“These palomas like I, belong here in the barrio?”
by Abelardo B. Delgado
I found our city to be lacking in terms of enough alternatives. The same story of long-waited lists was told by two manager of the two high-rise housing units. I was happy to learn that some two such high-rise units are scheduled to be erected in South El Paso, a barrio which is almost 100 percent Chicano.
This barrio is perhaps one of the reasons I didn't find anymore Chicanos in the places I visited. Let me explain.
The barrio is near Juarez, Mexico and is near downtown and for people like our abuelitos who lack transportation the place is ideal. It also has one of the oldest churches, Sagrado Corazon.
Old people congregate themselves in tenement houses where rent is cheap and they can have their plantas and their canarios. In that same barrio there is a “casa de los ancianos” for women. I found there some twenty women, nineteen of them Chicanas and one Anglo.
This place has been highly successful and evolved form a place similar to the tenements (presidios) where there was cooking and washing and eating done in each unit to what no is a well-planned community.
The manager spoke to me at length about each individual, and I could sense a sort of pride and joy in her work. She told me of the problems of handling the money for some whose faculties lack to do it themselves, and of a Senora Luz who used to feed the pigeons and who exclaimed at the first attempt to stop her from doing that – “These palomas like I, belong here in the barrio?” – she continues to pay young kids to feed them, since she cannot do it inside the home now. She pointed to Dona Lola watering two rusty cans with plants and said, – “See those plants...if I were to take them from her not only would the plants die, but so would she.”
There are actually two alternatives for the aged Chicano, or otherwise, a nursing home or a housing authority unit. In our city, which I venture to predict is not much different from others, the choices are rather limited.
Cedar Grove Nursing Home, somewhat for from the city on Alameda Avenue, was recently closed down for failure to meet standards. It was run by an Anglo couple who proudly spoke of their dedication to their work but realized economically it was not feasible to upgrade the facility. Four Seasons Nursing Center, R.N. Nursing and Convalescent Home, Sunset Haven, Valley Community Home are in operation as far as a place for the viejitos needing medical attention or to recuperate, but even all of them covered only some one-thousand beds are available.
It is obvious that the necessity for such institutions so overwhelmingly evident will pry the necessary funds loose to build a more adequate series of such nursing homes as well as housing units for those still able to function pretty independently. What worries me is if such institutions in an effort to answer the call efficiently do not lose the human value which needs be instituted in the very blue prints. More so will those differences that I speak about be considered. Take the simple task of having a set of tenederos erected. Tendederos are clotheslines, and most of our viejitas prefer the good El Paso sun to dry their clothes rather than the gas dryer. Because I fear the human and cultural aspect will be omitted, I would like to offer some suggestions based, again, on what I have seen this last month in which I have infiltrated “el mundo de nuestros viejitos.”
All staff should hold sensitivity training sessions so that these cultural differences involving particularly Blacks, Chicanos, or Indians can be acknowledged. By now in each community there are enough articulate and knowledgeable members of these communities who could conduct them.
Most of the places I visited were extremely well-cleaned and spotless, ye in all of this spic and span environment, I felt a very dehumanistic and artificial air prevailed.
I could perhaps suggest a big of home grime to be permitted if it means lifting up the spirit of something to get he antiseptic mood out of nursing homes. It was depressing for me to be in some of these places only a couple of hours, how much more so for the “Jefitos” and Abuelitos (parents and grandparents) who stay there two or three years.
One ex-male nurse and now administrator is one of the nursing homes hit real hard on instilling the feeling of usefulness and worth by doing what he claimed he did with el Senor Pablo Garcia. Senor Garcia had come there not able to even brush his own teeth and feed himself. In a month or so he was doing both tasks quite well; he was babied too much by his own family and by the previous home. What appears to be cruelty may very well be the best remedy, as I presume Senor Garcia missed a meal or two before he got the message he could do much on his own.
There's nothing better than involvement, and I believe from what I saw that the old are sheltered from present issues too much. Locally, again, there's a group of oldsters who started a store and can be heard to shout in some meetings, Viejito Power.
I cannot find strong enough language to make the following recommendation and that one is to our Chicano community. We must continue to care for our papas y abuelitos whether it is in our own home or in a nursing home, or wherever, by visiting them and let the “nietos” (grandchildren) be with them. Some of the youngsters today actually fear viejitos because they have not been exposed to them. Do not just dump and forget them as discards. We can very well recycle viejitos into a meaningful and well-earned rest and maximum productivity with merely being concerned with them rather than for them.