The Irish Province financial officer, Peter Murphy and his wife, Breda, took time out from their recent holiday in Mexico to visited the Station Mission Pedro Fabro in Mexico. After a request from the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), the Irish Province send funds to a Jesuit mission led by Fr. Pedro Arriaga Alarcon SJ, which works with displaced indigenous people in the Mexican state of Chiapas. Click on ‘read more‘ to read Peter’s account of his visit while he was on holidays in the area.
Peter writes from Mexico…
Following a request in October 2006 from JRS Latin America, St Joseph’s Penny Dinner Fund was able to send funds to the “Station Mission Pedro Fabro” – a mission to help displaced indigenous people in the Mexican state of Chiapas. This state is situated in the high Sierra mountains where living conditions are difficult – try growing corn on the side of a mountain with a 45 degree slope!
As Breda and I were going to San Cristobal de Las Casas in Chiapas on holidays, I contacted Fr Pedro Arriaga Alarcon SJ and asked if I could visit him and see the village where the funds have been used. We were very warmly received. Within 15 minutes of arriving at our hotel, Fr. Pedro was inviting us to lunch and to attend a ceremony in his new parish. The parish of Chamula is situated about 30 minutes from San Cristobal. We had heard about the parish from the RTE programme “No Frontiers” (27 Jan 2008). The indigenous people go to Church to pray and get rid of the “bad spirits”. This is done by drinking bottles of Coca Cola. This makes them burp which expels the bad spirits. They have chickens with them and the bad spirits enter the chickens which are then killed!! We saw them drinking Coke, we saw 2 chickens but no spilling of blood.
The following day, Palm Sunday, we took part in a commemorative march at Acteal. This was the site of a massacre of 45 people on 22 December 1997 whereby paramilitary forces killed a large number of people, including children, who were attending a prayer meeting. The bodies were buried on the one site and a Mass is said there on the 22nd of each month. Unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to complete the march to next village. As it was a Zapatista village, entry was controlled and it was unlikely that we would have been allowed entry. As we had been invited to an outdoor Mass, we made our way back to Chenalhu, Fr Pedro’s former parish. We paused to watch a procession in the village – not your normal procession. Statues were carried around the village square accompanied by bands and fireworks. This was a very poor village and it was in this region that food was provided for the indigenous people from the Penny Dinner Fund. Trying to make up time on Mexican roads is dangerous. Half of the road had subsided but there were no warning signs – there was only a drop of 100 metres! We were told that a lorry had fallen down but whether it caused the subsidence we didn’t find out – got lost in translation. We arrived just as Mass was beginning. It was an interesting experience – white faces amongst dark brown faces listening to the Passion in Spanish. During the meal afterwards, we met two nuns who were running a hostel for young girls. A small part of the Penny Dinners Fund went to provide food for the young girls.
On the way back to San Cristobal, we passed the Food Bank depot where the food is stored before being transported up the mountains. All in all, it was an interesting and informative few days.