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Mexico: The Mayan Relief Fund (6/98)

Used car salesmen are known for their stories. But there’s a guy in Pensacola, Florida, with a line that will tear at your heart. You wouldn’t expect to be hearing about the plight of the Mayan people of the Yucatan from Ricky Long, yet in his friendly Southern drawl he’ll recount years fraught with frustration and gratification in his efforts to make life a little better for impoverished Mexican Indians.

Long’s dedication to the Mayan people began several years ago when he was vacationing in Cancun. Like most visitors to Mexico, he was fascinated by the charm of the country, but oblivious to the poverty carefully hidden from tourists. A friendly exchange with a local man ended up with an invitation to his home for a dinner of homemade tamales. Although the carefree Floridian was moved by the poverty of his hosts, he didn’t yet realize this was the beginning of a life-long commitment to help the Mayan people. read more

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Land Grab in Nicaragua: Part 1 (6/98)

On the road to Puerto Cabezas, the cowboy country of Nicaragua’s central mountains slopes into the lush lowlands of the Miskito Rainforest – what’s left of it. For centuries, this region was an impenetrable jungle which protected the Miskito and Mayangna Indians from conquest. Just a few years ago, there was no road to the Caribbean coastal town. Now, Central America’s largest rainforest is shrinking faster than ever, and the Indians find themselves the guardians of what once was their protector. read more

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Race: Untold Stories (5/98)

Our lives are haunted by secrets — things kept from us by society, friends, even our own families. Just when we think the whole story is on the table, another revelation can force us to reconsider how we look at the world, our leaders, and ourselves.

This truism was brought home for me recently during a visit to Kentucky, where I spent several days with one of that state’s most beloved civil rights leaders, Georgia Davis Powers. Invited to discuss a book she’s writing about one of her ancestors, I learned some surprising things not only about the suppressed history of one Black family, but also about the secret life of Martin Luther King. read more

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Mexico: Witnesses at Risk (5/98)

It’s hot already, as the early morning sun beats down on the crooked tin roof of the new church in Acteal. Just behind the makeshift bench where I’m sitting in the open air is a mass grave. It holds the bodies of 45 victims of a massacre that claimed the lives of mostly women and children here last December.

On either side of me are two young women, survivors of that massacre who lost most of their families. In front sits Maria Santiz Lopez, a leader of the Abeja, a religious group committed to nonviolence. Maria is talking about her traditional dress, and her fears that when it’s worn out, there won’t be another to take its place – that she’ll lose her identity in hand-me-down, non-traditional dresses from well-wishers who don’t understand what her clothes mean to her. read more

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Standoff in Chiapas (3/98)

Esperanza Aguilar Jimenez is a skinny seven-year-old, all legs and arms in a well-worn, carefully patched, poofy-skirt dress. She sits next to me on a dusty rock at the side of the road leading into Morelia, her village in the southernmost Mexican state of Chiapas. It’s mid-morning, and Esperanza ought to be in school. But all her teachers are gone. Fearing the imminent advance of the Mexican military, they packed themselves tightly into a little pickup and drove as quickly as they could down the deeply rutted road out of town. I know this because I watched them go. read more

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The New Roughriders (2/98)

Last summer a battalion of US reporters laid siege to the tiny island nation of St. Vincent, seeking to rescue an imprisoned American couple from the clutches of what they perceived to be a "Banana Republic" with no respect for due process or the American way. Many of the reporters — still in their 20s — were armed with the bulletproof zeal of their own moral certitude. They may not remember Teddy Roosevelt, but in their xenophobic euphoria they found a San Juan Hill to assault, one rich with the grapeshot of sound bites and innuendo. read more