The first photo is that of my daughter. She is a bright and happy 16-year old Latina girl who is the light of my life.
The second photo is Elena Mondragon, a bright and happy 16 yo Latina girl who was shot to death by Fremont police, while she was riding as a passenger in a car they were pursuing.
Fremont police gave Alameda County DA Nancy O’Malley a $10,000 campaign contribution and O’Malley promptly decided that Elena’s killing was justified. That, for O’Malley, is how much the life of a Latina girl is worth, payable to her.
Who will be next? With a DA who will not prosecute police killings as she fills her pockets with campaign contributions from killer cops, are any of our children safe? Over a hundred community members have been killed by law enforcement officers in Alameda County since O’Malley has been DA. Not a single one was prosecuted.
Please, if you live in Alameda County, vote for Pamela Price for DA. I don’t care if it’s the only vote you cast. For our children’s sake, don’t let a racist, human rights violating DA stay in office!
(Note: if you want other voting recommendations, check out this guide for Alameda County and this guide for elsewhere in California – but whatever you do, please vote for Pamela Price and ask your friends in Alameda County to do the same)
La primera foto es la de mi hija, Michaela. Tiene 16 años, muchos sueños y muchas esperanzas. Es la luz de mi vida.
La segunda foto es la de Elena Mondragon, quien tenía también 16 años, muchos sueños y esperanzas el año pasado, cuando fue acribillada por la policía de la ciudad de Fremont. Iba como pasajera en un auto que la policía decidió perseguir.
Los policías de Fremont le dieron una contribución de $10,000 a la campaña de Nancy O’Malley, la fiscal del condado de Alameda. Poco después, O’Malley decidió que el asesinato de Elena estaba justificado. Diez mil dólares en su bolsillo es lo que la vida de una jovencita Latina le vale a Nancy O’Malley.
Cual de nuestras hijas o hijos será el próximo? O’Malley no ha perseguido a ninguno de los policías que mató a miembros de nuestra comunidad – sin embargo ha tomado decenas de miles de dólares en contribuciones de los sindicatos de policías.
Si Ud. vive en el condado de Alameda, por favor vótele a Pamela Price para Fiscal del Distrito. Por la vida de nuestros hijos e hijas, no deje que una fiscal racista y violadora de los derechos humanos siga en su puesto.
Y por favor comparta esta nota con todos sus amigos.
On Saturday, they posted this photo on my brother’s feed:
It’s a photo of our sister, Gabriela, agonizing on her death bed. She died later that day.
Gabriela got sick when she was 9 months old. She got síndrome urémico hemolítico (hemolytic-uremic syndrome– HUS). I was almost four when this happened and I don’t remember ever not knowing those words. I didn’t know their meaning, of course, because at the time nobody did. A syndrome, I was told, is a set of symptoms that go together without a known cause. Now we know that HUS is most often caused by e-coli or another bacterial infection. Not that it mattered, what mattered was that Gabriela got sick.
Ironically enough, I have rather good memories of the three months I spent living with aunt Gladys and Granny while Gabriela was at the hospital. My aunt and grandmother doted on me, and I enjoyed the visits to the hospital. The old, immense Hospital de Niños building was located in front of the Parque Saavedra, a huge park with a lake and plenty of green space. Later, in fifth grade, I would come back here with my class to do a “study” of its ecosystem. After every visit my aunt would buy me an ice cream bar. Back then children were mostly put in large wards. It was probably for that reason that, upon noticing that Gabriela was sick, my parents had taken her to the private Clínica del Niño. The doctors there didn’t know what to do with her. I’ve heard the story thousands of times: they kept filling her with serum while she couldn’t urinate until my father, worried, picked her up and took her against medical advice and without having her discharged, absconding with her to the public Hospital de Niños, where they saved her life. HUS, you see, is a disease of poor children, the Clínica doctors hadn’t seen it before. It was rare and worrisome enough, however, that my mother and Gabriela got the only single private room in the hospital. Some years later, it’d be occupied by my cousin Fernando. Those memories are not in the least bittersweet.
I still remember, as well, the names of the doctors who saved her life back then and kept her alive afterwards: Silver and Rentería. Their names would be replaced by others a few years later. While Gabriela survived HUS, her kidneys were permanently damaged. By the age of six, they were giving out on her.
The CEMIC. The Center for Medical Education and Clinical Investigations in the posh Palermo Chico neighborhood of Buenos Aires. It became Gabriela’s home-away-from-home from the moment my parents found out about the possibility of a kidney transplant. There were so many tests; my father had a different blood type; my brother and I were too young; my mother’s kidney was not fully compatible. A German drug could work, perhaps, to bring down her immune system and prevent it from rejecting the kidney. Working with the insurance companies to get them to import it and pay for it. Getting Gabriela to gain weight so she could withstand the operation; getting my mother to lose weight to make it easier to take out her kidney. My vacaciones the invierno, winter break, that year were spent in a nice apartment close to the calle Florida, in Buenos Aires. It was owned by tío Héctor, one of my father’s college friends. Mamá and Gabriela were in the hospital, papá working and visiting them, I was pretty much on my own. I strolled the calle Florida, browsed at the toy stores and Harrods, ate the delicious pear jam that tío Héctor’s cousin was working to distribute. I visited Gabriela at the hospital some times. She was in an isolation room, all by herself. To enter, you had to cover your clothing, your head, your face and even your shoes. You had to wash your hands with disinfectant and then put on gloves. After her death, I discovered a letter I wrote to her while she was in the hospital, telling her about some little dolls I’d bought, advising her to be good to the doctors and nurses.
The rest, well, the rest is history. She got the transplant, a year later she started to reject it, two years later we had come to the US in search of a second kidney. It would take a year, two at the most, and we’d be back home. That’s what we thought. Instead, it was six, and I was a sophomore in college by the time it came. Before and after, well, there were health problems after health problems. My freshman year in college I wrote a poem about her death, I don’t even remember what particular health crisis she was growing through then. Peritonitis, convulsions, infections, my mom actually kept count of the hospitalizations, she’ll probably comment and say how many they were. My mom was with her on every single one. Every medical crisis presaged her death, but she didn’t die. Then she lost her second transplanted kidney, around the time I was having my second child; she refused to go back on hemodialysis so we waited for her to die. At the last minute, when the toxins in her brain were giving her painful hallucinations she consented to be treated, and there she went on until she had her third transplant, this time from a girl she met on the internet. The Wall Street Journal even wrote about that (years later, my husband would also be featured on a WSJ front page story, on a completely different topic).
Throughout my life I have made my peace with Gabriela’s death so many times that when it finally happened, it came as an enormous surprise. Truth be told, I believed she would outlive us all. She gave proof to the adage that death comes like a thief in the night, when you least expect it.
My relationship with Gabriela had deteriorated over the years. I loved her, I hope she knew that, but we clashed too much. I won’t speak ill of the dead because it serves no purpose, so let’s just say we did not get along. In part I was happy to say my last words to her after she died so she couldn’t talk back. But I think she knew what I would tell her: that I always loved her with all my heart, that I had given her as much of me as I could give her and still remain a person, that I lived every day with the guilty of the unfairness and senselessness that she had been sick and I hadn’t been, that she didn’t get to live a full life, and I did. As she laid dead, I spoke those words for myself, of course, but I also spoke them for her.
But don’t get me wrong, while Gabriela and I were not close anymore, it’s in relative terms. There is a closeness in my family which I think is very unlike what I see in others, for better or worse. When we were young and my brother and I would express jealousy about how much more attention my parents paid to Gabriela than to us, my mom would say that her children were like her fingers. When one was injured, that’s the one she paid attention to, but the others were just as important and loved. I think that the five + 1 of us (Kathy, my younger sister, was born two years before I left for college) are like fingers. Too much part of a one to be individuals by ourselves. I don’t think I can grieve for Gabriela without grieving for myself, for my brother or for my parents.
And thus we go back to Facebook’s ill-timed photo. It didn’t appear on my feed, and for that I’m thankful, but it did appear on my brother’s. I understand why it did. I come from a large family, with tons of aunts and uncles and cousins and second and third cousins. Gabriela’s death was shared by everyone who lived her struggles. They couldn’t be there in person, so they were virtually around her. So they liked the photo, they commented on it, it was significant. Which does not mean that seeing it again was welcomed.
My biggest issue was not that this photo was posted by facebook on my brother’s feed, he can deal with his own traumas, but that it was posted adorned with bright colored circles and squiggles that look balloons and garlands. It’s a design that celebrates, that shows joy… at my sister’s agony and death. How incredibly crass is that? How cruel?
It’s bad enough that they did it, but it’s worse that they did it with full knowledge of the pain this could cause. After all, just like Friday they apologized for doing pretty much the same thing. When you apologize for doing something wrong, you are supposed to change your behavior, not do it again and this time with happier designs!
Some good has come of this, for me. I had been avoiding thinking about Gabriela this whole Xmas season, I didn’t want to break down and cry and I
have now done so, repeatedly, as I composed this post. I didn’t want to think about the fact that next year, when my whole family comes to my house for Christmas, she won’t be with them, I didn’t want to think about how there is a finger missing from that hand now and it will never be reattached, but I know I did both of us a disservice by avoiding thinking about her. I’m glad this forced me to and I can say Merry Christmas to the memory of that little girl that Gabriela was once upon a time.
This year, Christmas for me was not a cornucopia of presents. For one, my sister Kathy didn’t come home so there was nothing underneath from her or my parents. For another, I neither asked for much nor made much of a deal about Mike getting me anything. Therefore, I feel free to write about the great presents I did get, without having to feel the shame of participating in unabashed consumerism – or at least, of owning up to it.
So this is what I got.
Mika got me these gorgeous owl earrings and at the San Francisco Zoo no less! She got Camila some gorgeous elephant earrings as well.
She also got me a homemade card with the words of the Backstreet Boy’s song The Perfect Fan
The San Leandro main library has a tiny gift shop run by volunteers. They always manage to have cute, unique and reasonable price items. I don’t go there too often anymore (e-books be damned!), but during a recent visit I spotted a few items items I did like. I pointed them out to Mike and he got me a couple:
A very cute gold & black necklace. I think it was supposed to come with earrings, but it didn’t 🙁
A messy chain necklace with matching earrings. Yeah, I’m probably too old for it, but who cares? 🙂
Mike also got me a new pair of leather gloves, as I lost my last one.
I like listening to history lectures on YouTube before I go to sleep, and somehow I came upon some lectures by Timothy Snyder, a historian of 20th century Eastern Europe. Snyder is incredible – both as a scholar and as a lecturer -, and I quickly listened to anything by him I could find on YouTube. From there I graduated to his magnum opus Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin I had it out of the library for over a month, but it’s a long and emotionally challenging book (I’m haunted by the images of roving bands of cannibals hunting little children during the holodomor, and then things get worse) so I couldn’t finish it. I asked Mike to get it for me so I could read it at my own pace.
Camila, meanwhile, made me a beautiful collage.
I didn’t think that I hadn’t really given myself a present until too late (though I did get some clothing, cooking equipment and tea on sale), so I’ve decided to splurge by getting a couple of subscription boxes. I already ordered a Petit Vour box, just for the thrill of getting a surprise at a low price ($15 a month), but after doing more research on subscription boxes, what I really want is a GlobeIn Artisan Box. GlobeIn is a marketplace for artisans worldwide, you can go on their website and buy a clay onion container, from an artisan in Russia, a hand-knitted horse poncho from Mexico or a handmade small yurt from a yurt-maker in Kyrgyztan trying to jump star his business. But you can also get a mystery box for $35 a month including shipping, and that’s what I really want. I may very well order it for myself, but I’ll wait to see if the come up with any more “first month free” offers.
I just realized that my website marga.org has been hacked for over two years! There was a file on my main directory named versus.php which served up pages with information on how to buy drugs like viagra. Yuck! The pages were in a directory called “1”, which had been created within another preexisting directory.
Mike thinks the hack must come through an old, vulnerable version of WordPress. The thing is that I didn’t notice it until I did a search for “Greece” on marga.org – suddenly most of the Google results were for drugs.
I daresay that the hack made me lose quite a bit of page ranking, but it’s my bad for not noticing it before.
I’m writing this in case someone comes across the same file in their website.