"They're forgotten man," he said. "Los Olvidados," I thought. I checked my phone messages at 11:30p.m. Wednesday night as I was leaving Sullivan Hall. My friend, a fellow Tejana living in Seattle, had left a message a couple of hours prior asking me to call her. It was urgent. It turns out a group of volunteer workers in New Orleans came upon a group of Mexicanos in dire need of medical attention. One problem. Nobody around to translate - at least to translate medical terms. Somehow the call made it all the way to me.
I called the phone number she gave me. A North Carolina cell phone number. Midnight here, 2a.m. over there. Sincere, an African-American volunteer answered.
"What's the deal," he said.
"Yea, I heard you need translators," I said.
"Yea, when can you get here, where are you?"
"I'm in Seattle man," my voice almost cracking.
I felt helpless. Sincere told me that it was "bad." He told me a "sister" was down in the neighborhoods right now, but she needed help. He was talking about a Latina. A sister in the struggle. A sister in the trenches. The language used by organizers, activists, volunteers.
He asked me if I had family in Texas. I told him my sister in Houston was evacuating as we spoke. Rita is coming. He told me he would pray. Then he went on to tell me that the Latinos were being forgotten in this tragedy. "We're getting the attention, you know, the African-Americans, but there's a lot of Lahteenos. They don't even speak the language. And you know it's bad for everybody."
I know. My uncle lives in Mississippi. Works on a casino boat. The storm didn't hit him. I remembered back to a couple of weeks ago reading a story in the New York Times about how immigrants were afraid to receive help from government officials for fear of being deported. Chingado, man. Get some help. They won't deport you, I hope.
By now, we know what Rita did. I hope it's not too bad. The point - a thank you and applause to all the volunteers and the students at Seattle University who spent countless hours raising money, selling pizza, folding clothes, singing "Georgia" and playing the piano. Gracias.
Let's argue. Let's discuss. And let's disagree. But let's remember, there are still people dying.