Just over two years ago, my community mates and I were spending five nights a week practicing for our parish’s interpretation of Las Posadas. We all had different roles. I, who cannot dance, was assigned to choreograph and perform with 16 children dressed as angels upon the presentation of the infant Jesus. What could I do? You don’t say no to a passionate nun.
On the night of the performance, we processed throughout Arbolito’s dirt roads, occasionally stopping to ask storeowners if Mary and Joseph could find sanctuary and rest. “No,” they were told, again and again. There was no room at the inn.
It’s hard not to contrast the Holy Family’s experience with ours as volunteers. During the year in Ecuador, there was not a single moment, whether they were tired or thriving, in which our neighbors did not open their doors to us with a welcoming abrazote and besito. As volunteers, we found refuge, love, and family in their homes. There was no room for the Holy Family at the inn, but because of the people of Arbolito, I knew that simply wouldn’t happen to us.
Since my time as a volunteer, I’ve often wondered what it feels like for Latinos/as, a people so willing to offer hospitality to others, to migrate to the United States and be met with suspicion and fear. My recent trip to the U.S.–Mexico border turned this question into a reality. I met Latino/a migrants in detention centers who, instead of enjoying a more just life, are awaiting deportation. Rather than receiving a place to rest, they’ve been shackled and dehumanized. Our current policies force many migrants, who are refugees like Jesus Christ, back to the persecution and injustices that made them leave in the first place.
As men and women who believe in a God of liberation and radical hospitality, we are called to welcome all newcomers with compassion and gratitude. Our Ecuadoran neighbors have modeled this; their hospitality was not simply ours to keep, but is a gift that we are to share again and again. May we do this both urgently and intentionally so that those who seek sanctuary receive the welcoming embrace they deserve.