Julia Esquivel shares voices of Guatemalans in poetry
Through poetry, theology and action, Guatemalan Julia Esquivel has advocated for human rights, economic justice and political power for indigenous people.
She will share through her poetry and presentations with several groups when she visits Spokane from Saturday, Oct. 12 to Monday, Oct. 21 related to The Fig Tree’s Faith in Action Dialogue.
The Fig Tree is organizing events in collaboration with Women Walking Together, Gonzaga University, Whitworth University, Bioneers and the Kalispel Tribe.
Plans include a talks and poetry reading at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 16, at Gonzaga University’s Cataldo Hall; at 7 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 17, at Weyerhaeuser Center at Whitworth University, and talks during the Bioneers Conference on Friday, Oct. 19 and Sunday, Oct. 21.
She will also read poetry at 3 p.m., Monday, Oct. 15, at the Women’s Hearth, 920 W. Second. She will spend Thursday, Oct. 18, visiting the Kalispel Tribe.
For Fig Tree editor Mary Stamp, it will be a reunion with a friend she spent six months with at the Ecumenical Institute of Bossey, Switzerland, in 1969-70 and again at the 6th Assembly of the World Council of Churches in 1983 in Vancouver, B.C., while Julia was living in exile.
“We promised each other at our parting: ‘Je suis avec toi,’ French for, ‘I am with you,’” Mary said. “Sharing interest in writing, poetry, ecumenism, justice, peace, human rights and care for the environment, I keep her in my prayers, hearing of her life over the years and reading her poetry. Her words and life helped shape who I am.”
At the assembly, she told of the vast economic disparities in Guatemala, with the masses in poverty while two percent were super wealthy. Then she warned, “I tell you this so you will know and recognize what is happening when it happens to you.”
Julia knew that injustices in her land were tied to corporate interests in the United States.
Women Walking Together coordinator Sandi Thompson-Royer met Julia on her first trip to visit CEDEPCA, a Central American center for ecumenical and pastoral studies and encounter.
Julia worked as a teacher, principal, pastoral social worker, writer and human rights activist through 30 years of civil unrest, dictatorships, resistance movements and civil wars in Guatemala.
She has spoken out on behalf of thousands of Maya, Quiche and other indigenous people who were murdered or who survived and faced communal trauma.
While some took up arms, Julia followed a path to peace, editing a magazine, Dialogo, as a way to witness to God’s justice and compassion, and to bring healing to her land.
Death threats and harassment forced her into exile in 1980. She lived eight of her 12 years in exile with the nuns of the Grand Champs monastic community in Switzerland, and then in Mexico and Nicaragua.
Julia also traveled from these bases throughout Europe, the United States and Canada to speak and advocate on behalf of those suffering in the “Guatemalan holocaust.”
She considers suffering a school of wisdom, “part of our education as Christians.”
Having known so many who experienced fear, torture and death, Julia used her exile to heal, reflect and pray—facing her own suffering and the wounds of her nation.
Julia eventually resettled and began a ministry of reconciliation in Guatemala. Working with global solidarity movements, churches and Guatemalan communities, she expresses truth and compassion in her poetry, wisdom in the face of suffering and a longing for love and hope to prevail.
Her books include Secrets of God’s Reign (2002), The Certainty of Spring (1993) and Threatened with Resurrection (1982).
The Fig Tree and Women Walking Together seek volunteers and donors to share the costs of her visit and draw people to events.
For information, call 535-1813.
Mary Stamp - The Fig Tree - Copyright © September 2007
Published by The Fig Tree, 1323 S. Perry St., Spokane, WA 99202