Kathleen Kern Author

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Decompressing with Tuti in Lujan de Cuyo

Photo taken from back seat of a man with gray hair in an orange checked shirt driving and a woman in a red shirt with medium length gray hair in passenger seat.  In the distance you can see the lower ranges of the Andes Mountains
Tuti took us on a drive to the foothills of the Andes Mountains.

I was surprised to find out that I took so few pictures when we visited Michael’s friend Tuti Berlak. Because I remember my time with her and her daughter Maia was one of my favorite parts of the trip.

On the night before we flew to Mendoza from Buenos Aires. I finally took my braids down from the wedding hairdo. I had discovered, as the bruise from my fall in Medellin faded, that I had a hematoma in the center of the bruise (and still have it as of this writing), which explains why it hurt so much to move that thigh muscle. When I googled around to find out info about hematomas, I discovered that you’re not supposed to fly with them. I had already taken three flights , but thought I should check in with my doctor. He told me to take 325 mg of aspirin—which means I was kind of nauseous for the rest of my trip.

Mendoza is a city near the foothills of the Andes, and is cooler than Buenos Aires. Lujan de Cuyo, where Tuti and her daughter Maia live, is even closer, so the weather is cooler yet, although warm by our standards during the day. Here’s the view flying in:

Tuti has an interesting history. Like many of Michael’s friends from Tel Aviv University and Kerem Shalom, she left Argentina during the Dirty War. In the late 1970s, she left for Mexico, where she met her ex and they ended up in jail for because of their political activities against the Argentinian military regime. The Israeli Embassy got Tuti out, but her ex was Argentinian and had no one to advocate for him. While he was in jail, he made this plaque and gave it to Michael as a gift, which we have in our small collection of Che Guevara tchotchkes.1 Mexico deported them both as political exiles to Sweden. Before they split they had their two daughters, Anahi and Maia. Tuti moved back to Argentina.

She now lives near the her parents’ summer cottage. Below is the view outside of her current home. Even though this post will be shorter than the others, I think my time with Tuti and her daughter Maia was one of my favorite parts of the trip. They are relaxing people, and sitting on the porch with them and their two big old dogs, was just what I needed.

Tuti’s daughter Anahi is an artist and the room where we slept was full of her mosaics. Below are some of her instagram photos of the pieces in our bedroom, following a picture of herself. You also might want to check out her Instagram feed.

In both Uruguay and Argentina we learned the importance of mate (pronounced MAH-tay). On the plane to Montevideo, we sat across from a guy who asked the flight attendant to fill his thermos with hot water, and then sipped for the rest of the flight. Tuti told us the that Argentinian stereotype Uruguayans as always walking around with a thermos in one arm and a mate cup in the other.

Although Sandra had given me a few sips of her mate , I really learned how to drink it with Tuti. You fill the cup with dry leaves and then push them back with a bombilla until there is a small space to pour water. Then you sip the water with the dual purpose bombilla like the ones below.

5 metal straws with objects at end for mashing dried leaves in tea
Mariano-J, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Tuti told us that the drinking mate is meant to be done socially, with everyone sharing the same cup. At the height of the Covid pandemic, when she went to meetings, people brought their own cups, but she said it wasn’t the same. Mate is an acquired taste. It’s bitter, like coffee and tea, but I acquired it.

woman with sleeveless blue top and gray hair prepares cup of mate.
Tuti telling us about mate with Maia in the background.

Before we left, reluctantly, on my part, anyway, I decided it was time for the last remnants of the wedding hairdo to go away. For our departure to Chile from the Mendoza airport the next morning, I was wearing my normal braids.

  1. Michael wishes me to point out that tchotchkes are called chochchadas in Nicaraguan Spanish. He also thinks the fact that we have a Dome of the Rock replica made by a Palestinian political prisoner means we have a collection of political prisoner tchotchkes. ↩︎

First Two Days in Buenos Aires

At the Buenos Aires Airport, I noticed that the junk food had labels warning of health risks. The labels on the chocolate bar, for example, warn that it has too much sugar, fat, saturated fat, and too many calories.

Since we arrived too early to check into our apartment, a cousin of our new son-in-law, Eric, allowed us to drop our luggage at his apartment building. This pleasant yard is on the roof of his building.

As we walked around looking for a place to eat, we noticed some street art, mostly used for advertising.

Also Argentinians taking dancing lessons on the street.

The drink Michael ordered at the place we stopped for lunch had yet another warning. Because it contained artificial sweeteners, children should not drink it. I wondered why they would name a soft drink, “to be.”

We stopped at the AMIA (Argentine Israelite Mutual Association—the equivalent of Jewish Community Centers in the U.S) which had strict security outside, because of the July 18, 1994 bombing that killed 85 people and injured 300. Ansar Allah, a Palestinian front for Hezbollah, claimed responsibility for the attack However the investigation into the incident was incompetent, and driven by political interests, so today it’s not really “solved,” as such.

We had made an appointment to visit the Jewish museum ahead of time. Turns out, they are very picky about who they let in. A couple from Ithaca, NY wanted to visit but they had only copies of their passports, and that was not sufficient. Pro-tip: I have traveled to five continents and I have never found authorities in any countries who found a photocopy of a passport valid for identification.

In the first room was a permanent art installation meant to indicate a Shabbat family dinner for missing people. Originally, it had shown photos of people who had disappeared during the Dirty War, but now the photos are of Israelis Hamas is holding hostage in Gaza.

Maurycy Minkowski

A small room displayed a temporary exhibit of the works by the artist Maurycy Minkowski. Famous for painting on themes of immigration, Minkowski eventually ended up in Buenos Aires, “where,” the exhibit notes without further explanation, “he lost his life tragically.” Of course I wanted to find out what actually happened to him and found the following on Wikipedia. An illness had left him deaf as a child, but he got the education he needed to work as an artist in Europe:

Brief summaries of significant eras for the Argentinian Jewish community.

First, massive waves of immigration took place between 1889 and 1930, for the same reasons that Jews were fleeing to the United States and other countries. The pogroms in Russia and Eastern European countries made emigration a life and death matter.

In the Decade of Infamy, marked by a 1930 coup, Great Depression, electoral fraud to keep conservative parties in power and another coup in 1943, were a time of rising antisemitism. Juan Peron, who was a colonel in the army that overthrew the government in 1943, was a sympathizer of Nazi Germany and fascist Italy.

Under the first Peronist government, antisemitism rose sharply, but it did in the U.S., Canada, and Europe as well. Despite Peron’s fascism, he appointed Jews to positions in the government and passed a law allowing Jewish army privates to celebrate Jewish holidays while they were serving in the military. U.S. Ambassador George Messersmith said, after a visit to Argentina in 1947, “There is not as much social discrimination against Jews here as there is right in New York or in most places at home….” Historian Raanan Rein has noted, ” “Fewer anti-Semitic incidences took place in Argentina during Perón’s rule than during any other period in the 20th century.” Frequent coup d’etats occurred in the 1950s-60s. Fragile civilian governments rose and fell. An urban guerrilla group who expressed an affinity for Nazi ideals, the Tacuara Nationalist Movemen,t opposed secular society and liberal democracy:

In 1973, Peron returned to power. He died in office, and his widow, Isabella Peron succeeded him. The army, led by Commander-in-Chief General Jorge Rafael Videla, overthrew her government in 1976. Thus began the bloodiest episode in Argentina’s modern history, which the next blog post will cover. Cabildo a Catholic Church publication peddled antisemitic tropes heavily during the dictatorship. It falsely asserted that 3 million Jews lived in Argentina when the number was a tenth of that. Even though Jews represented only 2% of Argentina’s population, they were more than 10% of those the Argentine Secret Service kidnapped and disappeared. A lot of Michael’s friends at Tel Aviv University were young people from Argentina, Chile and Uruguay who had fled the coup regimes in those countries.

The final placard talks about the democratic reopening of Argentina.

The museum’s synagogue has four marble memorials for mass casualties that Argentina’s Jewish community has suffered over the years. Two list the names of those killed and disappeared under the “Argentinian Dirty War” from 1974-1983. Another lists the name of 29 killed during the Israeli Embassy bombing in 1992, although there appear to be more than 29 names on it, and I cannot read the brass plate from the picture. The fourth records the 85 who died in the July 1994 bombing.

After our visit to the Jewish museum, we headed out to the Plaza de Mayo, the scene of some of the momentous events in Argentinian history. The Palacio Rosado (Pink Palace) houses Argentina’s seat of government. The backlit pyramid was erected to commemorate Argentina’s 1811 revolution against Spain. That square rock lists the names of the soldiers who died in the pivotal battle of Tucumán, during Argentina’s War of Independence.

Political protest has also characterized the history of the Plaza. The Mothers of the Plaza del Mayo probably deserve the biggest accolades for the length of the their protests—so long they are now the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo. They wore scarves made from their children’s diapers initially, which evolved into plain white scarves on which they embroidered the names of their children whom the army had disappeared. Meeting weekly at the Plaza de Mayo, they demanded that the government return their children. “You took them alive; we want them back alive,” was one of their chants. They also deserve accolades for their bravery.The military kidnapped, tortured and murdered some of the Mothers, as well as French nuns who supported them, but more mothers kept joining the group in the Plaza every week.

The black base extols heroes from Argentina’s War of Independence from Spain, but I like what someone has added at the end: “For all the dead human beings, and those who struggled to save them.” The Hebrew reads,

I was trying to figure out what all the the rocks were doing at the base of the pyramid erected to celebrate Argentina’s Independence, and then I realized that the people designated on the rocks had all died in 2020-21. Apparently, they remained from a protest regarding how the Argentinian government had handled the Covid epidemic.

At the end of the day as we took a taxi back to the apartment where we were staying, we noticed our driver had a quotation by Martin Luther King on the back of his seat: “It is always the right time to do the right thing.” It seemed an appropriate way to end the day.

Last Day in Bogotá

Good-bye to Camila

Photo of Camila Reyes, smiling.  She has long, wavy brown hair and brown eyes.
Camila Reyes, founder of Resuena

The picture I had of Camila for our final day together, didn’t really express who she was. So I took something from a webpage describing her what she does. Her current work is with Resuena, an organization “set out on a dream to expand the access to Nonviolent Communication in Colombia so that it becomes part of the day-to-day culture.”

Below is the bad picture I took of Camila at a diner for breakfast. She really wasn’t unhappy at the time. One of the aspects of Colombian cuisine that Michael really appreciated is the soups, and the fact that Colombians eat soup at breakfast and lunch. I remember with fondness Colombian pastries on previous trip. I

t struck me that this simple diner had works of original art all over the walls. I said it seemed like I saw art everywhere I went in Bogota. Camila told me its presence was especially prevalent in her bohemian neighborhood.

A love of beauty and plants also helps describe Camila’s character. She has plants in every room of her apartment except the utility room. I documented them here:

We decided to go to the Bogota public market and eat all the fruits we hadn’t eaten yet (and we had eaten a lot of different fruits.) The excursion turned into buying fruit that doesn’t need to be turned into juice. Of the fruits you see here, we liked the mangosteen the best (the little brown ones). Since Colombia is full of microclimates, almost anything can be grown. Camila also took us to visit her friend who organizes community-supported agriculture (and allows artists to use her space, because, well, it’s Bogotá).

What else? By the time I got to Bogotá, the bruise I got from my fall in Medellin had grown considerably worse. As it dissipated over time, I realized it had hematoma at the center, which explains why the muscle in my thigh hurt so much when I moved it. I used one of my hiking sticks as a cane for the rest of the trip.

In a moment alone with Camila shortly before we left for the airport, she was discussing her goals for the next few years. She then asked me about my goals. Without thinking, I said, “I’d like to make compassion cool again.” She asked how I planned on accomplishing that, and I said, “Well, maybe that’s what my next novel will be about. Right before we left, she handed me this pin and told me, “This is to remind you that your job now is to make compassion cool again.”

The wedding!

And Raison Det’re of Our Trip

I’d say something about these crazy kids being so in love, but that would not reflect the meticulous planning they put into this wedding for a year. They succeeded, and they’re still so in love.

The flowers were lovely.

The friend who introduced them performed the ceremony and described their almost love at first sight meet-up in a way that made every one laugh.

What more shall I say? Should I mention that music after the wedding dinner was at a decibel level that made the furniture vibrate in the next room?  And that I lay on a vibrating couch with my head turned away from the banquet hall  because the flashing lights would. have triggered a migraine?

Nah.

Days in Medellin before the wedding

February 21, 2024

Mural in restaurant with Black woman in foregrounds wearing

Have I mentioned yet that Michael’s daughter Beth got married on February 24 in Medellin and that was the whole reason for our South America trip? Well, now you know.

Michael and I left for Medellin on the morning of February 21. For lunch, we ate at Champi, a few blocks from the hotel, which was our first exposure to traditional Colombian food. Michael is a fan. It’s bland, has at least two, usually three starches in the meal and generous servings of meat (beans in less privileged areas.) The coconut lemonade was superb. Cuban coffee was the most expensive coffee on the menu, more expensive than cappuccino. But I noted with appreciation its use as a remedy for headaches.

In the evening, we had dinner with the Taberlys, the family of Eric, whom Beth is marrying. The guy in front is a cousin of some sort and owns the restaurant, Bárbaro, which is famous in Medellin for its steak.Clockwise: Eric’s younger niece, Eric’s sister Simone, Beth, with Eric’s older niece on her lap, Marta, Eric’s mother, Rubens, Eric’s father, Michael, me, Juan, Simone’s husband, and the aforementioned cousin. They may be the nicest family I have ever met, and we are beyond thrilled that Beth is now a part of the

After lunch, Michael and I were passing by a pharmacy and encountered three Venezuelan women. They had laminated papers with pictures of themselves and their children. In English, the papers explained that they were not asking for money, but needed baby formula and diapers. Colombia took in more than a million Venezuelan refugees, but they are not as welcome as they used to be. Michael bought the diapers and formula.

In the evening, we had dinner with the Taberlys, the family of Eric, whom Beth is marrying. The guy in front is a cousin of some sort and owns the restaurant, Bárbaro, which is famous in Medellin for its steak.Clockwise: Eric’s younger niece, Eric’s sister Simone, Beth, with Eric’s older niece on her lap, Marta, Eric’s mother, Rubens, Eric’s father, Michael, me, Juan, Simone’s husband, and the aforementioned cousin. They may be the nicest family I have ever met, and we are beyond thrilled that Beth is now a part of that family.

Our first disaster of the trip happened the next morning when we were going out for breakfast. as I stepped off the curb, my ankle collapsed, and I fell. In the course of the fall, I twisted my left knee and landed hard on my left thigh. The three pictures show my thigh and knee on the day of the fall, February 23, and my thigh on February 27. Fortunately, I had brought some walking sticks in case we would be hiking on rough terrain, so I began using one as a cane.

Friday afternoon before the wedding, we went on a tour of that Eric and Beth arranged of Medellin’s city center. However we first wrote on the metro, which, as our guy, Juliana, told us, is the only subway system in all of Columbia. Paises, as people in Medellin call themselves, are very proud of it.

The visit to Botero Square was memorable. Perhaps our favorite part of the visit was a Venezuelan rapper who created memorable lyrics at the top of his head. I have finally gotten a video clip of him loaded, which appears at the bottom of the post.I have always thought that Botero was a one trick pony. People refer to his “gordos,” or “fat people,”or “gorditos,” roughly “charming little fat people.” But he never liked this designation. For him, his art was about playing with proportion, according to a Julianna (with the gray backpack). She pointed out that the horses in his paintings have thick legs and tiny heads. If you look up his paintings that show houses, they often show people who are far too big to live in those houses.

https://youtube.com/shorts/Q7oHARdVdtc?si=UnV28561oR4NlhUG

I was in too much pain to finish the tour, so Juliana called me an Uber, and I went back to eat lunch at the hotel. Michael and I had been enjoying mora juice, which is blackberry juice, and I ordered it at the hotel restaurant for the first time. The waitress asked if I wanted it with sugar or without, I ordered without and learned that the blackberry juice we had been drinking, and probably all the juices we have been drinking have been full of sugar.

That night we attended a party for which the requisite attire was “cocktail dress.” I hope I passed. Every thing advertised as a cocktail dress looks itchy to me. I found a second-hand silk dress that felt great, except for the itchy tag. Although, it may look like I’m drunk in the picture, I drank only water. The decorations were real fruit and quite lovely, although David’s mother-in-law hinted that maybe I shouldn’t eat the centerpiece. David wrote a beautiful tribute to Beth, and Eric’s mom and sister did the same for him.

The event was really for the young people though, who apparently enjoyed shouting at each other over over the extraordinarily loud music.

Good and Bad Fruit; Excellent people

February 20, 2024

The new fruit of the morning was pitaya, a mild flavored fruit. Wikipedia says it’s the same as dragon fruit, but most of the dragon fruit I’ve eaten is almost tasteless. (I had a yellow version at the hotel in Medellin on Feb. 22, and it was more flavorful.)

After breakfast we went to the Colombia National Museum. I didn’t see any signs forbidding photos, but I furtively took this photo anyway. For those who aren’t aware of the sordid history of United Fruit in Latin America, check out this article.

General Smedley Butler was obliquely referring to United Fruit in this famous quotation:


Some of you might not be aware that U.S. corporate elites tried to stage a coup when Franklin D Roosevelt was President. They asked Smedley Butler to lead it and become the first U.S dictator. Instead, he turned in the plotters, which included J.P. Morgan, Irénée DuPont and executives from BirdsEye, General Motors, and General Foods. He was disgusted when these wealthy individuals got off scot free. Rumor has it that FDR told them they wouldn’t be charged with treason if they supported his New Deal.

Right next to the museum, was a restaurant called The Wok, where we met Camila and her dad for lunch. He is also a writer—mostly short stories— and loves Henry Miller. Even though he doesn’t speak English, we managed to discuss what happens when the story takes over in ways we don’t expect, e.g. when characters decide to do things we hadn’t planned on them doing, or when minor characters decide to become important. When I am trying to figure out a sentence or paragraph that isn’t quite right, I walk or work in the garden. He sweeps the floor.

The conversation reminded me that I need other writers in my life. And I need to prioritize the writing.

Less Twitter for me, I guess.

We’re in Bogota

And it’s as cool as I remember it.

February 19, 2024

Michael and I got to the airport by three to catch a 5:00 flight yesterday morning, so we were tired when we arrived at our friend Camila’s beautiful apartment around 7:30 in the evening, but we enjoyed catching up a little.

 Woman wearing jeans and rust-colored top sits on olive green couch. Large throw pillows with symmetrical designs are on either side of her. At both ends of the couch are large, flourishing plants.

Camila generously offered us her bed and I slept better than I had in weeks. Next morning we ate a fruit called guanábana for breakfast. It’s called “soursop” in English. We weren’t sure we liked it.

Even though it looks custardy in the picture, it’s kind of stringy. But I looked it up and apparently it’s really good for diabetes and it’s an anti-inflammatory, and it started tasting better after that. It’s also illegal in the U.S. because it’s an invasive plant.

I needed to get my glasses adjusted, so we followed Google Maps to an optical store and discovered we were in a six-square block area of almost nothing but optical shops. After walking around some more, we lunched at La Puerta Falsa (the false door). A Colombian-Israeli friend of Michael had recommended a particular traditional Colombian soup, Ajiaco Santafereño. Awesome recommendation.

Michael and I are drinking blackberry juice there. Avacados, crema, rice, and capers come with the soup. Michael and I swapped rice and avacado. Camila initially wasn’t going to eat anything but after seeing the soups, she ordered one too.

For dinner, we were lucky that Milena Rincón thought it was worth traveling more than two hours by bus to meet us at Crepes and Waffles. C and W is a Colombian chain restaurant that buys its supplies from small farmers and focuses on teaching low income people, especially single mothers, financial skills. Milena was the first Colombian to join the CPT Colombia team, then the Colombia Program director, and is now the director of all the programs that CPT runs. Since Camila works with an organization that tries to create a culture of nonviolence in Colombia, Michael and I thought it it would be good for them to meet. Also, the food was delicious. I had a salmon Caesar salad and a passion fruit frappé.

I am currently in Medellin and it’s two days later. I thought I’d see what its like to travel without a laptop and blog with an iPad. Turns out it takes a lot longer.

Our Great Southern Civil Rights/Visiting Friends Tour, Part V

One last stop in Georgia, then all around Florida

From the ACCORD Civil Rights Museum in St. Augustine, FL

After Montgomery, we headed to Lake City, FL for some downtime with my college friends Paula and Mark, but we decided to do a quick stop in Albany (pronounced al-BAENY), GA on the way. Using a willingness to face mass arrest, the Albany Movement had the ambitious goal of desegregating the entire city using the strategy of mass arrests. Sheriff Pritchett just kept sending them to jails within a 200-mile radius of Albany. Dr. King considered Albany a failure, but within two years of these arrests, the town was desegregated. Cynthia, our guide at the museum, was surprised that anyone had thought it a failure.

Cynthia kind of interfered with our plans to do a quick look around and then travel on to Lake City, five hours away. However, since she was brand new at the job, and we were the only people in the museum we didn’t have the heart to tell her we didn’t need a guide. When the time got to about an hour later than we had planned to leave, we had to tell her we weren’t going to tour the church, but we did get a selfie with her.

The sun was very bright. Cynthia does not have squinty eyes. She gave us the address of another good soul food restaurant: Flossie’s Soul Food Restaurant
2004 E Oglethorpe Blvd, Albany, GA
I was still full from eating at Antoinette and Selmar’s though.

Lake City Florida: Paul and Mark Moser

We arrived late afternoon at the Moser land. They hold about sixty acres jointly with Paula’s sisters, and it’s full of trails, trees, and gardens—what my friend Tony whom I visited on March 3-4 called Old Florida. I became friends with Paula and Mark when we went to Bogota, Colombia (gulp) 40 years ago for a semester to study Latin American History and Liberation Theology. I think when something transforms how you view the world, you are always attached to the people you were with at the time.

We went out for a 6:45 am walk the next morning with Paula and met up with two of her sisters. We stayed with Pam, the sister with the cane, when we drove from Bluffton to Miami on I-75 and caught the flight to Bogota.

Clockwise from top left: Paul and Michael talking about word games, with the mist rising on the pond in the background; cool fuzzy pink flower; Paula in Pam’s garden; Michael, Pam and Peggy; in Peggy’s house with her orchids; on the walk. Center: me in front of Paula and Mark’s outstanding azaleas.

After the intense learning experiences of the previous few days, hanging out with Mark and Paula in their hot tub, catching up on events of the past decade and just conversing with two interesting people was what we needed. I think they do retirement better than anyone I know. Paula has turned Michael on to a dizzying array of new games like Absurdle, Nurdle, etc., which he is enjoying. If we don’t see them for another 10 years, I know we will pick up right where we left off.

Again, please admire the azaleas. Paula and Mark were watching their grandson that morning, and he didn’t want to leave Paula’s arms, so we couldn’t get us all in one picture.

St. Petersburg and Tampa: Tony Treadway and Glenn Hasek

We spent a couple days in St. Petersburg where I reconnected with my friend Tony Treadway, whom I hadn’t seen for decades. He is working on a memoir and I’m helping him out with editing. Tony is spending his retirement playing in four, count ’em four, different bands. We also had dinner with my old college friend, Glenn Hasek, with whom I co-edited Bluffton’s college paper, The Witmarsum. He, his wife Miriam, and son Ben currently live outside Tampa in Odessa, FL, where he works from home, publishing Green Lodging News, a newsletter about environmentally sustainable practices in the hotel industry.

Did I remember to take selfies of either of these encounters? No, I did not, but Tony sent me the photo on the right after the fact. He sent me several and wrote

“The one with the tin foil – I put that on when the Tortugas perform the song ‘Alien Teenagers,’ and I tell the audience the foil prevents them from getting inside my head.”

Miami

Selfies aplenty occurred in Miami, where we visited Michael’s relatives and his daughter Beth. Interestingly. When I tried to find civil rights history that occurred in Miami, I found exactly nothing. Tony (see above) said that it’s the difference between Old Florida and southern Florida. Southern Florida was invented by PR firms, according to him.

Nohelia Jarquin is the daughter of the cousin of Michael’s first wife. He remains close to that side of the family, so “relatives” seems a good description for them. We had lunch with Nohelia, her husband Alejandro and their son Diego. Knowing how much Michael loved nacatamales, a Nicaraguan delicacy similar to, but more elaborate than tamales, she bought hime some frozen ones from a woman who made them, with instructions to boil them the next day.

These instructions left us with a conundrum: how were we going to boil them in a hotel room? After some thought, we bought an electric kettle at the St. Augustine Target, because we could use one at home, and used it to boil the nacatamales. They were superb.

Coral Gables: Beth Melissa, Eric and Eric’s Parents

We had a really good time in Coral Gables with Beth Melissa and her boyfriend Eric. Beth gave us a tour around the area, and Eric took us to his favorite Cuban restaurant, the Versailles. We also had dinner with Eric’s parents, Marta and Rubens Tabarley who were pretty much everything you would want in friends; I wish our conversation could have continued, but my back wouldn’t permit it. Marta is originally from Colombia and Rubens is from Argentina, but they have lived in Coral Gables for many years. Eric cooked us a traditional Asado. I knew I shouldn’t have eaten so much sausage before the skirt steak, but I did. If you are offered blood sausage, do not let the name keep you from eating it.

Of course, this event took place after weeks of my worrying that Michael and I would be presentable enough. Our lifestyle trends more casual than Beth’s does. If you zoom in on our picture with the you will notice that I got my nails done. Michael wore one of the new shirts he bought because Florida was warmer than he thought it would be.

St. Augustine

The ACCORD Civil Rights Museum is the type of repository most according to my taste, I’ve found. A small enterprise, run by enthusiastic volunteers with some surprisingly valuable historical artifacts. Our guide clearly regarded all of the objects with great affection, and spoke withpride about the dentists’s office, which houses the museum, having the first integrated waiting room in St. Augustine. (After our travels, I wondered whether it was the only one anywhere in the South during the 1960s.)

Dr. Robert Hayling, the only oral surgeon of any color for miles around, was one of the driving forces behind the St. Augustine Movement which influenced President Lyndon Johnson in his passage of the Civil Rights Act. Do you remember the film of a white man dumping acid in a swimming pool to get black people out of it? That was St. Augustine.

Our enthusiastic guide, Gwendolyn Duncan. Highly recommend.
Our guide said that this sign was from the original St. Augustine Woolworth’s.
Dr. Hayling’s presence is felt throughout the museum. One of my favorite stories about him was how he confronted one of the men threatening him, reminding him that he had performed major oral surgery on him the previous week.
If you can zoom in to read these ephemera, they make the arrests of students more personal and immediate.
St. Augustine was the only place in Florida where Dr. King was arrested.
The mother of the Governor of Massachusetts came to St. Augustine with goal of getting arrested. For some reason, Gwen found her to be especially amusing. She does (did) seem like a happy person.
Gwen highly recommends this book to get a wholistic view of St. Augustine in 1964
Dr. Gordon was Dr. Hayling’s partner in St. Augustine.
But no matter how accomplished Dr. Gordon was Lincoln National Life would not sell him insurance because he was not “Caucasian.” There are some other interesting ephemera in that case.
The sign from that hotel where the manager dumped acid in the pool that movement young people were trying to desegregate.

The following eyewitness account of a Klan meeting in St. Augustine describes the threat that forced Dr. Hayling to leave town. I am putting them in full size so that you can read them easily.

Gwen pointed out this church as the church where King and other civil rights leaders met to strategize for the St. Augustine Campaign–and the plaque there confirmed it. However, when we walked back to our car, we noticed another church across the street claimed the same thing. I imagine several churches were involved.

I think the next blog will be the last.

Our Great Southern Civil Rights/Visiting Friends Tour IV

Montgomery and Selma

Sculpture outside the Memorial for Peace and Justice.

We could easily have spent a week in Montgomery, Alabama and the area around it, but we decided to focus on the Legacy Museum and the Memorial for Peace and Justice (aka “The Lynching Museum.”) Like others who have visited, we had trouble finding the words to describe the museum. The designers take you from the Middle Passage (and you feel like you’re underwater as you read about it) through the error of racial terrorism following Reconstruction. You continue to the present New Jim Crow in our prison system, where you can sit in a chair behind a glass panel and talk to real people about what brought them to prison, and what burdens they are bearing.

In the museum, we found the jar of soil that Rabbi Tom Guttherz and his community brought from the spot where John Henry James was lynched (see Part II) on a giant wall of jars, but we weren’t allowed to take pictures of that or anything else in the museum. And the gift shop didn’t have postcards that captured some of the amazing exhibits, so that was a bummer.

We were allowed, however, to take pictures in the memorial, which records all the lynchings that took place in southern counties.

Outside the Memorial
Inside the structure, they use the vertical rusted steel monoliths for the counties and place them in seemingly random order. Outside, they lay them on the ground and put them in alphabetical order by state. I thought it appropriate to record the lynching in my own state.
My first attempt to use the panoramic photo feature on my phone–not successfully. For those who cannot make out the words, it is dedicated to lynching victims whose deaths went unrecorded.
To me, it makes sense they used poets and artists to provide commentary since, in many ways, words fail to describe the museum and the memorial.

That evening, we had dinner with the family of Jalil’s daughter, which provided a much-needed shift in mood and a good space to talk about our visit to the museum and news events. Antoinette, or “Toni,” is a fabulous cook, and we were way too full of food and fellowship by the time we left. We were a little distressed to learn that Antoinette and her daughter Amina were making $2.50 an hour working as servers.

Why did I choose two nearly identical photos? The growing hilarity on little Ayden’s face. Counterclockwise: Me, Antoinette, Ayden, Selmar (Antoinette’s husband), and Michael.

The next day in Selma was quite different. The museums and historical markers were less sophisticated but more accessible. The Legacy Museum almost felt as though it came down from On High. You definitely saw the work of dedicated human volunteers keeping the witness of Bloody Sunday and the marches across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma alive.

Not sure, but I think the Lowery’s monument stole the quote from Shirley Chisholm.
From Joshua 4:21-22, “When your children shall ask you in [the] time to come what mean these stones, then you shall tell them how you crossed over.”
On the park side of the Edmund Pettus Bridge was a little gift shop with a mural painted on its side. It was less slick and professional than the other museum gift shops we visited, but a lot more interesting.

After the park, we made our way across the bridge and explored the city of Selma.

You can’t escape the poverty in Selma. The public housing project across the street from his official historical marker is in significantly better repair than the houses in the neighborhood around it.

We walked back over the bridge again and found a small, unassuming museum open across the street from the gift shop. Unlike the high-tech museums we had visited, we could take as many pictures as we wanted in this one.

Some of the footprints of those who walked across the bridge on Bloody Sunday.
Records of the people arrested in Selma along with a reconstruction of a cell in which they were imprisoned.

Returning from Selma to Montgomery, we stopped at the Rosa Parks museum an hour before it closed. We could only take pictures of the sign out front and her statue in the foyer.

We finished our long day amongst the cloud of witnesses at Connie Bs, which had some darn good soul food. I just ordered sides.