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I'm the Local Gal in Richmond, Indiana, exploring my hometown and heart. I write about all thing local, sometimes global. It's a small world after all.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Richmond, Indiana: Un Lugar Para Todos

"Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free" 
Emma Lazarus, American Poet

As much as I defend and love this community, there are facets to it that make my stomach turn. But because I love it, I call out when I see something is wrong, as any true friend would do.

Our local Mexican restaurants were raided early this week. No charges were filed. Multiple restaurants throughout the area are under investigation. We still don't know why. Speculations have been wild.

The Indiana State Police raids brought out some of the worst and some of the best in our people. Although much of the commentary hurt my heart, there were many who wrote good words, but the din of the hateful seemed to overwhelm them. "Go back to Mexico" among other things were typed in commentary to the headline on Facebook. There were calls for deportations.

 We are all almost entirely descendants of immigrants in this country. Only native peoples can truly claim to be of this place. Most of Richmond's population is of German descent. However, our community in recent years has become more diverse.

If someone were to tell your family to "go back", where would you go?

Where would we go? The Netherlands? The Phillipines? Kentucky? Ireland? The state where I was born?

There is nowhere to go to, nowhere to belong to but here, where I am.

Our country now and in its history has welcomed so many strangers to our land to make a home and a refuge. That's the beauty of the United States. It is what makes me proud to be a part of our melting pot.

People who are courageous enough to leave the familiarity and/or danger of their homes to seek out the benefits of our states are more appreciative of America than some who are born to the rights and privileges of citizenship. I believe they will make our country greater. Stories like these move me to tears: watching Luma Mufleh of the Fugees being sworn in as a citizen of the United States.

Some people don't want further melting. They want to build walls. They want to shut you out of our society, especially if you are brown.

I may not look brown, but half of my family is and they are beautiful.

Sometimes people assume my mother, my sisters or brothers are Mexican or Indian or Lebanese or anything but not essentially American. We look different so we must not belong here.

When that happens to my mother, the teller where she has banked for years suspiciously, disdainfully asks for her ID.

When that happens, people yell nasty slurs at her while she is shopping for groceries.

After 9/11, because she is brown there was more:
  • Young men yelled "jihad" at her. 
  • People flip her off. 
  • They hurl curses at her.
They ask where we are from, and they tell our family in these ways to leave, to "go home." 

We are already there.

My mother is one of the most patient souls I know. She smiles at her offenders and quietly asks God to bless them or at least to forgive them for not knowing better.

When someone threw a rock shattering the new window at La Chiquita, the just renovated market in town, my mother was angry with the ignorance.

This is what she does: she orders a feast and tells them it was the best marketing they could have received.

When the restaurants were shut down and raided Monday morning, no one seems to ask why the state is allowed to interfere without publicly declaring a reason. The prosecuting attorney offices of Marion and Tippecanoe swear to silence until charges are formally filed. The investigation is not put on a timeline, but remains vaguely ongoing. Businesses were shut down publicly in the middle of the day and the process is shrouded in secrecy. It makes one wonder if the establishments were anything but Mexican restaurants would there have been such a public spectacle?

Local-Lady Snapshot

The largest regret I carry through life happened in less than 60 seconds seven years ago. It was a quiet moment. A young woman laughingly stated that because of the sound of a young man's name he was "not even American!" She scoffed at his American t-shirts, emblazoned with our flag. I was stunned into silence. My heart pounded and my stomach fell into a pit. I carry that moment today. I carry an image of that young boy's brown eyes and American pride, and I carry the crushing weight of my silence.

I carry the burden of her ignorance.

Emma Lazarus' poem would not be grand, if it included bureaucratic obstacles or stipulations on color, on language. Our country would be devoid of innovation, stagnant and in decline if it ceased to welcome those who are "yearning to breathe free".

By our greatest laws, we are all innocent until proven guilty. There is no need to make ugly remarks.
El Rodeo and the Latino community in our city are our friends, our neighbors. This is their home, too.

I may not be as patient, but I am my mother's daughter. Our El Rodeo feast was delicious.
This censure is given only in love,


the Local Gal

A Local-Lady Snapshot


  1. I appreciate the very human, just and compassionate comments expressed in this piece. Many of us asked why the Marion County Prosecutor's office had to swoop down on our local Rodeos just before a the busy lunch time. Yes, in addition to the author her, several people have said to me, "If this had been a white owned restaurant with white employees, would the police have acted this way?" Why not come at 8:00 AM, and respect the many employees whose families depend on their husband' or wife's hard work at the Rodeo, instead of humiliating innocent people.

  2. Howard, thank you.

    The police need to do their work, but I fear that too often lately there is no reason given for both federal and state raids. If there is a reason to search or seize items, I don't see why it should be kept a secret from the public who would be more supportive if their actions at least seem justified.

    This isn't the first time state or federal police have raided in our area. At least one raid was a huge mistake. The feds had traced something to the wrong IP address and disturbed a young family on the west side. It is lucky that no violence occurred in that case, as the experience on their part sounded terribly jarring.

    I'm glad the restaurants are back open and in business!