The El Paso Culture of Hiding Dirty Laundry

culture-silenceAnyone that has any basic understanding of dealing with the personal issues of drug addiction, alcohol abuse or dealing with weight or health problems because of over eating, understands that the first step in the recovery process is acknowledging that there is a problem. Acknowledging that a problem exists requires verbalizing the problem in order to identify it and begin taking the steps towards recovery. One must be willing to discuss the problem in order to identify it.

One of the most frustrating aspects about discussing the problems El Paso faces is that the community does not want to discuss it. That is the underlining problem with El Paso; almost no one wants to discuss the issues the community faces. This silence transcends to the ballot box. Sure, someone may be willing to acknowledge that taxes are high. Someone else may be willing to admit that corruption is part of the problem. However, when faced with having to articulate the depth of the problem, almost everyone goes silent with the fear that acknowledging the problem will invariably lead to a conclusion that is so dark, the majority just ignores it.

I have been trying to identify the nexus for the reason why very few are willing to have an in depth discussion about the underlining causes of the problem. As soon as the discussion moves away from the superficiality unto the details of the causes, the look of dread manifests itself and silence soon follows. As many of you know, I look to connect the dots whenever I can. Why fear grips many when trying to understand how corruption has taken a hold of the city, the easiest thing to do is dismiss it as self preservation.

Superficially, it is self-preservation, but I am beginning to believe that it is more of a culture that has manifested itself with the notion that the problem is so complex and so dreadful that to remain silent is the best course of action. To create waves, so to speak, is to tempt the devil to emerge thus forcing everyone to look at what their part is in the corruption that has taken a hold of society, especially in El Paso.

Recently a long time reader of my blog introduced to me to a topic I know about, but never connected to El Paso.

The topic is the Catholic Church and sexual abuse, especially of children.

The reader has compiled an excellent dossier of sexual abuse in the Church going back to the 1940’s and the part El Paso has played in this worldwide crisis.

I have just started going through the material in order to begin my research about the topic. It is extensive but well documented. It definitely has an El Paso nexus. As I better understand it I will begin to cover the different facets that El Paso has played in the Catholic Church’s corruption of sexual abuse within its ranks.

As I started to read the material something immediately struck me.

It was like an “aha” moment many of us feel when a missing piece of a puzzle suddenly appears out of nowhere.

I tend to believe that through my research of El Paso’s corruption I have a better understanding of the different ties between the different players going back as far as the 1960’s. I can tell you where various players, such as Luther Jones were in the 1960’s. I can tell what Veronica Escobar and Susie Byrd were up to politically in the late 90’s. I can readily fill in the people between those dates and the ones through today.

Historically I can tell you what part El Paso played in the drug trade and I can even discuss with you how El Paso was crucial to the Mexican Revolution and the many parts it played in it. I can take you to a cemetery plot that once held the casket for a Mexican president and what that meant in the geopolitics of Mexican-US relations.

I believe a have a better understanding than most of the politics of the city and what drives them.

Therefore I was surprised to learn about the various linkages between the Church’s sexual assault problems and the part El Paso played in it. I do not have all of the linkages yet and have much homework to do before I am able to share them with you in an intelligent fashion. However as I started my research I suddenly had an “aha” moment into the psyche of El Paso that might explain why the majority of the residents are so fearful to articulate the underlining corruption permeating through the city.

I started reading “Sacrilege; Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church” by Leon J. Podles when the “aha” moment struck. I was reading the first chapter; “The Rectory Boys of El Paso” when some pieces that I had been developing suddenly started to fill in.

In the nineteenth century the predominantly Mexican population was supplemented by Anglos (as all non-Hispanics persons of European descent are called) and the first cathedral church was therefore named St. Patrick’s” immediately caught my attention.

Those that have been reading my blog for some time now have noticed that I have started to develop the “de-Mexicanization” of El Paso thread in my connect the dots. As with all topics of racism, this developing thread has caused much discord among my friends and readers of my blog. Others have rallied behind it as one explanation of many. I have always found it curious that Hispanics, Latinos or whatever, cannot even agree on a designation for our cultural identity.

Yes, I wrote cultural identity, because that is what it is. It is not the skin color type of racism but the one based on culture and economics. The majority culture in El Paso divides itself into numerous components; Hispanics, Latinos, Mexicanos and so on. For the purposes of my blog I am going to start to use “Mexicans” to identify the largest cultural majority because, like it or not, Mexicans are the largest cultural identity of the city.

However, this term has its own inherent problems because the word “Mexicans” can include citizens of the Republic of Mexico, multi-generational citizens of the United States who are of Mexican descent (pay attention frequent commentator Rotten Peppers) and even Chicanos who have their own cultural identity created as a result of the end of the US-Mexico war.

All of these cultures are but a subset of the El Paso cultural identity that includes the Tejano culture created by the Anglo-Mexican self-determination that created the Republic of Texas that subsequently merged into the United States.

As large as the Mexicans, as in culture, are in El Paso they remain the political minority in the city. There are many reasons for this and I am not about to delve into them today but it must be acknowledged that the Mexican cultural identity in El Paso is the political minority today and historically – notwithstanding the mayors and other elected Mexicans everyone erroneously triumphs to declare El Paso is not racist.

When the Mexicans cannot even unite under one identifying banner, just look at the cultural center debate, then they cannot stake a political course for the city.

Podle’s chapter goes on to detail how a culture of sexual abuse was allowed to manifest itself in the Catholic boy’s school. Those that know about Cathedral High School know the obvious connection between El Paso and Cd. Juárez, a connection that plays out culturally, economically and politically more than many are willing to admit.

Bishop Sydney Mathew Metzger played a significant part in the many instances of abuse, according to the book. It is a disturbing account that I will delve into in the future as I better understand the dynamics, but one line jumped out at me as I read it.

In 2004 the diocese, which knew that victims had indicated that they had reported their abuse to Bishop Metzger in the 1960s, claimed that in the 1960s it had received ‘zero’ reports of abuse.”

Here was a clear explanation of how the culture of silence about community issues may have been nurtured within the community. No, the Catholic Church is not the nexus, but if you understand how the Church is perceived within the faithful it shows how silence about matters that are disheartening or show a chasm in the community are best whispered about and not publicly acknowledged.

It explained to me why it is that questioning the lies with facts is frowned upon and why “blacklists” of individuals, who critically think, are routinely created and acted upon.

I realize many of you are pointing out what does this have to do with today?

More than most realize. Besides the cultural psyche of keeping dirty laundry in the closet, many of the issues within the Church are still very active in El Paso. Just a few days ago, Victor Jerome Reza pleaded guilty to child pornography charges. Reza worked at the El Paso Diocese in a position that endangered children.

The research provided by my reader connects dots that I will further develop in the future between Susie Byrd, John Cook and Steve Ortega as well as other current politicians and officials such as Richard Wiles.

As recent as 2012, the El Paso Diocese paid over a million dollars to settle cases of abuse. Even now there is a controversy involving Bishop Armando X. Ochoa and Msgr. Arturo J. Bañuelos that follows the theme of the use of the courts to keep dirty laundry hidden from the community.

Just like the continuing debacle of the El Paso Children’s Hospital, Basic IDIQ and the Margarita Cabrera artwork problem, all of them are being negotiated behind closed doors. All of them are a manifestation of the culture of corruption that manifests throughout the community.

I realize that this topic treads on beliefs many of you hold dear. I realize that discussing abusive behaviors is fraught with dangers. However, identifying the underlining causes to a problem has to be the first step in resolving it. To do that it must be discussed and the facts must be allowed to take us where they must regardless of how uncomfortable it may be.

We must stop keeping the dirty laundry in the closet. It must be exposed so that the solution can be found.

I’ll follow the facts and lay them out for you in a deliberate and well thought out basis careful to not challenge anyone’s beliefs but always faithful to the facts.

Each one of us has our own perception of any event. Each of us has our own core beliefs. It is incumbent upon all of us to respect those beliefs but also to remain open to constructive discussions about the problems that keep El Paso mired in corruption even today.

Continuing to hide behind the mantra of “it’s all goodmust no longer be acceptable to the community it if is to rise above the corruption within it. The psyche of it is better to remain silent must be lifted from El Paso. Regardless of how “dirty” the laundry is, it must be exposed to all so that the solution can be found.

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