Archive for November, 2014


Sunday, November 23rd, 2014

On an evening during the winter holidays in 1988 I was invited to meet friends at a currently vogue disco club adjoining a new upscale hotel in Bellevue WA. We hadn’t been there long when a young man asked me to dance. After a couple of dances, it became obvious that he did not speak English and between the disco beat and the escalating volume of inebriated party revelers, it was impossible to have a conversation. My Spanish was imperfect and I was unfamiliar with Guatemalan colloquial expressions, but was intrigued by the little I had been able to understand.

We stepped into a secluded area which was relatively quiet, and this man began to share an extraordinary story. It seems he had displeased the political party currently in power in his country and he had been smuggled out of the country using his friend’s passport in the nick of time in the middle of the night. He had been pursued by agents sent to kidnap him! Of course, I wanted to know more. At first this story seemed incredible to me but as I asked questions I began to believe he was telling the truth.

I excused myself to gather my thoughts, then returned to my friends who were wondering where I had disappeared to and told them not to worry for me. The drama shared by Francisco Morales, the man from Guatemala had captivated me. I returned to this well groomed, pleasant, intelligent young person aware that he was frightened for his life, in a foreign country left adrift by associates in fear of reprisal from opposing factions in his country. After continuing to speak with him a little while longer, I gave him my phone number and told him to call me in the morning when I would have a Plan of Action for him to carry out. I felt that if he was really sincere, he would call, if not and he was merely looking for a lady friend, I probably wouldn’t hear from him.

By the time he called me the next day, I had contacted the Central American Embassy in Seattle and had information regarding the address of the office to report to and basic immigrant procedure. I gave no details, as I felt this was for Francisco to tell in his own language to people he could communicate with. I drove him to the embassy and when we found the process would take hours he told me to go on; that he felt safe with these people. We kept in touch during the next months and his story unfolded.

He was from a village in the mountains where the Indians were poor, but because his father was a doctor and curandero, (healer), his family was well respected and more affluent then many. He had learned healing skills since childhood, assisting with childbirth, common illnesses and injuries. In school he excelled and showed an aptitude for medicine, so was accepted to medical school in Guatemala City. Los Indios of the country are among the poorest group, as with many countries where the indigenous population has been impoverished over the last 400 years of colonization. Racism is everywhere and although mixed blood people of Spanish and native wealthy members of the old Mayan culture had blended into the ruling class over the centuries, the higher positions in the present government are all held by colonialists’ descendents. During the current civil war, the farmers and small mountain villages suffered the most because trade was blocked by rebels who disrupted transportation and travelers on every level. Many people were left homeless without supplies or income of any kind as they ran from the fighting.

Through personal connections and with fellow students, Francisco set up a small Foundation which assisted children in need. People of means heard about what he was doing and gifted clothing, food, and money. He approached the national broadcasting station to inform citizens about the dire problem, but was turned down for a news interview because the station did not want to become involved in political issues. Government agencies were supposed to be furnishing aid to the population, but were not. After writing letters to the network repeatedly without hearing any response he decided to go personally with photographs showing the reality of poverty and sickness caused by the war. When he asked if he could buy ‘air time’ he was told an amount which was beyond his means.

Meanwhile, an executive of the station anonymously filled out forms which verified the ‘air time’ had been paid for, but actually, gifted to Francisco a 15 minute time slot several times over the period of a month. His appeal was not for money to be sent, but rather that people go to pharmacies and purchase badly needed over the counter medications and supplies to be contributed to the local hospitals and clinics to tend the wounded casualties from the war zones. He and his friends were able to rent a house to collect and audit donated items for the refugees. A clothing manufacturer donated slacks of various sizes for the children; a shoe factory contributed shoes. Simple foods, vitamins, blankets, and jackets were also collected from well wishers. Trucks for transport were loaned for the purpose, and they were able to distribute 5 large truck loads to several locations.

Certain politicians were embarrassed and angered by how much this simple man had been able to accomplish with so little. The more effective his program was, the more notice he received and he unwittingly became a target in the struggle for political control. Even though he had no political ambitions, people were looking to him and his colleagues with real hope for the future. The situation escalated when he was interviewed on national television and talked about companies which had contributed either supplies or funds for his work. Members of the Rosicrucians were among those who had contributed to the cause. Churches throughout the country rose to help.

His father called to remind him of his family obligations, but when he responded strongly that ‘This was something he had to do…’ his father gave him his blessings, saying, “…this is a wonderful thing to do for now”. At the time Francisco was betrothed to a girl of an upper class family, but with all the publicity surrounding his project, her father came to his family to say that they could no longer go through with the marriage because of all the trouble with the government.

One day, Francisco received a call from his father telling him airplane tickets had been purchased for him to leave the country to Mexico City and then the U.S.A. He had 3 hours to escape the Federales who were being sent to put him in prison. The major airport had been alerted to detain him. His brother and a friend had gotten wind of the plot to imprison him and covertly contrived an impromptu escape on the backs of burros down winding mountain trails to a private air field where he was whisked away from the clutches of his adversaries. His best friend who looked like him, exchanged wallets with identification so Francisco could get through customs.

As he was an illegal alien in fact arriving ‘underground’ in the USA, when he reached San Diego, California, he asked for political asylum and took time to apply to Mexico City for a new passport. Since he spoke little English the only work available to him was as a farm laborer. He hitchhiked and migrated with whom ever felt a calling to help him and had eventually arrived in Seattle, WA.

He called me about two weeks later to confirm that temporary lodging and employment had been found for him, as an assistant nurse in a health services facility for Spanish speaking people. He wanted to meet and express his gratitude. I invited him to dinner and we caught up. At that time I passed on to him the name and phone number of the John Bastyr College of Naturopathic Medicine which was the only place I knew of in Seattle where he could further his studies in herbology. There was still the problem of language and he was to enroll in an English class to help him overcome that problem.

Over the course of a year and a half, Francisco Morales shared his life story. He felt more comfortable speaking in Spanish, his second language so I listened very carefully. As he
recalled and shared the humble gratitude and simple joy of the children when they received even the smallest gifts, his whole being lit up and overflowed with Spirit. Here was this young man struggling to study medicine in English to return to his country to help people in need. It was a privilege to behold and brought tears to my eyes.

A few months later, we met at Lake Union Park and he demonstrated his cooking ability by broiling salmon steaks. My young daughter was there and we had a wonderful time.
The next time I saw him the political strife in Guatemala had subsided somewhat, and his brother had come for him because his aging father was dying. In July 1989, he still had to quietly slip into Guatemala not to arouse the wrong people, but had made it there in time to see his father still alive, then return to the USA much the same way he had the first time. He told me all that had happened and that he would not be able to reside in his own country safely for some time to come. I told him that his life was much too filled with drama for me and I worried for his well being.

When I saw him again in early 1990, he brought me a beautiful bouquet of red and white roses and said he was doing well. He thanked me for my loving kindness to him, which he said had literally saved his sanity and his life. He called me 3 months later very upset to tell me his father had passed away. This was a difficult time for him and he needed somebody to talk to. I listened and calmed him, making helpful suggestions. I wished him luck and gave him blessings for his good work.

That was the last I heard from him.

Excerpt from the Prism Diaries 1988-90