Friend, artist, musician, keeper of culture, and community worker Brujo de la Mancha needs help making a new life in Canada. Last year, friends held two events at The Rotunda as well as smaller events elsewhere, in addition to an online campaign. Well, we're still at it and Brujo still needs your help to cover Canadian immigration lawyer fees as Canada reviews his updated application. He's so close to the finish line and needs just a little more! Help us support Brujo and raise awareness of what immigrants have to go through in this country.
HOW YOU CAN HELP:
Donate money right now to make an immediate impact. https://www.gofundme.com/save-brujo
COME TO THIS EVENT!
Sunday January 13@6pm
We will have a lovely vegan dinner (including tamales made by Brujo!) with an art sale (work from Brujo himself), socializing, and a screening of Belmont Grove (Fairmount Park) Reclaiming Coaquannock. This film tells the story of how Belmont Plateau served as a powerful gathering space for Philadelphia's native communities from 1974-1992 and what impact the loss of that space had. In addition, Brujo was one of the producers of this film.
You may donate however much you want at the door on January 13. We suggest $15- $25 per person but it's really your choice. No amount is too small.
SO WHY DOES BRUJO NEED OUR HELP?
Here is his story, in his own words:
"I came to the United States of North America, when I was 20 years old in February 1998 hoping to escape from the repression and discrimination inflicted on indigenous Mexicans. I was part of a group of activists in Mexico City around 1994, around the time of Zapatista uprising. In 1996 I was detained for participating in a classic annual demonstration called 2 de Octubre. The Mexican political party called PRI - now in power - has a history of killing university students and protestors. I was hoping to go to the university, but the Mexican government was planning to privatize it.
I was seventeen years old and taken into custody by the undercover Federal police that came to the subway after the demonstration. They pulled aside about fifteen of us, drove us around to confuse and scare us, then put us in depravation for 8 hours. They took pictures of me naked and kicked me every time I moved from a squatting position. They threw me out in the streets half naked. I had to cover myself with fabric from the trash outside of the police station. It was one of our demonstration banners. I got home however I could.
Months later in Mexico City was militarized. I was again stopped and questioned on my way to friend's house to make t-shirts. They ripped my backpack open and saw transfers for new printing ideas. Then they uncovered a tattoo on my right arm and said “look it’s him!” They said, “We know where you live and what you do! If you keep doing this you will be in deep trouble!” And they told me the street and house number where I was living.
After that I moved out of Mexico City, but found no peace. I was detained in Queretaro City for two days for not looking like the others from there. I was set free because I was not talking and not eating inside the jail. In Culiacan, Sinaloa, where Cartel activity is rampant, I was detained for the same reason, and after washing the bathrooms and being called clown I was set free. In Nogales Sonora on the Mexican-US border, I was harassed again. They held me for 36 hours without any registration on their books. In that jail I was sexually harassed and I had to protect myself by not sleeping and by acting macho so no one would try to rape me.
In late 1997 I met an American woman in Oaxaca City, who offered to lend me money to come to the US. With few other options, I walked three and half days through the mountains to come to US. I decided to come to Philadelphia, where she lived, because she offered me more help.
I had to pay the Mexican embassy in New York City $100 dollars, to free my army card so I could get a passport. Without the army service we can't get a passport, so we cannot get out of Mexico the legal way. I did not do the army service because the Mexican government sends the army mostly to small villages to oppress the native population. If I return to Mexico, I could face persecution or get killed because the Mexican government - especially the PRI - do not like people that think in a radical humanitarian way. This is because I work to preserve indigenous art and culture from Mexico. Today it is easier to see what the Mexican government does to their own people, thanks to Youtube and Facebook; but when I came to US it was not easy to prove why I decided to run away from my government. If I return to Mexico, without a way to get out to another country, I could face several hardships, as I did before, or even worse endings.
In Philadelphia I was able to make friends in the punk scene and find housing. It was easy at first, but I felt lonely because I didn't fit in and I couldn't get services for my situation. I had a lot of stress, but I found Vipassana meditation, which is still helpful to me today. After a few hard years I knew I needed to seek citizenship, so I began taking steps.
Over the past 16 years I have spoken with many immigration lawyers. They start out saying "this will be the year!" First they tell me that applying for a visa has to be done from outside the US. Then they talk about marriage, but that's not the right path for me. They say “I cannot change the laws for you”; but they tell me to wait for the next President. OK, NEXT year. Then they can charge thousands of dollars for their services.
Once in the year 2000 I was detained after a routine traffic stop in New Jersey due to racial profiling. After being found not guilty, the lawyer told me that he could get me a wife for $7000. I said no thanks, there are too many complications; and what immigrant has that kind of money?
Once I even worked with a refugee lawyer, who said the same things and couldn’t find a way to seek asylum either. No country in the world takes Indigenous refugees from Mexico; Mexico does not give IDs for “Indian” reservations because there are no reservations. My Aztec descent means nothing to them, and many Catholics of Spanish descent look down on me. Mexico treats you as a Mexican or NOT, so there is no such thing as a Mexican refugee. When police detain you, they don’t book you; they don't respect your human rights, and they don't keep records. Cartel activity is illegal, so it does not count as government oppression. That’s why my case is not considered severe enough to grant asylum.
A few years ago I looked into the National Interest Waiver. As a memory keeper for my culture, and a student of ancient skills, I fit many of the guidelines. Other immigration categories are out of my reach. However, I am stopped by the same technicality: you can’t apply for a visa from within the US. Guidelines have gotten harder today. Even within a marriage, they require evidence of extreme hardship, like if my wife was on suicide watch. Lying is expensive and complicated, and it’s morally wrong. I have not committed any fraudulent acts. And I do not want to marry if I’m not in love.
Nineteen years have passed. Today I'm a teaching artist and community worker in Philadelphia. All I want is to share my skills for the commonwealth of humanity. Unfortunately current immigration law has no provisions for someone like me. I am here now to ask for help. I want to comply with documents so I can come and go as I please.
I have decided to go to Canada if they accept my visa application, even though my entire adult and professional life has been built here. From there I may be able to re-apply in a few years for entry into the US. This way I can still use my resume and show my accomplishments. If they accept me, I will be able to travel freely after six months, which means I can also visit my father.
I need to raise these funds as soon as possible, for obvious reasons. However, the visa process is so expensive, and includes fees, several tests, and requirements stating how much money I must have in the bank. Without these funds, I can't start my new life."