Hold It All

Category: Latin America

Current Reading

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Ale Vazquez


It Was Love at First Haiku

Maria told me to contact you
When you were fresh back from El Salvador

And perhaps needing another shoulder to lean on
After re-entering this meshugah militarized greed culture

There we sat at a table
At Café Ventana

And soon you spread before me
Your final project from the previous semester

You stayed up all night to do it
It had to be that way

Had to cut through the sleepiness
To pour out all that had accumulated—

On each page a water color by you
And a special photo

And a haiku on one page in Spanish
And on the facing page your translation into English

How moved your compañeras in the class must have been!
Your multiple forms connecting

To the many people who made a place
For you in their hearts

Es verdad— the impossibility of writing an eight-page
Double-spaced, TNR font, academic paper Read the rest of this entry »


With Jim, Dan, and Mev, Upper West Side, 1995


What You Understand Depends on Where You Stand

For Brent Fernandez and Brett Schrewe

On Daniel Berrigan’s Night Flight to Hanoi

Night Flight to Hanoi is an account of Jesuit Daniel Berrigan’s odyssey in late January and early February 1968, when he and historian Howard Zinn traveled to Hanoi as representatives of the American peace movement. Their aim was to bring home three U.S. pilots whom the North Vietnamese had released. The narrative includes his decision to go, the waiting, the arrival, the tours into the grotesque and destructive displays of US military power, the testimonies of Vietnamese humanity and ingenuity, the meeting with the pilots, and the unelaborated denouement when the men are flown home—contrary to the wishes of the North Vietnamese—on a military plane. He and Zinn went in good faith around the world to promote peace between the two countries; the U.S. government, however, violated the agreement.

What is bracing in this account is Berrigan’s journey of solidarity, risk-taking, and accompaniment (example: sitting in the bomb shelters with the Vietnamese). So, what matters after such exposure and confrontation over the course of several days?

Seeing matters: “I have seen the victims. And this sight of the mutilated dead has exerted such inward change upon me that the words of corrupt diplomacy appear to me more and more in their true light. That is to say—as words spoken in enmity against reality.” [22-23] How Berrigan’s Jesuit brother Ignacio Ellacuría stressed over and over the imperative to confront realidad. Read the rest of this entry »


Ann Manganaro, Teka Childress, Ellen Rehg; photo by Mev

What You Understand Depends on Where You Stand

for Ellen Rehg

Mev looked up to Ann Manganaro
Co-founder of Karen Catholic Worker House
Sister of Loretto medical doctor
Compañera to Father John Kavanaugh

When Mev went to El Salvador in 1993
For the annual meeting with CRISPAZ
She sought out Ann for an interview
They spent hours together in Guarjila

Shortly after Ann’s death that summer
Mev prepared that interview for publication
For a Catholic health magazine
She was not pleased when she saw the final result

The editor had cut out something Mev deeded crucial
The part about Ann’s consciously choosing
To go to El Salvador
To act as a small counter to the evil of U.S. policy–

A million dollars a day for the decade
Going to the Salvadoran government
That was crucifying its own people–
So Ann went there to be with them

Ann was a witness to their agony
And their courage
She is still fondly remembered in El Salvador
And ought to be better known here



Dear “Hermana Ann”
by Maria Vasquez-Smith

Dear “Hermana Ann,”

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 »

Political Holiness

Pedro Casaldáliga & José-Maria Vigil, Political Holiness: A Spirituality of Liberation

Those who struggle for utopia, for radical change, saints marked by the liberating spirit, are all of a piece; they carry faithfulness from the root of their being on to the smallest details that others overlook: attention to the littlest, respect for subordinates, eradication of egoism and pride, care for common property, generous dedication to voluntary work, honesty in dealings with the state, punctuality in correspondence, not being impressed by rank, being impervious to bribes….Detailed everyday faithfulness is the best guarantee of our utopias. The more utopic we are, the more down-to-earth! (p. 58)


March 24, 1995 marks the 15th anniversary of the assassination of Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero. Two weeks before he was murdered while celebrating liturgy, Romero acknowledged the likelihood of a violent death but he was convinced, “I will rise again in the Salvadoran people.” Now widely cherished as a saint by the poor throughout Latin America, Romero indeed proved to be an inspiration to innumerable unknown Christians as well as a few famous ones — such as the Salvadoran Jesuit intellectuals — who suffered the same fate of persecution and martyrdom for their work on behalf of a new society. [1]

Political Holiness is an up-to-date examination of the spirituality that defined Romero and the continental cloud of witnesses that continues to defy institutionalized injustice with Christian hope. [2] The authors are well qualified to share the fruits of their reflections on their experience: Vigil has long labored as a theologian in Nicaragua, while Brazilian Dom Pedro has been one of the most courageous of Latin American bishops and, like Romero, he has been perennially threatened with death because he has championed the rights of the poor over the privileges of rich landowners. This book is a deceptively simple and quite compelling manual and guide to the dominant fundamentals, themes, and issues of the spirituality that has emerged in full force in the last several decades in the southern hemisphere. For specialists and students in spirituality, it is bound to provoke deeper reflection on spirituality, and Christian spirituality. Read the rest of this entry »

Share the Wealth with Lois Aceto: “Committed to Truth and Compelled to Justice”

My friend Lea Koesterer suggested her friend Lois for one of our evenings, so I am glad to pass along the following from Lea–

Lois Aceto, a Racine Dominican Sister, is a seasoned social justice activist. Her first book is entitled “Journeying Toward Justice.” She and I became acquainted at the Siena Center of Racine, Wisconsin. During her years living in a barrio as a missionary in La Paz, Bolivia, she survived earthquakes, three revolutions, and was arrested by Interpol. She helped children to thrive by founding an orphanage and setting up a medical clinic in the barrio. As part of her training as a nurse, Lois stayed six weeks in a leprosarium in Valencia, Spain. Wherever she has found herself throughout her life, Lois has fully embraced her charism “committed to truth and compelled to justice.” She continues to do so today in Wisconsin where she has a prison ministry and promotes restorative justice ideals.

Join us
This Sunday 30 August
7:00 p.m CST
Via Zoom
Email markjchmiel@gmail.com for URL



Sending a Poem and Its Translation to a Friend

This is by Nicanor Parra.
Sound familiar?
As in Violeta Parra (Nicanor’s sister).

As in Gracias a la Vida.
As in her own recording of same
(YouTube hers, not Mercedes’s)
As in try and not feel indescribable shivers even if you’ve heard it 279 times {“That’s all?”} before.

Bow our heads
For these two Treasures
Sister and Brother
From Chile, South America.

Two Ways of Looking at a Plague…

Ernesto Cardenal, Zero Hour And Other Documentary Poems
New Directions, 1980

Dear Chase & Liz,

The Nicaraguan poet Ernesto Cardenal died on March 1. I’m going back over his works this spring under quarantine. I first read Zero Hour in 2008, and it was a godsend, a goad, a glory. A little more than 100 pages, Cardenal’s exteriorismo invites you into a world of injustice, resistance, and revolution, the last of which the U.S. government was determined to kill off, and did by the late 1980s. Translator Robert Print-Mill has this to say: “Cardenal’s recording of the present or the past is aimed at helping to shape the future—involving the reader in the poetic process in order to provoke him into full political commitment, thus fostering the translation of the poet’s more prophetic visions into sociopolitical fact.” Without Cardenal, without this book, I could not have written Dear Layla [see therein, Reading/5 (Subversive/3)]. The following are some passages from several poems that caught my attention…

The Brazilian miracle
Of a Hilton Hotel surrounded by hovels.
The price of things goes up
And the price of people comes down.

We cut through the canyon of windows [in Manhattan] and trillions of dollars

Who is that other monster rising up in the night?
The Chase Manhattan Bank screwing half of humanity.

THE EARTH BELONGS TO EVERYBODY, NOT THE RICH Read the rest of this entry »

Hard to Believe It’s Been Thirty Years…

And glad to know the Mev Puleo Program is an agent of remembrance.

Share the Wealth with Bob Suberi: Venezuela and Its Struggle for Sovereignty

This evening’s sharing will focus on Venezuela’s response to crippling U.S. sanctions.

I was born in Southern California in 1948 to Jewish immigrants from Jerusalem. I served in Vietnam after being drafted in 1968 then went to the University of California San Diego on the G.I. bill and graduated in 1975. Ending up in St. Louis in 1976 I fulfilled my father’s dreams by opening a restaurant with my new bride, Barbara. We later started buying real estate and became involved in our city’s manifestly destined campaign to gentrify the suburbs. Retiring in 2004 I had time to travel, read and reflect on my life. I became a news junky after 9/11 (who didn’t?) but as I started reading independent journalists I started questioning my American Exceptionalism and my Zionist aspirations. I’ve been on delegations to Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela and spent time in Honduras and Guatemala. Today I am a member of Veterans For Peace, a volunteer for the drug court, meals on wheels and the VA.

Join us
Sunday 27 October
Potluck dinner begins at 6:00 p.m.
Bob begins sharing at 6:45
At the home of Andrew Wimmer
Point your GPS to 1077 S. Newstead, 63110
Park on Newstead
House is on SW corner of Newstead and Arco
Enter front door at 4400 Arco