Amalia lives on: By Byron Cruz
Her name was Amalia, Amalia from Hastings, Amalia from Guatemala.
Amalia was one of the first Latin American women to live and work in the DTES. Amalia had a history of pain, a history of suffering. She had been kidnapped and tortured by the Guatemalan army. Amalia started working in DEYAS (Downtown Eastside Youth Activities Society), and she was always very dedicated to support Latin Americans in the DTES. She took the initiative to open the Latin American Centre that functioned as a place for socialization and learning English, and as a place for community leadership.
She was able to rent a house in the DTES. She welcomed everyone into her home, regardless of nationality. Her door was always open, literally open, and there was always something to eat at her place, always something to share.
She had a temper, that kind of temper that must be used when you see lazy and corrupt pseudo-politicians avoiding talk about social housing or access to health care for migrants.
To visit Amalia, no one needed to call her in advance, there was no need because she used to say “mi casa es tu casa” “my home is your home.”
I remember during one Christmas my partner and I were new refugees in the country. These were sad days because we were far away from our families. My partner did not have proper shoes for winter but suddenly we received a money order from an unidentified donor. We saw Amalia the next day and said thanks to her for the gift. Of course she always denied sending us that gift.
She was not just one of the first Latin American community workers, she was always on the move, always fighting for social justice. One day she decided to organize a union at DEYAS, and she expericed how “some of the non-profit organizations” can treat community workers.
DEYAS fired her and another worker, and she could not pay her rent anymore. As she predicted years before that event, she was going to join the thousands of homeless who cry in silence, suffering the injustice of the system.
One day she was pushing a wagon, and inside the wagon she had her books and one of those was the little red book. She always lived with her face toward the sun because she knew that one day the road will be full of the oppressed claiming “La Victoria” “The Victory”.
If Amalia were here, she would be in the forums, or in the streets, raising the flags of dignity with the social housing coalition.
AMALIA VIVE, VIVA THE STRUGGLE FOR HOUSING.