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Quelino Ojeda died on New Year’s Day.  The Cause of Death, frankly, was Christ Hospital, Oak Lawn.  Ojeda didn’t die at Christ Hospital, but the policies of Advocate Health Care, which administers Christ Hospital, killed him just as surely as the cardiac arrest, brought on by septic infection, bed sores and inadequate care for his quadraplegia, as listed on his death certificate.  Quelino was only 21 years old:  He had come to the Chicago area in 2010 in search of work, to support his family back home in Oaxaca.  And he found employment in the construction industry, working near Midway Airport.  He had a terrible, terrible accident at work, falling 20 feet and suffering massive spinal injuries.  He was sent to Christ Hospital, and for the months he was at Christ, he received state-of-the-art care, which gave him and his friends and appointed guardian hope for some long-term recovery.

     Although Quelino was undocumented, his employer would have contributed to Workmen’s Compensation in his name, and therefore his care would be covered by the Workmen’s Comp trust, but Christ Hospital didn’t see it that way.  It appears they viewed Quelino as a debit on their accounting ledger, and so  —without the permission of his guardian, his Chicago friends or Quelino himself, he was sent back to Mexico, to languish in an inadequate medical center, attached to a ventilator, still away from family and without the assistance of the friends who were his advocates here in Chicago.

The Chicago Tribune and Hoy, its sister publication in Spanish,  wrote a number of articles about Quelino’s situation.  Advocate Health Systems finally “apologized” and vowed to do better next time, but it didn’t save Quelino:  Although he was transferred to a more technologically equipped facility in Oaxaca, his condition deteriorated and he died  just a year after leaving Chicago.  He was on the cover of Hoy Tuesday, January 3rd, and the Tribune wrote a final article the following day. 

Advocate and its hospitals operate with a 501C(3) tax exemption and are ostensibly not-for-profit, charitable institutions.  Under this tax stipulation they are required  to provide care for people who cannot pay.  And, as a faith-based institution, they are morally required not to lie and not oppress and exploit the poor and the stranger.  Advocate flunks all requirements.

For those of us who work for faith-based institutions, it is our responsibility to police our own:  When our places of worship, our charities, our traditions exploit the poor, it is our duty to stand up and say:  NOT IN MY NAME. NOT IN THE NAME OF MY GOD: This is not the way we live out our ethical promise.  Rest in peace/descanse en paz, Quelino.  May the angels lead you into paradise.  You will not be forgotten. 

Now that Rod Blagojevich has received his justice, perhaps things can go back to normal here in Chicago, but not quite yet:  Some of you may have seen the new item in the June 22nd Chicago Tribune or elsewhere about the catty remark made by writer Margo Howard (aka: Ann Landers’ only child) who wondered why Telemundo (one of the Spanish language television networks in the U.S.) was sending out tweets about deliberations in the Blagojevich trial.  Margo’s response was,”Not sure why Telemundo cares.  their soap operas off?”  Illinois State Rep Patty Mell (aka: Blago’s sister-in-law), retweeted, “Wow,that’s so racist.” Margo’s reply was that she didn’t think “people in Mexico” would care about the Blagojevich trial.

 As pointed out by a Telemundo staffer, Telemundo (like Univision and others) is an North American network that broadcasts in Spanish, primarily to an audience that lives in the U.S.  But beyond that, the BBC, Deutchewelle and many other international radio and television enterprises and the foreign print press have covered the Blago case from the beginning.  Clare Balderson and the other BBC anchors have become quite adept at pronouncing Blago’s name correctly, without a stop or start.  And if you want to talk about soap operas, well Rod and Patty and company can give any television drama in any language a run for their money in terms of plot twists.

I don’t watch Telemundo, because my little antenna tv doesn’t pick up the signal, but I do watch the news every day  —usually twice a day—-on Univision.  Both its local (5-5:30 and 10 t0 10:30 PM) and national/international (5:30-6:00 PM and 10:30 to 11:00 PM) is excellent.  Its coverage of the “Arab Spring” was serious and thorough.  Its weather reports, sports and entertainment reporting is as good as anything youwould see on Chicago’s other outlets, and in terms of soccer/futbol, MUCH BETTER.  I no longer read the Sun-Times or Chicago Tribune on a daily basis: I get most of the print new I need from Hoy, the Spanish language daily (owned by the Tribune) that is available free all over the place.  Blago and Patty were on the cover today, and on the inside was a detailed list of all the criminal counts  and the verdicts on each one.  Like the Forverts (aka: Jewish Daily Forward) and other serious journalism for immigrants currently or in generations past, the Spanish language press in the United States takes current events all over the world very seriously. If you look at the pictures from Blago’s post-verdict press conference, you will see the microphone from Univision right up there with all the other American networks.

I recently sent an e-mail to NPR after All Things Considered had a piece on Spanish television that reduced its product to the overly dramatic soap operas that are only a PART of what is offered on the Spanish stations.  I didn’t call NPR racist, but I said it was a shame they weren’t really examining what was broadcast on Telemundo and Univision.  I also told them that when Univision began its afternon news hour, I switched off NPR, because there is news on Univision (including immigration updates, foreign news and local happenings) that I can’t get anywhere else.  If you are at all able to understand Spanish, I suggest you watch the news on Univsion or Telemundo anytime you can.

Now back to Margo Howard:  I briefly knew her, when I was a teenager and she was in her late twenties, over 40 years ago, when she and my parents were working on a political project together.  She was  —and is— a witty, talented writer with a sharp intelligence, but back in the late 60’s she also had a great sense of social justice.  She also was trying to make her own way as a creative person, not judged by her beauty or her status as Ann Landers’ daughter or her life as a young society matron.  The Margo I knew understood how deadly preconceptions about others were and how harmful sterotypes of anyone can be.  Margo made an escape from the world of the “ladies who lunch,” and became a working journalist and writer.  It’s just too bad she doesn’t remember that struggle now.

 

Last week there was a short article in Hoy, the free Spanish language daily paper owned by the Chicago Tribune, about a new documentary film, 8 Murders a Day,  a damning portrait of  life in Juarez, Mexico, where the  “war on drugs” waged by both the Mexican and American governments has resulted in incredible levels of violence on the streets of Juarez, a city of 1.2 million people where an average of 8 people –often innocent bystanders or good people being punished for standing up to the narcotraficantes–are murdered every day.  In 1990, before the escalation of drug trafficking, before NAFTA, before the related economic collapse for the poor and middle classes, there were 40 murders in Juarez for the whole year; now there are 40 murders in five days.

The film is remarkable, compelling, totally bilingual, yet there were only ten of us watching the film on a Wednesday night, prime time, when the other theaters in the complex were full of people watching Kung Fu Pandas and other current hits.  I am hoping it will be distributed more widely in the Anglo community, either in commercial venues or shown in churches, synagogues and at gatherings of immigrant advocacy groups.  Go to YouTube or the film’s web site and at least watch the trailer…and weep.

The picture that accompanies my blog is the one that was set by by wordpress; I don’t know how to change it yet, but it is fitting for the subject and for my history:  Immigration and interfaith work  are the stories fo bridges:  Traveling from one community to another; being a bridge for others; walking accross another’s path letting others follow.  It reminds me of a saying by Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav:  Kol  ha-olam kulo, gesher tsar me’od; v’ha-ikar lo le fached klal:  All the world is a narrow bridge, and the most important thing is not to be afraid.  We used to sing this pasuk/verse quite often at Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation, before the Shema.  Even if the bridge is narrow, let our generosity be long and wide.

Hello everyone.  This is the Recovering Immigrant/Interfaith Fool making her blogging debut.  My resolution for this year was to start a blog, and HERE IT IS!! But I think the biggest fool today is John McCain, who has blaimed the Arizona fires on “illegal aliens.”  I dunno, on Univision, I saw interviews with many Arizona Hispanos whose lives have been ruined by these fires.  THEY ARE YOUR CONSTITUENTS, SENATOR!!  hOW ABOUT A LITTLE MERCY TOWARD THEIR PLIGHT?????