis Schlafly. Schlafly, by the way, is an anti-feminist zealot who rails against working mothers who rely on day care, or what she calls “stranger care.” As it turns out Phyllis Dearest relied on nannies herself, but they were to be seen and not heard. Don’t you love hypocrisy?

Here is IMHO a welcome trend: there are less teen drivers on the road as parents hold off on their children driving due to the additional insurance costs, according to MSN Money.

That’s it on my end. “See” you in two weeks! What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Election Update and Other News

There are still races that are too close to call like the gubernatorial race in Oregon and senate race in Colorado, although some networks, including FOX, have called Colorado for incumbent Democrat Mike Bennet, according to the Washington Post.

Unfortunately, the Washington Post, among other publications, have called the Florida gubernatorial race for Tea Party-backed candidate Rick Scott. The Democrat, Alex Sink, has conceded the extremely tight race. (Both are under 50 percent, with one percent – or 53,000 votes — separating the two.)

Oh, and I must share with you this Seer Press News article that was bandied about yesterday among my family and friends. It was about a couple in Tennessee whose house burned down because they “forgot” to pay the optional fee to the fire department. You see, the fire department in this town was not taxpayer-funded but supported by an annual subscription fee of $75. Of course in this case, the residents are not upset at their fellow taxpayers for refusing to adequately fund a fire department — which they expect to work for free — but the firemen. I wonder how much of this we will see in the next two years as the funding of already fragile public infrastructures are further cut? We can always blame the government employees we aren’t paying!

Finally, in non-election news, this month is National Adoption Month, according to our Dana at Mombian. She gave an update on the states that prohibit even unmarried couples from adopting, just to show you we have a long way to go in achieving equality in this country.

In international news, Honduras has a major teacher strike going on, according to Honduras News. Glad to see some organizing in Latin America.  


An Unimaginable Choice

This column was cross-posted at

Back on February 27, 2006, the day after my 29th birthday when I was a fairly new and sleep-deprived mother, I came across an article in Salon that made me shudder. It was a book review — a true story — about an Honduran boy who made multiple, and often unsuccessful trips, to find his mother in the United States. The book, which I highly recommend, won the author, Sonia Nazario, a Pulitzer Prize.

Here were some shocking statistics from Nazario’s book, Enrique’s Journey:

“’In Los Angeles … 82 percent of live-in nannies and one in four housecleaners are mothers who have at least one child in their home country.’ Once a fraternity dominated by Mexican braceros, America’s shadow community of illegal immigrants has been joined by an influx of women. And millions of single mothers in Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico, alone and unable to shelter and feed their children, find themselves facing an unimaginable choice: set out for the States alone, but with the hope of earning enough money to pull their children out of poverty — or stay put, their family intact but doomed to destitution.“

As a new mom, I had not shuddered so much at the thought of this choice as when I unfortunately watched the movie Sophie’s Choice. (Seriously, do not watch this movie if you are a new parent!)

As an American of Cuban and Puerto Rican descent, I am grateful to my father and grandparents that I have never had to make this gut-wrenching decision. But I have witnessed many women who have.

My first encounter with such a mom was at a Burger King in Miami in the late 1980s. I was with my sister and a couple of friends, laughing and eating away at junior whoppers, when a Nicaraguan woman cleaning tables at BK, approached us with tears in her eyes. “You look just my daughter,“ she told us in Spanish. “That’s exactly how my daughter dresses.“

“Where is she?“ I asked her.

“In Nicaragua.“

“Why didn’t you bring her with you?“

“It’s complicated,“ she uttered the words that I would repeatedly hear throughout the years from mothers in her same situation.

As for my friends and I, we were your typical American teenagers, sporting jeans and sneakers, and without a care in the world. We just shrugged her off and did not give her a second thought. I admit, I did not think of her until I became a mother, and was horrified at the weight of her decision.

Throughout the years, I have encountered other undocumented mothers separated from their children. I often travel to El Salvador to visit my mother-in-law. (My husband, too, is the son of immigrants.) I remember one late-night conversation at the San Francisco airport with a young Honduran mother who had just gotten her papers and was going to see her little son for the first time in three years. I was cradling my one-year-old son at the time, and my heart just broke for her. What do you say to a woman who wants nothing more than to hold her own child, but has zero resources to feed him? For me, it is an impossible predicament, too painful to even ponder.

And, of course, every time I have encountered these mothers, I am so grateful to God and to my family who made the hard choices for me.

For a decade, my grandfather lived abroad while my grandmother and father stayed behind in Cuba. This was post-revolutionary Cuba in the 1960s. My grandmother said that she did not see her husband, and my father did not see his father, for up to six years at a time, while my grandfather worked in the shipyards in the United States and sent money to them in Cuba.

As a child in the United States who took for granted her intact family, I never thought to ask my grandfather how he felt being cut off from his family, his community, everything he knew. But recalling the fond childhood memories I have of him, including three-month summer vacations with my grandparents in the Philadelphia suburbs, trips to McDonald’s and late-night viewing sessions of Univision’s Sabado Gigante — one of his favorite shows! — now that I think about him, it must have been lonely as hell.

And the irony doesn’t escape me. Thanks to him, I have gotten so used to the comforts of American life — TV, the Internet, fast food — that I would, no doubt, have serious withdrawal symptoms if they were taken away from me. Would I leave my children to pursue economic opportunities if circumstances forced me? How destitute would I have to be to give up raising my family? I hope to never find out.


Review: Copan Ruins in Honduras

During our 10-day visit to, largely, El Salvador, we managed to sneak in a two-day trip to the Mayan ruins in Copan, Honduras.

While the ruins can be easily reached in three hours by car through Guatemala — and we took that route on the way back to San Salvador — we decided to drive through the countryside of Honduras to get there. The six-hour trek with two small kids was worth it.

We were so high up the mountains, we were literally on top of the clouds. The scenery of mountains, volcanoes, bright tropical trees and flowers was breathtaking. Ari was awake the whole time taking it all in.

And unlike Joya de Cerén, another major Mayan civilization uncovered in La Libertad Department, El Salvador, the Copan ruins were vaster and better preserved. (Shh…don’t tell my family that!) Some of the temples, which were pretty damn impressive, were even painted to resemble their original state.

Throughout our tour, my mother-in-law and I kept speculating on how the Mayans could possibly climb so high to build those pyramids and temples. We guessed rope made out of twine or ladder-like structures made out of tree bark. The building structures themselves were tall and their design very detailed, outlining the line of Mayan kings. There was one particular king mentioned throughout this particular civilization, “Dieciocho Conejo,” or “18 Rabbit.” I giggled when I heard a man from a group in front of us grumble, “All you hear about is Dieciocho Conejo!” Dieciocho Conejo, unfortunately, met a cruel fate when he lost a bet. He was beheaded.

Ari especially was way into the ruins. He asked to return the next morning to climb all the pyramids. Before we headed home, we stopped at the gift shop where he picked out a statue replica of a Mayan king — probably Dieciocho Conejo — and a book about Copan. To the delight of his teacher and classmates, he took them to school yesterday.

If there are a couple red flags to this otherwise family-friendly outing, one is to bring plenty of water. It is hot out there and not all the structures are under the shade. The other is whether you want to get into the human sacrifice aspect of Mayan culture. While there is no evidence that women were sacrificed, there were structures pointed out to us that were used to behead men and it was not unheard of for entire sports teams to be sacrificed after winning or losing a match. According to our tour guide, Antonio, the Mayans considered being sacrificed to the gods an honor.

We did not go into this part of history with Ari as he is only 6. But there was plenty of other history and art to keep him occupied.

What are some of the memorable family trips you have taken?


Illegal Immigration & an Unfortunate Separation

We all know that there have been horrible injustices due to immigration laws and homeland security in the past.  This recent incident is no exception.  On October 27th, Sayda Umanzor had her nine month old daughter Brittany, who was breastfeeding at the time taken from her arms when she and her husband were led away by authorities.  

“It was like a piece of me was torn away,” Umanzor said Thursday, speaking through an interpreter.

I can’t even imagine going through a nightmare like that.  Apparently, her baby cried for days without her mother and her mother’s milk.  It took the jail three days to figure out they had a nursing mother in their custody.  A Spanish speaking La Leche League Leader alerted the jail that they had a breastfeeding mother and she tried to get her a breast pump.  What a mess… by then, I’m sure this poor mother is extremely engorged and uncomfortable.    By the way, the jail accepted the pump but for some reason the two sides didn’t connect and the milk had to be dumped.  

What a horrible tragedy to befall this family.  She may not have been in this country legally… but this is a totally appalling way to treat people.  My heart aches for this mom and her baby.  

La Leche’s Stone said the nine-month-old was shocked by the disappearance of her mother and did not take formula for two days.

Advocates are trying to change the procedure for mothers and breastfed children.

Greg Palmore, a spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, said the agency approved Wednesday a new policy to address the needs of breast-feeding mothers.
“It basically ensures that you take humanitarian issues involving nursing moms into consideration,” he said Friday. “It also ensures we make contact with state social service agencies to address caregiver issues.”

Umanazor and her husband are originally from Honduras.  She, her husband, and one of their three children are facing deportation.  The other two children are US Citizens.

Umanzor rejoined her children and was fitted with an ankle bracelet which tracks her whereabouts…  Clutching her baby, she said she does not want to think about that.

What gets me, are the comments on the site.  Wow… talk about cold.   It’s one “too bad… boot ‘em out“ comment after another.

I don’t even see this so much as an illegal immigration issue, but again as we’ve talked about on this site… a human rights issue.  Just because someone commits “a crime“ it doesn’t mean they can’t be treated with dignity.

And for that matter, why should this only pertain to breastfeeding mothers?  Why not infants who are formula fed?  Wouldn’t their babies also go through severe separation anxiety without their mothers?  Where do we draw the line?  What about toddlers and preschoolers?    I think they too would have a tough time without their mothers.  I know my kids would be an emotional mess if I was suddenly taken from our home.  

I don’t know what the answer is, but we definitely need an overhaul of our current immigration laws.  What do you think MotherTalkers?