‘Twixt Here and There
“Heart for the Americas”
©Doug Evans Betanco 2008
For La Tribuna, Glenwood Springs
I have a heart for the Americas and their people: North Americans, Central Americans, South Americans, all Pan-Americans, from Hudson's Bay down to the tip of Patagonia. Born to the same hemisphere on this twirling planet, we’re made special, instantly-united by geography and history, even when torn by government shenanigans, disparity, immigrant abuses, and almighty pressure from across the oceans. Americans live in the Americas, and I’ve come to love them all.
A Waspy young boy, I grew up in New Jersey in the ‘50s: my closest touch to Latinos was the Puerto Rican street gang in West Side Story. That condition lasted well into my 20s, until I moved to Denver, discovered “Mexican” food and met a few Hispanics, one from Peru, in 1973. From then until 1993, my take on the other sons of America was that they lived somewhere else and occasionally bloomed with genius like Gabriel Maria Marquez or Sandra Cisneros or Rudolfo Anaya. All through the ‘80s in Glenwood Springs, few spoke Spanish, except for the high school Spanish teacher.
In 1993, however, all the Pan-Americans came crowding in on me, or, rather, I barged right into their space, a total gringo, by joining a CMC-sponsored trip for three weeks to Glenwood’s Sister City, Teotecacinte, Nicaragua. My first thought when I got to this ravaged village at the end of the road was that we fund windowboxes full of red geraniums for the town square! It's been a high-learning-curve ever since. There I found what’s shaping up to lasting joy in my life and a greater authenticity as a writer. For four years before my trip and for fifteen years after, the campesinos of Northern Nicaragua and the people of Glenwood have worked to bring the infrastructure of the town back to healthy standards after the devastation of the Contra War in the ‘80s, building potable water systems, sharing expertise in education, health and agriculture, adding daycare centers and a notable high school, while bonding as brothers and sisters. I became a Betanco as well as a better Evans. Suddenly, the people of Central America and I, at least in Nicaragua, became family.
I have grown deeply as a result of this bridge-building, and have welcomed our new Hispanic population to the Valley since 1993 as a step forward in cultural diversity. I’ve loved the ESL students in my classes, even though we were frustrated by language acquisition and college level standards. The values of our new Latino neighbors are admirable, based in the Golden Rule and the nuclear family. I know we can work together to build our community stronger than either could do alone, a synergy of best practices greater than the sum of its parts. At least I hope so. It takes patience, compassion, gracias and especially listening from all sides.
I’ll be writing a column a month for La Tribuna, focused on the interface between my Pan-American sisters and brothers, here and in Nicaragua, where I live half the year. As “The Honorable and Loco Ambassador from Teote to Glenwood Springs,” appointed by Teote’s Council, I’ll be continuing the Sister City efforts. With one foot in the First World and one in the Third, it’s a continually topsy-turvy life of insight that I hope you’ll enjoy. Gracias por todo.
[For more info about the Sister City work, contact me a firstname.lastname@example.org].