Reading about SLU’s receiving of Rex Sinquefield’s fifty million dollars reminded me of a letter Mev Puleo wrote to then SLU President Biondi 25 years ago …
After the exhilarating World Youth Day experience, Mev jumped right into her doctoral program at the GTU in Religion and the Arts. Early on, she became acquainted with Maria Bower, a doctoral student in spirituality, with whom she increasingly spent time. She also continued her Haiti solidarity work with local activists Pierre LaBoussiere and Nancy Laleau. But even as she began her study, her experience earlier in the year in El Salvador was raising all kinds of questions to her about higher education. She dashed off the following letter to St. Louis University President Father Lawrence Biondi.
6 September 1993
Lawrence Biondi, S.J.
St. Louis University
221 North Grand Boulevard
St. Louis, MO 63103
Dear Father Biondi,
Greetings from a SLU alumna living in California. I hear good words about you from both my father, Peter Puleo, and from some SLU faculty with whom I keep in touch, such as Sr. Dolores Greeley. Congratulations on your good work.
I am writing in response to the “Campaign for St. Louis University” materials. You and those who worked on this produced a beautiful publication with an attractive layout — which I appreciate as a professional photographer. A while back, when I was heading to El Salvador for a meeting, Fr. McGannon gave me some literature on both the SLU Campaign and for the UCA-El Salvador Campaign. (I imagine you are familiar with that publication as well, put out by the AJCU in D.C.).
As a graduate and great fan of SLU, and as a person who has been active in solidarity work with Central America for more than a decade (which I began during my student years at SLU), I was jarred by looking at the two campaign booklets side by side. I am very impressed with the UCA’s attention to “Social Outreach,” their ongoing analysis of the “national reality,” their attention to institutional violence, defense of human rights, and to bringing together people from across the political spectrum to try to encourage a more just, humane society. They are explicit in their aims to educate the privileged (the literate and college-bound) to lead and serve the needs of the majority of the country. While the SLU booklet mentions community service and scholarship funds, these themes of immersion, analysis and engagement in the local social reality are absent. Read the rest of this entry »
All dictatorships are sexually repressive and anti-life. All affirmations of life are diametrically opposed to dogmatic regimes. It was logical for Fidel Castro to persecute us, not to let us fuck, and to try to suppress any public display of the life force.
-— Reinaldo Arenas
Reinaldo Arenas, Before Night Falls: A Memoir
Powerful and gripping memoir by homosexual, writer, dissident, which awakened me to Castro’s crimes against naysayers and gays.
Herein are great passages about the beauty of Cuba, its beaches and the sea, the countryside, the animals, the rivers, the trees, as in “And the sky’s radiance was not constant but an unending blaze of changing hues and, stars that burst and disappeared (after having existed for millions of years) just to enrapture us for a few moments.” Or, “I always thought that in Cuba the only thing that saved us from absolute insanity was that, being surrounded by water, we had to chance to go to shore and swim.” Arenas appreciated the created order throughout his life and seemed not to take it for granted. Could not his sexual voracity also be an element of the Via Positiva? For it is all about pleasure and enjoyment and splendor, he seemed, after he came out, remarkably free of guilt and anxiety (from this anyway) and self-hatred. So: “To get to a beach was like entering paradise because all the young people wanted to make love, and there were always dozens of them ready to go into the bushes.” Read the rest of this entry »
Oscar Romero’s Letter
San Salvador February 17, 1980
The President of the United States Mr. Jimmy Carter
Dear Mr. President:
In the last few days, news has appeared in the national press that worries me greatly. According to the reports, your government is studying the possibility of economic and military support and assistance to the present government junta.
Because you are a Christian and because you have shown that you want to defend human rights, I venture to set forth for you my pastoral point of view in regard to this news and to make a specific request of you. Read the rest of this entry »
“[You in the Western countries] have organized your lives around inhuman values [which] are inhuman because they cannot be universalized. The system rests on a few using the majority of the resources, while the majority can’t even cover their basic necessities. It is crucial to define a system of values and a norm of living that takes into account every human being.”
–Father Ignacio Ellacuría
Quoted in Noam Chomsky, Deterring Democracy
In our current class, I asked if anyone had a strong connection to El Salvador. Martin Zaldivar shared the following, and he gave me permission to post it. El Salvador is the home to half my family (father’s side). My grandmother spends most of her days in her dwelling, close to the noisy capital. She dozes on and off in the early mornings beneath a roof of corrugated metal, over a concrete floor laid by my deceased grandfather, and between walls which don’t do enough to muffle the sound of cats yowling their prowess or their other, undoubtedly sordid affairs. I have a cousin who is young enough to believe that running from the sounds of gunshots is completely normal, and an uncle who daydreams, incessantly and unreasonably- reasonably. My father spoke to my siblings and myself about the friends he lost during the Salvadoran civil war. He hid a book in his room which I found as a child on the civil war, which contained enough misery and anguish to open my eyes to the kind of truths which are hidden just under white lies. Read the rest of this entry »
since August 2011
1. I learned that life is unpredictable and cannot be controlled.
2. I learned that there is a wide, visible gap between life in the United States and life in the many developing countries around the world.
3. I learned that Spanish is easier to learn when trying to make friends, though still intimidating at times. I learned it is easier and dare I say, actually fun, to learn Spanish when talking sweetly to your life’s forever flame. I learned it is very frustrating to learn Spanish when trying to put the “right” words together to share something difficult, frustrating, deeply personal or confusing. It is equally as frustrating to learn Spanish when unable to understand someone’s deeply personal testimony or sharing of emotions, and also jokes. Man, I know I have missed some good jokes shared in Spanish.
4. I learned, just as Jim “Jaime” Lochhead told me before I left, that it really didn’t matter how bad my Spanish was. I still came back changed, re-arranged and broken in the best way.
5. I learned that lines can be blurred and borders are only imaginary. Deysi’s brother lives in Texas, probably not too far from my own family members. William has a family member in or around the DMV. Rosa’s daughter and I surely have walked the same streets in Baltimore.
Read the rest of this entry »
Maria is taking a class with me based on The Book of Mev. One of the weekly themes was Direct Address, and Maria wrote the following and gave me permission to share it.
Dear “Hermana Ann” September 12, 2017
Hello, my name is Maria Smith and I am a 2013 graduate of Saint Louis University. It has been a true honor getting to know you through The Book of Mev (as in your friend, Mev Puleo. Her husband, Mark Chmiel, wrote a beautiful book that you’d enjoy. It includes people like you that make me proud to be a SLU alum). This afternoon, I read an excerpt that features you being interviewed by Mev. During the time of the interview, you were both in El Salvador, perhaps sitting outside somewhere. While I read the interview, I was sitting outside my office. I had just finished eating lunch and was taking a moment to breathe and sit in the sun before returning back to work. Read the rest of this entry »