Dear Friends and Colleagues from Around the World,
This month, the two big stories are music to any writer’s ears – receiving the Bronze for Best Travel Writing from Solas. And one of the largest publishers in India is working on my second book, My Saddest Pleasures: 50 Years on the Road.
I’ll tell another personal story in Culture Watch, relating to the power of Conspiracy Theories to distort how we perceive immigrants and the growing problem of homelessness. As a result of all the craziness, a sense of humor is a must, so I’ve included Just Keep Laughing, My Writing, Interviews and Reviews, Voices of the Day, What Others Are Saying, and of course, an updated Calendar.
The Bronze was the second time the Solas competition has recognized my work—this one for “Tschiffely’s Epic Equestrian Ride” for “Travel Adventure—adventure, danger, and physical challenge.” Versions of the essay have been published in “Literary Traveler” and “Revue Magazine,” which you can find on my website.
Last week, I challenged my friends and family to help me raise funds for the Andre House due to the growth of homelessness in the Phoenix area and was shocked at a response from a high school friend who has a successful business in Colorado Springs:
No, thank you. The bulk of the growing homeless problem coincides with the ridiculous policies of our own leaders. Two million illegal immigrants have invaded our border since the election. Nearly all of them were homeless the minute they stepped on American soil. I’m not interested in subsidizing the criminal behavior that our government encourages, especially outside my state. I say, let the people who believe in open borders shoulder that burden.
Initially, I was shocked because my friend introduced me to a fantastic homeless support group in Colorado years ago. I even helped them with some fundraising needs, so learning that he believed that all the homeless were now immigrants was unsettling. But the first thing I confronted him with was the characterizing all immigrants as a homogeneous, illegal block of people, especially since two members of my family were first-generation immigrants from Guatemala and Peru. I went on to say, “These types of tropes which the former president used to cast aspersions on immigrants and later to Asians (COVID as “Chinese plague”) resulted in an increased level of hate speech and crime towards Hispanics & Asian Americans. Hitler used similar terms to justify killing millions of Jews, and Putin is doing the same with his claims that “Nazis” rule Ukraine despite their President being Jewish.”
I asked my colleague and Guatemalan friend, Luis Argueta, about all of the recent immigrants being homeless upon crossing the border. I’ve written about Luis several times in “Revue Magazine.” He’s a talented filmmaker who has produced several award-winning documentaries. He’s also a consultant for the Migration Policy Institute and a professor at Dominican University, and he made the following observation:
The idea that unauthorized immigrants who come to this country “are homeless the minute they stepped (sic) on American soil” is not supported by reality. The role of family, community, and friends networks is a well-documented phenomenon. Market forces are one of the many causes of irregular migration. If they are hiring at the meatpacking plants in Iowa, Nebraska, or Minnesota, friends and family will notify relatives and friends via cell phone calls. Those networks do not only provide loans, guidance, encouragement, orientation, housing, and help getting settled and finding a job. Some coyotes will include a career in the price of premium services. Irregular migration is rooted in causes in the sending communities, but also in pull factors such as jobs.
Luis recently participated in a study and panel about the underlying causes of immigration on our southern border with recommendations worth considering. Here’s a link to the Migration Policy Institute, where you can download the study. https://www.migrationpolicy.org/research/migration-huehuetenango-guatemala
Of course, I’d been on the serving line at the Andre House enough times to know that few of the homeless are immigrants. 40% of the homeless are U.S. veterans while 13% are Hispanics. But the real tragedy with this demonization of immigrants and misinformation about the homeless based on Conspiracy Theories is that it diverts attention from any helpful dialogue which leads to viable solutions for dealing with homelessness and immigration.
In Phoenix, the homeless regularly face displacement from inhumane city sweeps. An affordable, safe place to live has become increasingly hard to come by, causing far too many Arizonans to experience housing insecurity. Both Colorado and Arizona have two of the lowest availability of low-income housing, so anyone faced with a medical disaster can find themselves out in the street.
And rather than investing in proven solutions that would reduce homelessness, Arizona lawmakers want to pass Senate Bill 1581 – a bill that sets aside $50 million to address this crisis, but requires municipalities to spend that money on developing inadequate open-air campsites and creating outreach teams that would perpetuate the criminalization of unhoused people.
What to do?
- Avoid candidates using false information and trolling to create mistrust and hatred to garner votes.
- Confront friends and family when they use tropes and misinformation.
- Support local legislation and solid local groups that support immigrant families, immigration reform, and viable solutions to support the homeless.
I’m pleased to report that we exceeded our $400 goal for the Andre House to help the growing number of homeless in Phoenix. DONATEGOODS – André House of Arizona (andrehouse.org)
Just Keep Laughing
With the invasion of Ukraine and a substantial segment of the Republican party and some Congressional leaders voicing support of Vladimir Putin, it’s been a struggle to identify something funny. But in a pinch, George is the best.
In America, anyone can become president. That’s the problem.
– George Carlin
My Writing, Interviews & Reviews:
The big news is the new book being produced by Cyberwit and promoted by Taj Mahal, My Saddest Pleasures: 50 Years on the Road, is an expanded version of the essay published by ELAND Press recently.
The book contains eleven travel disasters which “opened my eyes” to many things. With close to 20 colored photos, it will be my first “Travel Chapbook,” and of course, it’s part of my “Yin & Yang of Travel” series. More on that next month.
Follow me on a “Time Among the Maya: Personal Reflections,” based on a classic travel book by Ronald Wright published by ELAND Press. I follow the author through mountains and jungles to explore the ancient roots of the Maya and their outlook for survival in Guatemala. This just came out in this month’s “Revue Magazine,” on pages 62-69. https://www.revuemag.com/2022/04/revue-magazine-april-2022/
Here’s a new essay in my “Moritz Thomsen Series,” “The Saddest Pleasure: A Journey of Two Writers,” recently published in “Literary Yard” by their editor, Onkar Sharma. You can leave a comment at the end.
For those who missed my “Comments on Banning Books in Arizona” or my two latest reviews, Allegro to Life by Earl Vincent de Berge and Iguana Killer by Alberto Rios, click on the poster above for my segment in this month’s Arizona Authors Association newsletter.
You can still find my essay, “Ramon and Moritz: A Partnership of the Black Coast,” in the “Arizona Authors Association 2022 Literary Magazine,” which is also part of my “Moritz Thomsen Series.” The magazine includes other winning entries of unpublished novels, essays, and poetry from authors in Arizona and around the world. https://www.amazon.com/2022-Arizona-Literary-Magazine-Winning/dp/B09J7FZYT2/ref=sr_1_6?crid=15JVCVH461GAB&keywords=Arizona+Literary+Magazine&qid=1640269058&s=books&sprefix=arizona+literary+magazine%2Cstripbooks%2C126&sr=1-6
Voices of the Day
Not all those who wander are lost
What Others Are Saying
On receiving the Bronze award from the Solas Best Travel Writing:
You won BRONZE in the ADVENTURE category. (I won GOLD in the BAD TRIPS category.)
Congrats to us both.
Tom (Miller) author of The Panama Hat Trail and The Revenge of the Saguaro. I’ll be reviewing his next book, a memoir….
Congratulations on your Bronze award… I enjoyed your review and recollections of your travels.
Luis Argueta, Guatemalan filmmaker, and Professor at Old Dominion University
On my review of Allegro to Life
Thank you for sharing and including my thoughts. Because of your review of Allegro to Life, I took a chance and ordered the book by Earl Vincent de Berge. I love the desert and so I’m looking forward, especially, to his desert poems…
Jacklyn Anderson, a poet, and writer
On my essay, “Traveling Through the Land of the Eternal Spring: A Literary Journey, Revue Magazine January.
Mark has more knowledge of Guatemalan politics, society and history than any other American. He also has empathy for the Guatemalans struggling to survive in their own homeland or seeking a better life elsewhere. All of his writing about this tortured country will enhance your understanding of the social justice sought by so many, Guatemalan or other.
Charles Ross Feezer, Fellow board member of Partnering for Peace and the RPCV Dominican Republic
What a beautiful love story, not only of your wife, but of Guatemala. Thank you for a knowledgeable, well-written piece.
Cindi Reiss, President of the Phoenix Writers Club
Mark, it was a privilege to read your rich, evocative piece. I look forward to reading your other work. When my husband and I served, it was staggering how many people we met just walking around like regular folk but carrying always the personal trauma of genocide like a tinaja full of water. I haven’t read any Francisco Goldman since Long Night of White Chickens. I’ll be getting back to him as well.
Catherine (RPCV-Totonicapan, Guatemala, 89-92)
- April 9th: Participating in the Launching of a Phoenix chapter of PEN America, which brings writers together worldwide to promote freedom of expression and human rights.
- Tentatively early May – A performance of “La Pulsera” (The Bracelet) for “For the Love of Story” at Carefree’s Sanderson Outdoor Pavilion.
You can find my 60 book reviews and 28 articles, plus several videos
at www.MillionMileWalker.com “Follow” me on Twitter. https://twitter.com/millionmile, @millionmile_wal and Facebook http://www.facebook.com/millionmilewalker/?modal=invite a friend for the latest on international affairs and literature. And, as always, if you’ve read “Different Latitudes: My Life in the Peace Corps and Beyond,” by all means, rate it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and GoodReads, or if you don’t have it, please consider purchasing it.