Written by Anton Flores-Maisonet, founder of Alterna Community and Casa Alterna in LaGrange, Georgia. This essay was originally published on the Casa Alterna Facebook page on September 6. Re-published with permission from Anton.
Tuesday morning one of my new neighbors was ambushed by ICE officials. He is currently detained and now faces possible deportation.
Cloaked in the pre-dawn darkness stealthily lurking behind a church sign declaring a Gospel welcome, a government agent in an unmarked car waited patiently, like a hungry predator stalking its prey.
Labor Day weekend had just ended and a man was returning to his blessed labor in a local manufacturing plant dependent upon a globalized economy and cheap labor force.
That industrious man never made it to work. And now a neighborhood is left to pick up the pieces.
Tuesday night I witnessed expressions of compassion and solidarity. In our collective impotence neighbors gathered.
The shell-shocked wife of the now detained laborer was being held and consoled by neighbors.
Literally scores of us – mostly women and children – gathered, named our fears, and reminded ourselves of our God-given and constitutional rights.
The ties that bind the neighbors on our street are powerful. No acts of repression or harsh treatment can quench the love our neighbors have for one another. The Powers may too blind by ambition to see it, but our neighbors live on holy ground.
Anton Flores-Maisonet and Alterna have been working for years to build bridges of understanding, compassion, assistance and hospitality between communities. Casa Alterna offers friendship, accompaniment, homework assistance, English classes, a food cooperative and case management.
Lately, Casa Alterna and Henry Jacobs led a collaborative effort that honors LaGrange’s unofficial sister city, La Libertad, Guatemala. The outcome was a beautiful and insightful photo exhibit.
For over a decade, men, women and children have left Central American highlands – their community, culture, and coffee fields – to put down roots in U.S. communities, particularly in LaGrange. These images, taken on both sides of the border, offer an intimate look at a joyful and resilient community that enriches both La Libertad and LaGrange.
Along with the photos, a short documentary film about the project is shown. Of course, the opening reception at the LaGrange Memorial Library included authentic tamales from this region (La Libertad) of Guatemala.
Video below shows Anton interviewing Ruel Lopez, a Guatemalan that lives in LaGrange and is going back for the first time to La Libertad to meet his baby. This is part of the larger project called Love Crosses Borders
Alterna is a nonprofit organization and a Christian community comprised of U.S. citizens and immigrants from Latin America based in LaGrange, Georgia. Their mission is to be committed to faithful acts of hospitality, mercy, and justice.
(Juntos, estamos comprometidos a hechos fieles de hospitalidad, misericordia, y justicia)
Casa Alterna is a hospitality house where love crosses borders.