"In heaven, will God ask for papers?"

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Immigrant Posadas

Advent here on the border means a time to celebrate Las Posadas. The Posadas commemorate divinely pregnant Mary and her escort Joseph in search of Posada, meaning "inn" or "lodging" as Mary comes due to give birth to the Christ child. The usual Posada celebration includes people dressed as the nativity characters, who search for shelter, travelling from building to building, home to home, or, in our case since it was cold outside, from one group of people to another group within the sanctuary. Through song, the humble family requests to be let in--to be given posada as the birth draws near--and we witness a back-and-forth dialogue with the holy family and the innkeeper(s). With their first three requests, they are denied:

En el nombre del cielo
os pido posada
pues no puede andar
mi esposa amada.

In the name of Heaven
I ask of you shelter,
For my beloved wife
Can go no farther.

Aquí no es mesón,
sigan adelante
Yo no debo abrir,
no sea algún tunante.

There's no inn here,
Go on with you,
I can't open up
You might be a rogue.

Venimos rendidos
desde Nazaret.
Yo soy carpintero
de nombre José.

We're weary from traveling
from Nazareth.
I am a carpenter
by the name of Joseph.

No me importa el nombre,
déjenme dormir,
pues que yo les digo
que nos hemos de abrir.

I don't care who you are,
Let me sleep.
I already told you
we're not going to open.

Posada te pide,
amado casero,
por sólo una noche
la Reina del Cielo.

I ask you for lodging
dear man of the house.
Just for one night
for the Queen of Heaven.

Pues si es una reina
quien lo solicita,
¿cómo es que de noche
anda tan solita?

Well, if it's a queen
who's asking us for it,
why does she travel all alone
and in the night?

The holy travelers go unrecognized, and are a burden to the innkeeper, who doubts that they are more than just a begging humbug family, undeserving of shelter. But at the last stop, the innkeeper has sort of an epiphany, and the pilgrims are welcomed in. And the Christmas story continues.

Mi esposa es María,
es Reina del Cielo
y madre va a ser
del Divino Verbo.
My wife is Mary
She's the Queen of Heaven
who is going to be the mother
of the Divine Word.

¿Eres tú José?
¿Tu esposa es María?
Entren, peregrinos,
no los conocía.

Are you Joseph?
Your wife is Mary?
Enter, pilgrims;
I did not recognize you.

Entren, Santos Peregrinos, Peregrinos,
reciban este rincón.
No de esta pobre morada
Sino de mi corazón.
Enter, Holy Pilgrims
Receive this corner
Not of this poor dwelling,
but of my heart.

A couple days ago, I attended a Posada celebration that took a more modern spin to the traditional story: one entitled "Posada del Barrio," given the English name of "Immigrant Posada." After being a part of this particular Posada re-enactment, there is no doubt in my mind that the biblically-based Posada celebration is relevant to this border community. As one of the speakers at the service shared, we often think of the Mary and Joseph's journey as a 2000-year-old story, and oftentimes neglect to remember its relevance still today - its aliveness still today. The intensity and reality of the words of the refined Immigrant Posada lyrics speared into me in a way that will never allow me to forget the relevance of the holy family's journey to our community today. Joseph, Mary, and baby Jesus take the form of a foreign traveling family with no proper documentation. The Posada song begins with the innkeeper taking the form of an already-migrated US citizen, responding the requests of a border-crossing migrant:

En nombre de la justicia
Pido apoyo solidario
Cruce la línea de noche
Vengo de indocumentado
In the name of justice
I ask for support and solidarity
I crossed the border at night
I came without papers

No vengas con tu miseria
Ni vengas a molestar
Te voy a echar la migra
Pa que te mande a volar 

Don’t come with your misery
And don’t come to bother us
I’m going to report you to immigration
So they can send you packing
Paisano soy de tu tierra
Como tu vine a buscar
Con mi familia un trabajo
Mira mi necesidad
Countryman, I’m from your land
Like you I came with my family
In search of work
Look at my need

No me interesa quien sea
Deja ya de mendigar
Yo ya soy ciudadano
Y te voy a reportar

I’m not interested in who you are
Forget about begging
I’m already a citizen
And I’m going to report you

Ya va a nacer mi criatura
No tengo a donde llegar
Al brincar la muralla
Mi esposa quedo muy mal 

My child is about to be born
I have nowhere to stay
When we crossed over the wall
My wife got very hurt

Si me sigues molestando
La migra te voy a echar
Vete mojado a tu tierra
Aqui no tienes lugar

If you keep bothering me
I’m going to call immigration
Go back home, Wetback
There’s no place for you here.

Harshly realistic. Uncomfortable. Depressing. Comparable to the innkeeper of the Christmas story.

Then, similarly to the innkeeper's epiphany at the end of the traditional song, the US citizen has a change of heart. The community that had been rejecting the migrant, now undergoes a sort of conversion, and their rejection turns into a different response:

Peregrinos de mi tierra
Venga a la comunidad
Aqui nos organizamos
Por justicia y dignidad
Pilgrims of my land
Come join our community
Here we organize
For justice and dignity

Gracias les damos hermanos
Dios en ustedes esta
Gracia por darnos posada
Mil bendiciones tendrán

We give you thanks, brothers and sisters
May God be with you
Thank you for giving us a place to stay
You will receive a thousand blessings

Vamos juntos como Pueblo, como hermanos, 
como hermanas a sembrar
La justicia que en el barrio, que en el barrio, 
como estrella brillara 
Let us go together as a people, like brothers, 
like sisters to plant
The seed of justice that will shine like a bright star
in our community

For me the most amazing thing about the traditional Posada song is the innkeeper's transformation. After being annoyed and doubtful for three stanzas, the man's eyes are opened: This is the family he had heard about! The mother of Emmanuel - the Most High evolving within her. No way would he turn away the one carrying the promised Holy One. When his eyes recognized their holy identity, when his heart was open to the Divine, then he opened his arms and his home.

I don't think the Immigrant Posada is much different. Although we get less of a transition into the converted community who welcomes the migrant family, I can't help but to wonder if the transformation of attitude could occur because of a recognition of the Divine within the migrant.

When our eyes recognize God within our migrant brothers and sisters, will we be more motivated to open our arms and our home to them?

When our hearts are open to the Divine - when we are genuinely convicted of God's omnipresence, which includes humanity beyond our borders - will our attitude towards the migrant change?

Will we leave bitterness in the dust, and demonstrate compassion? Will we give traveling families hospitality instead of fear or separation?

Like the innkeeper's recognition of Mary, will we recognize the Holy One living within our migrant brothers and sisters?

The migrant shepherd, remembrance cross and water jug in hand.

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