Before moving to Miami, so many people told me that Miami might as well be another country because of the diversity and rich culture. In living here, I now agree with that statement, but also never expected that it would apply in the way that it did today. My coworker took me to the “fincas” which I think roughly translates as ranches or farms. She drove me down a road that was literally mile upon mile of nurseries and farms stacked on top of more nurseries and farms, with no other diversity in business whatsoever. Today, God took a pick ax to the shell around my heart and I’m not sure that anything could have prepared me for what I saw. I saw a side of South Florida I didn’t realize existed, not only in this state, but in America.
I keep hearing that about 80% of the land down here is owned by Cubans, which to me, raises lots of questions. Apparently, some of these rich property owners allow undocumented workers to live on their property (sometimes for free, sometimes not) in exchange for their work on their farms. On the surface it sounds like a good bargain to have some wealthy Cuban provide land, housing and shelter from immigration, except that’s so far from the reality. I met a woman today who lives in house not much bigger than my bedroom, with four other families in addition to her own three children and is currently being charged $500 to live there. Her husband killed himself several years ago because he couldn’t handle the stress of their lifestyle, at that time, while living in makeshift “homes” for each family that were literally walls made out of bed sheets on the back side of a horse stable.
The reason for our visit was to find a site to hold a Christmas party for these families. Since the “fincas” are so far off the beaten path with almost all of the people living in extreme poverty, transportation even for basic goods and services provides great burden as well as great risk. As I mentioned before, there is absolutely nothing but farmland and nurseries in this community, so we were exploring different farms that had a big enough cleared space to hold the event where we could give out food and Christmas gifts.
The woman took us around to the properties surrounding the one she currently lives on, and they were all essentially makeshift shelters without electricity or plumbing. The roads leading up to each property were a mixture of dirt and paving that was so ridden with deeply sunken potholes that it felt like a minefield. The air was filled with the smell of garbage and wild animals roamed freely scrounging for scraps. There were buckets everywhere collecting rainwater for drinking and I was constantly reminded of some of the incredibly impoverished communities I’ve visited in developing nations.
This is America? This is how we treat Americans? The woman who was showing us around has three children who are documented American citizens. While I’m well aware of both sides of the argument in terms of immigration, but on a human level, all politics aside, how do we allow this to continue literally in our backyard? Land of the free? Home of the brave? Where? I spend $10 on a drink at the bar or a cute pair of earrings.. and that’s more than these people make in a day.. maybe a week? In America? Something’s gotta give.
We are called to love our neighbors, and if these people are (literally) my neighbors and I’m (metaphorically) your neighbor, I’m pretty sure that makes us all neighbors, no matter if you live in Homestead, in DC or halfway across the world. These communities hold our neighbors, they hold our hurt, and they hold our injustice.