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Our Mexican Flower, Our Beloved; Doña Santa

Summer 2002

Entered This Earthly Life
April 4, 1947
Douglas, Arizona

Entered Eternal Life
March 1, 2002
Los Angeles, California

Two smiling eyes are sleeping,
Two busy hands are still.
The one we love so deeply
Is resting at God's will.
May she always walk in sunshine,
God's love around her glow.
For all the happiness she gave us,
Only a few will ever know.
It broke our hearts to lose her
But she did not go alone.
For part of us went with her
The day God called her home.

Surrounding the City of Douglas in southeastern Arizona is an area that has been a crossroads of cultures for centuries. Native Americans, Spaniards and Mexicans, and Anglo-Americans alike have experienced the beauty of the desert and the surrounding mountains. The copper-laden Mule Mountains are to the west, the Swisshelm and Perilla ranges to the east and the mighty Chiricahuas to the north. The high desert climate brings Douglas sunny days, moderate daytime temperatures and cool nights under skies not obscured by city lights. Just to the south of Douglas is Agua Prieta, a Mexican city of nearly 100,000 people.

Santa was my friend. I met her in 1994. She was the first woman with HIV that I met who was from Highland Park. I grew up in Highland Park, which is a predominately Latino neighborhood on the northeast side of Los Angeles. Santa was about my same age, so we had these things in common.

I would describe Santa as colorful, dynamic, lively, fun-loving, and good hearted. I felt close to Santa as our friendship grew over the years. She was my "home girl" and we'd call each other "homey" and say "¡Oralé! ¿Que passó, mi amiga?" and laugh and giggle. Santa was proud of her Mexican heritage.

Santa went to every retreat possible and enjoyed life to the fullest. One time when she came back from a retreat, she told me that it was just OK. I asked her what happened, and she said the retreat was great but there was this one guy who was talking bad about Mexicans -- you know, saying they were "lazy" and that they were thieves, etc. and Santa said: "I didn't like that. And I told him I didn't like that. I like Mexicans, I am a Mexican."

She was in the first focus group to help design the Women Alive Hotline program: "Voices With a Message." Santa volunteered on that Hot Line from day one up until the last few months of her life. Santa facilitated one of Women Alive's first support groups called: Coffee and Tea Cells. She decorated the facility for every single holiday: Valentine's, Easter, Halloween, St. Patrick's Day, Cinco de Mayo, etc.

She made chocolate candies for all occasions and shared them with everyone in town. Everyone looked forward to Santa's candies, especially the famous "penis-on-a-stick." Of course, the women and all the gay guys loved it! But she always made a tittie-on-a-stick especially for me and Mary. I'll always remember Santa, her courage, her determination, and her zest for life.

Santa is survived by many family members. The ones who we know, we know them as her daughter -- Nanette, her sons Tony, and Eddie. Her daughter in-law, Veronica and grandchildren; Falicia, Keith, Munchkin, and The Twins.

Santa's family stuck by her, they loved her, and we all knew it. They were all very active in her community involvement. They dispel the myth that Latino families are passive, silent observers of the AIDS epidemic. Santa and her family fully participated in AIDS awareness and educating the public. They were fierce and fearless. Santa herself was a courageous and dynamic outspoken Latina. She was not afraid to disclose her status to anyone. She felt no shame, because "I didn't do anything wrong." She had a tremendous amount of pride, but no shame. She wanted people to know what happened to her so that it wouldn't happen to them. She spoke from many podiums, on panels, on radio and television shows. Santa would speak at every opportunity. She desperately wanted to help others. She was a "ground-breaker," a pioneer for women of color in the AIDS community and the activist movement.

I will always remember Santa. The funeral was just how she would have wanted it. And I know she is proud. Proud of her kids and proud of her heritage and proud of her family.

When the Mariachis played their trumpets, I could only envision my friend dancing the Flamenco all the way up the staircase to heaven, dressed in the traditional garb, waving her red skirt with white lace, showing off her legs, and tossing her long beautiful grey hair over her shoulders.

Santa, wherever you are, know that you are loved and you are missed. You touched our lives in a profound and meaningful way. Our community will never be the same without you.

I would like to dedicate the following song to you and your ancestors. For all of the Mexicans who worked the copper mines in Arizona and all who have labored in the fields throughout this nation.

Even in the year 2002, American society accepts the unacceptable: "Slave labor." The immigrants are people too. People should be able to follow their dreams for a better life without regard for borders and without the chains of enslavement.

Wreck at Los Gatos
By Woody Guthrie, 1961

The crops are all in and the lettuce is rotting
The oranges are piled in their creosote dumps
You're flying 'em back to the Mexican border
To pay all their money just to wade back again

Goodbye to my Juan, goodbye, Rosalita
Adios mis amigos, Jesus y Maria
You won't have your names
When you ride the big airplane,
All they will call you will be deportees

My father's own father, he waded that river
They took all the money he made in his life
My brothers and sisters
Came working the fruit trees
And they rode on that truck
'Till they laid down and died

Some of us are illegal, and others not wanted
Our work contract's out and we have to move on
600 miles to that Mexican Border
They chase us like outlaws
Like rustlers, like thieves

Goodbye to my Juan, goodbye, Rosalita
Adios mis amigos, Jesus y Maria
You won't have your names
When you ride the big airplane,
All they will call you will be deportees

We died in your hills; we died in your deserts
We died in your valleys and died on your plains
We died 'neath your trees
And we died in your bushes
Both sides of the river, we died just the same

The sky plane caught fire over Los Gatos Canyon
A fireball of lightning, and shook all our hills
Who are these Chicanos?
All scattered like dry leaves?
The radio tell us they're just deportees.

Goodbye to my Juan, goodbye, Rosalita
Adios mis amigos, Jesus y Maria
You won't have your names
When you ride the big airplane,
All they will call you will be deportees

Is this the best way we can grow our big orchards?
Is this the best way we can grow our good fruit?
To fall like dry leaves, to rot on your topsoil
And be called by no name except deportees?

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This article was provided by Women Alive. It is a part of the publication Women Alive Newsletter.
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