Hold It All

Tag: The Struggle Is One

That Brazilian Spirit!

An important discovery is gratuity. That is, giving time and space for what’s not anticipated, what comes from God, from the future. Availability—not being a prisoner to our projects and plans. And hospitality. This is an important quality and character of our people. Their houses are always open!

–Brazilian theologian Tereza Calvacanti

from Mev Puleo, The Struggle Is One:  Voices and Visions of Liberation

Email from Jaime in El Salvador

I have an internship in El Salvador this summer and was visiting the Casa during the beatification of Romero. The house was full of The Struggle is One books and I met a Nicaraguan volunteer who was very familiar with The Book of Mev.

“Be in Love with Yr Life”*: A Spring Writing Course

Like Sontag and Beseda, many of us are tempted to be intolerant of the ambiguity and intimidated by the risks of photography and other art forms.  Ultimately, I believe we are most daunted by the mystery, the question, the possibility:  “It could be us.”  Through my own photography I strive to bridge the distant worlds of our small globe.  I contemplate the mystery:  It is us.
–Mev Puleo

This spring will mark ten years since The Book of Mev was published.  Over the years I’ve been gratified by the responses to that story, from people I’ve known a long time and those I just met. It appears the book has encouraged some people on different aspects of their journeys.

I’ve often noticed  how many readers recognize themselves in Mev’s words, say, from her letters and journals.  I’m reminded of the French novelist Marcel Proust, who wrote:  “In reality every reader is, while she is reading, the reader of her own self. The writer’s work is merely a kind of optical instrument which he offers to the reader to enable her to discern what, without this book, she could perhaps never have perceived in herself.”

For this spring’s writing class, I invite you to read (or reread) and write off of stories, themes, and questions from The Book of Mev. Read the rest of this entry »

Word of the Day

Disponibilidade, noun, Portuguese

A disposition of openness
In which one is accessible
Available and willing
To be inconvenienced
By the needs or requests
Of another person or event

–adapted from Mev Puleo, The Struggle Is One: Voices and Visions of Liberation

Elvia Alvarado

Our Latin America Reading Group will discuss Elvia Alvarado’s testimony, Don’t Be Afraid, Gringo on Thursday 30 May at 7 p.m. at Café Ventana.


I imagine Elvia meeting up with Che
And the revolutionary icon
Being appropriately silent, humbled

“It was something completely new for us. We never really discussed all these community problems, and we surely never felt that we could do anything about them. But just talking about it together made us feel like yes, maybe we could do something to make our lives a little easier.”

Let’s not be afraid, hermanas
Elvia is telling us what we know
Then forget

“[The church] wanted us to give food out to the malnourished mothers and children, but they didn’t want us to question why we were malnourished to begin with.”

We get so busy
So distracted
So distant

“But the millions of dollars the gringos send don’t help the poor campesinos. The money isn’t used to create jobs so that everyone can work, Instead the money is for arms, for airplanes, for war tanks. But we don’t eat airplanes, we don’t eat tanks, we don’t eat bullets.The only things we campesinos eat is corn and beans. So what good are all those weapons?”

Her book is a wake up call
Another Kafkan axe
To break open the sea frozen inside us

“Why should there be rich people that have more than they need and poor who don’t have anything? God didn’t plan it that way. He planned for us to be equals.  That’s why we have to build a society where everyone has the right to live a decent life.”

Her testimony is familiar
Like so many of the women and men
Mev interviewed  for The Struggle isOne

“But I still kept coming up against what I thought was our biggest obstacle: the fact that we campesinos didn’t have land to grow our food on. Most of us didn’t have any land; some families had small plots but not big enough to feed themselves. I felt that without land we’d never get out of poverty.”

Like so many women all over the planet
Guatemala and Kenya
Palestine and India

“We collected money to help the family, and after the vigil we went right back to the land. We knew that crying wouldn’t get us anywhere. We had to go back to the land and refuse to leave it. We had to use [Mario’s] death to give us even more courage.”

Solidarity is shared sweat
Shared joy
Shared pain

“It gives us a lot of courage to know we’re not alone in our struggle. There are a lot of professional people, university professors, lawyers, doctors who help us. Lawyers who defend us and don’t charge us a penny. Doctors who treat us for free. Professors who get on the radio denounce the authorities when we get captured.”

Solidarity is joining the struggle
Taking comparable risks here
To the ones the Honduran campesinos take there

“I’d say the best way to show solidarity with us is not by sending food or clothing or dollars. No. Show your solidarity by telling your government that Honduras belongs to the Hondurans. Tell your government to get out of our country and leave us alone. And stand by us in our struggle.”


Try Giving Yourself Away

Rings and jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts. The only gift is a portion of thyself.
–Ralph Waldo Emerson

In the late 1940s
David Dunn wrote an article

The reader response was overwhelming
So he expanded the idea into a book—

Try Giving Yourself Away
A chronicle of what started as a hobby

And eventually became
His way of life Read the rest of this entry »

There’s a Difference

Last night, twenty of us gathered to discuss Mev’s The Struggle is One: Voices and Visions of Liberation. People ranged in age from 20 to 65; some of us knew Mev personally, others had read or heard about her. The context in which many of us first read the book in 1994 has changed, for example, U.S. war-making reached new levels of destruction in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mev went to Brazil to bring back the perspectives and stories of some ordinary yet also exemplary Brazilians committed to the preferential option for the poor and a life based on solidarity. Last night I wondered: What if a Brazilian came here to interview people who were consciously in opposition to our own nation’s global empire of military bases, corporate depredations, and cultural propaganda? How would we answer her questions about how we made a preferential option for our victims, which span the planet? What does solidarity mean to us? What changed us? What’s changing us? How is our commitment manifested in our daily lives? Can we say about ourselves, as Gandhi said straightforwardly about himself, “My life is my message”? Read the rest of this entry »

An Inspiring Evening by Jenn Reyes Lay

I was once again inspired and on fire this evening from the beautiful collection of stories from Brazil compiled by Mev Puleo entitled The Struggle Is One. Gathering with many who have also been touched by this book, the spirit of Mev and those she interviewed was alive and flowing through the conversations and questions posed. To begin the conversation, we were invited to think about three things: pretext, context, and the text itself. My own pretext for joining in the gathering and discussion this evening was that I love this book, the people and stories it contains, and wanted a chance to share a bit of the impact it has had on my life since I read it almost 6 years ago. In short, this book helped change the course of my life. I read it at a time that I was already seriously questioning the religion and institution that I had been raised in, and in a context of being in a foreign country experiencing challenging questions and realities on a daily basis. I believe that God brought this book into my life to inspire me and give me hope. Through the reality I lived in El Salvador and the stories of liberation theology at work that I read in the book, I was introduced to a new face of the Church and God at work in the world. This was a Church and faith that made a preferential option for the poor, that lived solidarity with one’s neighbors, that was awake to the reality that we belong to one another and the struggle is one. This was a Church and faith that spoke to me and challenged me to learn more, to be more. I returned to SLU to switch my major to theology to study more about liberation theology, feminist theology, and other theologies inspired by the people in a ground up not top down flow.

In reflecting on context, I conversed with some friends about imagination and creativity. Our context today is not the same as it was 20 years. While some struggles and systems remain the same, we cannot limit ourselves by what has been done in the past, but rather constantly reevaluate our current reality and context to come up with new, innovative, and pertinent solutions. Re-evaluation Counseling theory teaches that the mark of human intelligence is being able to come up with a completely new and fresh response to each new situation. So given all that, what do these stories have to teach us today? Is a book written about the reality of life in Brazil 20+ years ago still relevant today? Is this spirit and practice of liberation theology still pertinent and at work today? I think it is, now more than ever. I see the work being done by those who were inspired maybe 40 years ago and are still in the struggle. I see a generation of young people connected to the world in ways previously unimagined, and inspired to work for change through these connections. The reality has changed, but we still belong to one another. The faces of those in power, those who abuse their power, or do anything to maintain it, might have changed, but there is still truth to be spoken. And it quite frankly still needs to come from those on the bottom, those at the base, whose struggle is a daily struggle to survive, to find and create beauty and order, to maintain their hope and exercise their joy. We need to first listen to one anothers stories, and then share them with others. That was a beautiful part of the gathering this evening and many such similar gathering on Sunday evenings: the sharing of stories to inspire one to discover and share their own story.

And we are constantly writing our own stories. We have the power of text. The words we choose to use, the conversations we seek out or don’t shy away from, the questions we ask. Text can inspire, can move someone to action, can reawaken one’s own imagination. What is the story that I am telling? What will others glean from my text? If I returned to Brazil and interviewed these same people, I am sure their stories have changed. It would be a completely different book. And that’s beautiful. Our stories do change. From one chapter to the next, the text can take us in all different directions when new characters and situations are introduced. Whether something worked or didn’t in the past isn’t the question to ask. We need to look at our current context to determine what new ideas we might be able to dream up.

The stories in this book and many other stories I have been blessed to hear and share throughout the years, do give me hope in a people inspired by faith to live justice, to shake things up, and do things differently. Do I think liberation theologies have changed and will continue to change? Absolutely. Because inherent in the theory and practice is that it comes from one’s lived reality, which is also going to continue changing. But do I think it is still relevant? Absolutely. We need to step out of our comfort zones, to come face to face with those whose reality may differ from mine. I believe people of faith are looking for inspiration and community, and not finding it within an institution of exclusion that claims exclusive access to God’s truth and teachings. There is a phrase that I can’t remember where it comes from, but to be “evangelized by the poor.” To be reminded that we still have work to do. Our faith and religion should challenge us to learn more, to be more. And we need to be open to that challenge and inspiration coming from the people on the street, rather than the pulpit.


I received this email today from Marty King…

I have pulled out my precious copy of The Struggle Is One, a present from Mev, inscribed to us. I cannot put it down, and am reminded what a master she was as an interviewer. She fleshes out liberation theology with the real and wonderful people who were living it, she makes you care. It no longer is a concept, it is their, and I hope, to an extent, our life. She writes to us on the title page,”hope these stories inspire you! I love you both.” They do, and she still does, almost twenty years later.

I have read her book many times, and each time I do, I fall in.
I can walk back into the favelas, smell the terra rocha
And see the children’s eyes. Read the rest of this entry »


Sunday 2 December 2012

Thanks to Daisy Frenchwell for helping with raking the yard and making a delicious fruit salad
Thanks to the all people who liked today’s photo of a tanned, twenty-year-old Mev in Tijuana
Thanks to Adi Ophir and Ariella Azoulay for writing the book, The One-State Condition: Occupation and Democracy in Israel/Palestine
Thanks to Dr. Neeta Shenai for a dear phone message and memories of Bissinger’s
Thanks to Molly Linehan for sending The Book of Mev to a friend
Thanks to Maria Roselle for sharing a lot about Brasil, bringing me my winter gloves and celebrating George Bailey
Thanks to Fatima Rhodes for circulating her ode, Little Miracles
Thanks to Katie Kilcline for biking with me in the darkness and swapping our moments from when we lived abroad
Thanks to Haile Keleta for the great mac and cheese
Thanks to Nicole, Taylor, Ashley, Katie, Tres, and Haile for coming to the Arandas
Thanks to Tony Albrecht for noticing the asbestos in the soccer field in Nicaragua
Thanks to La Dolce Via staff for making the fudge brownies to take to tonight’s potluck
Thanks to Magan Wiles for the beautyache response to Dear Layla, which I’ve read five times
Thanks to Laura Aranda for reading through The Struggle is One and reading aloud from her Nicaraguan journal tonight
Thanks to Mollie Mohan who reads with appreciation the stuff I put on this Facebook
Thanks to Deepa Kumar for writing the book, Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire
Thanks to Josh Aranda for hosting
Thanks to Matt for repairing my bike at Randy’s Recycled Cycles
Thanks to all the people (paid and unpaid) who keep Forest Park lovely
Thanks to our small group at Share the Wealth: Fatima, Marilyn Lorenz, Lindsey Weston, and Cami Kasmerchak
Thanks to Jenn Reyes Lay for commenting on the power of The Struggle is One
Thanks to all the people who remember the U.S. martyrs—Ita, Dorothy, Jean, and Maura
Thanks to Violeta Parra for her recording of Gracias a la vida