El Costo de la Vida

Here’s a YouTube video of a song by Juan Luis Guerra, one of my favorite musicians. I don’t know how old the video is, but the song came out in the mid nineties. I am always amazed by the power of the music video as an artistic medium.

Americans often are amazed when they find out that for many Latin Americans the vision of people like Hugo Chavez and even Fidel Castro is more compelling than that of George W. Bush or even Ronald Regan. Perhaps we need to seek understanding on the dance floor of a Dominican Discoteque.

My attempt at translating the lyrics to this song follows: Continue reading

A Jingle Bells Grace

This column was the featured column on UPI’s Religion and Spirituality Forum on December 17, 2007.
About six weeks ago, I became the foster parent of a sixteen year old refugee from Burma. She’s a delightful kid. She smiles a lot and she’s helpful around the house. She likes my children and they like her.

But she doesn’t speak English, in fact, she doesn’t even speak Burmese. She speaks an obscure dialect of a language that almost no one outside of northwest Burma understands. Her hometown has no automobiles, no running water, no electricity, and very little contact with the outside world. I suspect that she can communicate fluently only with people from her town, and as far as I can tell, the only other person from her town in the United States lives in Michigan. Continue reading

Guadalupe in the Winter Hood

This column ran on UPI’s Religion and Spirituality Forum on December 10, 2007.

In the late-afternoon sun, it’s just warm enough to enjoy a cup of tea on the back patio of my condominium in East San Jose. There are egrets fishing in the urban creek that runs behind my home. One last tomato is trying to turn red in what remains of my garden. The air is clear. The Christmas lights have been hung, and the tree will go up tonight. There is a quiet lull and this is a winter wonderland of sorts. Here there are no sleigh bells ringing—the nearest snow is hundreds of miles away on the Sierra Nevada—but the beauty of winter has many faces and this is one of them.

In a few days’ time this quiet will be replaced by the joyful noise of pilgrims from all over Northern California, who will celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe at the Roman Catholic church across the street; the church is named in honor of Mexico’s patron saint Continue reading

Something There is that Doesn’t Love a Wall

This column ran as the featured commentary on UPI’s Religion and Spirituality website on December 3, 2007.

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun,
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.

–Robert Frost, from “Mending Wall”

Last week’s meeting in Annapolis, Maryland—in which President Bush convened a host of interested parties to talk about peace between Israel and Palestine—got me thinking about walls.

Of course, given the ongoing construction of the Great West Bank Barrier—a combination of massive wall and fencing that, when finished, will appropriate for Israel an extra ten percent of what remains of Palestinian land—walls are a hard topic to avoid for anyone who is even remotely interested in what goes on in the land that Abrahams’ spiritual heirs call holy. Continue reading