Sometimes, you just happen to be in the right place at the right time. On Monday I stopped by the historic Barrio Duranguito in El Paso, TX to discuss a piece of art that will be part of the ongoing community beautification project. The sun was going down and I decided to head back home in Central El Paso and took my traditional route through Segundo Barrio because I generally hate driving through downtown and then jumping on the interstate.
I sit and wait at a red light and, ever-so-irresponsibly, thumbed through my social media waiting for the green. I see that my friend Cynthia, a fellow activist, posted on Facebook that she was eating at The Good Luck Café and Alejandra Ocasio Cortez happened to be sitting a few tables away. ¿Pero como? The light is still red, so I re-read the post to make sure I understood correctly. I stop the turn signal and take a little detour to the café since it’s only a few streets away. I wouldn’t have even considered meeting any other politician since I’m fairly disgusted with US politics at the local and national level. This is different. I cruise by, peek into the window and see a woman wearing a white business suit taking pictures with customers. Sure enough, it’s her! I park, casually walk in, wait my turn and try to hide the fact that I was literally freaking the f**k out.
I waited briefly while she took pictures and tried to think of what to say. Should I tell her about the history of Duranguito? Maybe she can give us a shout out. Or should I tell her about my art? The restaurant is fairly empty, and she starts to make a beeline for the door—I barely catch her attention with a swift and polite tap on the shoulder. She turns to look at me and I can tell she is tired. She spent the entire day in meetings and documenting conditions of the migrant concentration camps in Clint, TX just a few miles east of El Paso. It’s heavy work and I have to make it brief. I thanked her for the voice she is providing for justice and mention my belief that women of color will change the world. She smiles. I asked her for a quick selfie, and she was happy to do it. We shook hands and she left. The entire encounter lasted less than a minute.
I started following AOC’s trajectory last summer since I subscribe to the Young Turks news outlet (you should, too). I listened to her proposals throughout her candidacy and agreed with her positions, and I felt a gleam of hope when she was elected. However, I have also observed how she has been targeted by both Democrats and Republicans who describe her as clueless and have listened to friends tell me that she is an attention seeker. I can’t help but disagree. She displays a huge amount of courage and always speaks truth to power by denouncing corporate greed and corruption. She understands that too much apathy and closed-door deals on both sides of the political spectrum have endangered the livelihood of everyone in the United States.
AOC reminds me of the farm-working students I used to mentor. She epitomizes intelligence, empathy, resilience, leadership, and a hard work ethic. Her detractors on both of the spectrum seem to be threatened by the power of her voice. Little do they know she is planting seeds everywhere she goes. This is just the beginning.
It’s interesting. I only recently met Cynthia (who posted AOC was at the restaurant) because of her activism in Duranguito. Otherwise, I would have never known about it. Call it a coincidence or call it luck. I see this as reaffirmation that I am going in the right direction. Interesting what life serves you.