December 2011: The Beginning of The End?

By Reyna Jacqueline Peña

News came Saturday night that a 6.5 magnitude earthquake shook southern Mexico. By morning, numerous posts could be found online linking this event with the 2012 Mayan Prophecies. I am not all that familiar with this prophecy. My attempts at researching it online have generally ended with me landing on some peace, love, new-agey website chock-full of information that is, at once, highly questionable, frightening, and fun to read.

When I was a little girl, I delighted in scenarios depicting the end of the world. It started with the nuclear fallout shelter signs that had been mounted in the hallways of my grammar school during the height of The Cold War and never taken down. Lining up for gym class, I would stare at the yellow and black signs and imagine what it would be like to have to live in a school after a major bomb attack. Being the big nerd I was, I found this thought appealing.

Later in school I would learn that, throughout history, people had pointed to all sorts of things as harbingers of the end of the world: the introduction of gunpowder to the west, zippered pants, television, AIDS. And as I write this, I have already lived long enough to have survived a couple of doomsday scenarios: Y2K and Harold Camping’s May 2011 Judgment Day. Ha, Ha! Still alive, suckers!

As a grown woman, I see now that there are much scarier things in the world than the sci-fi plot lines that come at us from the media-hungry charlatans, high-functioning schizophrenics and religious weirdos among us. These things do not make for big budget Hollywood movies or other fun fiction. These things make for heartache, despair but also bellyfire and motivation. For those of you who are dismissive of the ancestors’ predictions that the world is ending, I present this four-point list of ways in which the world has already ended for many of us in 2011.

1.  Incarceration.

For the first time in history, Latinos now represent the largest portion of those incarcerated in America today. This is mostly due to crimmigration policies but also attributable in part to harsh Drug War sentencing. Our brothers and sisters who have been incarcerated are slowly watching their world end each day they wake up caged.

2.  Family dissolution.

Many children of the undocumented in this country face inconceivable injustice — either from being placed into the system once their parents are prosecuted for the “crime” of being undocumented or for being denied access to services, jobs and education later in life. For the child who is stripped from his family so that CCA can make a dollar incarcerating his parent, his world experiences a blow that no innocent being should endure.

3.  Lack of educational opportunities.

To have access to learning is to expand your self and know the world in ways you may never have otherwise. The Latino community is plagued by tragically high dropout rates. Additionally, some of our histories have become banned in some places in the United States. Expanding our minds is of little import for many. What they want is our backs, arms and legs. Our worlds shrink exponentially as quality education, at all levels, becomes increasingly a luxury only the rich can afford.

4.  Poverty.

Poverty levels are growing at a rate in the Latino community that surpasses all other minority groups. With all its concomitant difficulties like lack of health care, proper nutrition, education and housing, poverty is a hellish world imposed on many of us. And increasingly, more of us.

Remember: all of our worlds will end one day. We should be less concerned about when we die and more concerned with how we choose to live. What will we do to help each other live?

[Photo By NNSA]

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