As a PC volunteer, I participated as a medical translator and interpreter. A strange shift happened to me under those circumstances. Before PC, I used to translate consecutively, translating during pauses. One day, a journalist with a medical team asked me to help her with an interview. Something strange happened in my brain. Because of the time crunch, my brain split in such a way that I was able to hear in Spanish and simultaneously translate to English. I want to say that it felt a bit schizophrenic; it was scary and exciting at the same time.

Here is a video about simultaneous translation:



I feel like the question of racism and its presence in US society is being revisited, especially on the heels of police brutality, which has led to a surge in the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. As a Latina in a Mexican American community, I too cringe in the presence of law enforcement. I’ve never gone to prison or court, but I’ve almost been shot due to mistaken identity. It’s not easy being Black, Brown, or any other “minority” color.

I write this from a place of confusion, disappointment, sadness, and anger. I used to think there could be empathy across races, especially after the long historical struggle with slavery and civil rights issues. I thought the integration of races in society guaranteed that a group of people could step into another group’s shoes. I was wrong; this sort of empathy is not automatic. Understanding can’t be taken for granted.

This past week, I found myself in the unique position of being surrounded exclusively by Anglos. Although I was never in danger, I was consistently reminded of how different my views were. Some stated them as refreshing, others as bewildering, and yet others as conflictive. I know I can be a bit of an oddball, but sometimes I felt like the other person was working through some anger. That was disquieting.

It’s interesting that we often think our friends are very similar to ourselves. When there is conflict, I’ve often been surprised by how a friend can stand in a starkly different place than I. In a way, my encounter left me in a sad place. Let me detail and clarify.

Experiences at home and abroad have made it clear that my skin color elicits suspicion, distrust, or simply disregard. This last I’ve been able to use to my benefit to stay safe in places where I’m a foreigner. As for the first two, I’ve noticed when my pale-skinned colleagues receive preferential treatment in public spaces. It has taken me decades to realize that treatment is called White Privilege. It is present on the streets, at school, at work – everywhere.

Pairing my experiences with the current dialogue about BLM has, in a sense, brought me home to a place of familiarity. A fleet that is there to protect turns against you because you fit a vague racial description, or because the people holding the guns hold prejudices about certain cultures. Being overlooked or underestimated because of stereotypes about minorities and their education levels, intelligence, or abilities is very familiar.

What took me aback was that such assumptions would be held by those that knew me, or that were friendly toward me. Somehow I thought they would know and act differently – better … but it was I that overestimated. I’ve heard that one draws his/her tribe – that one draws likeminded people, but as much as I wish this were true, maybe it’s not.

My involvement with the Green Party seemed to be causing waves. During introductions to conservatives, I had to ease tense moments by saying my position was neutral. This neutrality was harder to defend when I viewed the convention recordings later, before going to bed at my hosts’ home – let’s call them Kim and Andy.

The things that struck me about the convention speakers were: 1) The high number of Black and indigenous speakers, 2) the high number of women and lavender speakers, 3) the high number of young people, 4) and the raw honesty of people’s experiences when they spoke. The speakers brought their personal experiences to the platform, along with their hearts, emotions, and passions. If something didn’t feel right, they were upfront and asked for resolution. Oftentimes, the speakers could be characterized as loud and vociferous.

The speakers didn’t catch me off guard. I knew from experience that the Green Party tapped the Occupy Wall Street movement for candidates. While watching the convention, I realized that much of the language and actions originated in Occupy, for example the democratic voting process, the chants, and the way of restoring order. The people from the Occupy movement wanted a voice, and they found it in the Green Party. This is why the Party is said to be made up of the 99%. We are the 99% that are disenfranchised by the government and oligarchy. We are the forgotten, the mistreated, the oppressed.

So I was watching these videos of the speakers before heading to bed, and I observed misunderstanding from those with White Privilege – both in the video and in the house.

A Black woman was speaking about her experience with oppression. Meanwhile, with her back turned, Kim commented incredulously: “What?! What is that woman talking about?” After a while she turned to the screen and said flatly, “Oh, she’s Black,” as if stating that of course she’s black, because only they keep bringing up a stink about oppression, despite having gained civil rights, and having overcome slavery a long time ago. It’s as if Kim was trying to say, “Come on; Get over it; It doesn’t exist anymore.”

Later, Andy walked in and heard the anger in another Black woman’s voice. She was talking about how education was a White man’s education, how people of color weren’t given a voice, how a revolution was needed to give voice to all who were oppressed in a White system.

That speech roiled up Andy. He seemed confused and taken aback by the speech; there was something about it that he found offensive. His response was that the education system was just fine; that we have survived just fine on the education we have had. My only comment was that it would be nice to have a diversity of voices in the books, in art, in everything. Then Kim piped up and told Andy that he just didn’t understand (the context of the speech). And yet, she couldn’t really explain it, either. He walked away, visibly upset.

The next morning, I stayed in bed to finish listening to the speeches. My hosts had already had their breakfast. When I was done with the videos, Andy came in and asked if I’d had enough of political speeches. He stated that he didn’t like how angry and loud the speakers sounded, and how it felt like they were fighting – nothing like the other conventions that were televised.

I knew what he was talking about. The people in Occupy had always sounded angry to me. I knew it could be a turn-off to some. And yet, I felt it was my job to find something positive about the experience. I defended the speeches by saying that I thought they were refreshing. Andy’s body language told me he found offense in my reply. He looked like he was ready to battle.

“The speakers were mostly women and people of color, including indigenous. These are the disenfranchised populations that are rarely given room in common platforms. How many times have you seen people like that take center stage? This is the first time I’ve ever seen them be given the public space to air out their grievances. No other party does that; that’s why I found these speeches refreshing.”

From that perspective, he didn’t quite agree, but his tension visibly relaxed. I added that it was the only party that ran common people. “I’ve had friends run under the Green banner in other election cycles.” And then, since I knew he is ex-military, I added that one of my ex-military friends ran for congress. “She received an injury that the military refused to fix, so she ran for congress to try and fix policy from the inside. Now I have an indigenous friend that is running. How many times have indigenous run under the other tickets? I’ve never seen that.” He agreed; and so, even though he hadn’t liked what he heard and saw, he walked away with the realization that common people ran under the Green flag, people that would not find a voice under the other parties.

And yet, why did I have to explain all of that? Looking, seeing, and hearing should have been sufficient to understand people’s grievances. Yet, it was too easy for either of them to perceive them as complainers and troublemakers. In a way, it’s infuriating that those with White privilege don’t perceive problems… because they never experience them. As such, these problems that I and others have are non-existent to those with White privilege; they will never experience a world that is slated against them … a world where you have to go the extra mile to try and get your needs met, but where that extra effort will not necessarily be rewarded.

If you are White and are reading this, acknowledge that you live in an inherently different world than the rest of us. When you interact with those unlike you, be they women or racial minorities, etc, check your privilege. Just because others have an alternate view of reality doesn’t mean they are lying or wrong; if it feels like that, realize that their experience is inherently different than yours. Respect that difference, and respect the person. Remember that you don’t have to demand respect, and your honesty is rarely second-guessed. Those are two common privileges of being White; your world would be vastly different if you weren’t.

When I left Kim and Andy’s house, I knew I had friends. But somehow, something tells me that it’s one of those friendships where we can never truly know each other … where despite our shared times, meals, and laughter, there could never be true understanding between us. They can never know what it is like to fill my shoes, nor I theirs. Yes, there is respect between us … but how can the bridge to understanding be built. I think that is the true challenge that faces our nation – and our world.

La Presidencia 2016 en los EEUU

Me entristece que la comunidad Latina no sepa sobre la candidata para la presidencia, Jill Stein, del partido Verde. Fui a una de sus charlas aquí en San Antonio, y me impresiono mucho. Ella es doctora de medicina, y realmente le importa el bienestar de la gente. Yo voy a votar por ella porque desde mi punto de vista, realmente es la mejor candidata. Hay que votar con el conjunto de la consciencia, la mente, y el corazón. La responsabilidad cívica de votar no es ningún partido de futbol; hay que votar por quien realmente busca hacer un cambio para el bienestar de todos (no solo para el bolsillo de los ricos, como algun@s otr@s candidat@s que no serán mencionad@s). Aquí hay más información sobre ella:


Why we occupied …

I recently had a dinner visit with a conservative friend. It’s not often that I unmask myself as a former “occupier.” He seemed surprised that I took part in the movement. When people ask, it can seem hard to explain why Occupy Wall Street took place. In my mind, it is harder to understand why the occupation didn’t start sooner. Some say we failed, or that we disappeared. In reality, many of the 99% could not understand who we were because of the twisted stories the media produced. In actuality, we did not disappear, we just “occupied” the role of problem-solving. Many of us continue to work for the common good.

I recently found an old copy of The Occupied Wall Street Journal. I was thinking of throwing it away, as I disdain clutter in my life. But this artifact bears a bittersweet memory. This article does a good job of articulating the reason Wall Street was Occupied: Why We Fight.

Here is another excerpt from The Occupied Wall Street Journal that I could not find online to link:

THEY TELL YOU WE ARE DREAMERS. The true dreamers are those who think things can go on indefinitely the way they are. We are not dreamers. We are awakening from a dream which is turning into a nightmare. We are not destroying anything. We are only witnessing how the system is destroying itself. To be engaged in fighting for freedom, you have first to free yourself from the chains of ruling ideology. When you criticize capitalism, don’t allow yourself to be blackmailed that you are against democracy. THE CHANGE IS POSSIBLE. – Slavoj Zizek, Liberty Square, NYC, October 2011

As I think back, the other amazing thing about Occupy, was the direct democratic vote by consensus. When we would tell police officers that we had no leader, they found it hard to believe. And yet, even leaderless, we made decisions as a group. The process was pretty amazing. This article explains how we were Enacting the Impossible.

Printed is also a timeline of the global Occupy Movement, but again, not digitized – so I go to the web logs.

And then The Protester occupied TIME Magazine. Wow, I made Person of the Year! What an honor🙂The Protester


You might say I’m a dreamer – but I’m not the only one. We get our strength while living in the reality of the present moment. And the compassionate heart wants kind justice. When the goal becomes to change the world, or even just another person, or ourselves – the challenge is overwhelming – and as such, the reaction can become aggressive. Change happens naturally – reality is always in flux. We must never stop asking ourselves what makes reality a reality. It is then that we discover that reality is fluid, not concrete. When we live kindly and fearlessly, the outcome is compassion and peace.



Basic Goodness: A Fundamental Right

How many times have you compared one human being to another? How many times have you criticized or judged another person for their actions? When was the last time you thought yourself better than somebody else?

No one is immune to these types of behaviors. It is human to behave as such. But does that excuse the behavior as good and just? Rephrased another way: How often do you enjoy being told that someone else is a better human being than you; that the way you are is not good enough?

I was recently on the receiving end of a battery of criticisms and negativity from someone who often takes pleasure in such activity, but the behavior is hardly uncommon. On an interstate bus ride, I heard an over-loud phone conversation from someone who had a falling out with a sibling over some shoes that were not properly stored; each party believed theirs was the one and only way to do it. Like the saying goes, sometimes we “make mountains out of mole hills.”

Are you asking yourself: What does the above have to do with human rights? Here is the crux. Did you know that Basic Goodness is a fundamental human right?

What is Basic Goodness?

great eastern sun

Human rights is commonly mentioned in the same breath with equality, freedom, and happiness. Yet our world as a whole perpetually struggles, as with an overly-challenging recipe, to bring the medley of ingredients that comprise human rights into harmony for all. Such a challenge makes their attainment feasible with varying degrees of success, making it more akin to a trophy than a birthright.

What would happen, though, if the variables that comprise human rights could be distilled to one simple, fundamental tenet? Basic Goodness is that distillation.

For the past year, I’ve been on a new spiritual journey of a tradition formerly unfamiliar to me, which has influenced my perspective on the topic of human rights: the secular tradition of Shambhala Buddhism, which has roots in Tibet.

For those unfamiliar with Shambhala, here is what I’ve learned so far: It neither acknowledges or negates the existence of a Creator; people are born whole, equipped with all they need to be happy. Reality is a function of perception; how we interface with the world is a function of us; what we experience depends on us and no one else; inherent evil does not exist.

Basic Goodness is the foundational principle that every human being is good – without the need to add or subtract any qualities. So strong is this principle that the head of Shambhala, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, classifies it as a human right in his book, The Shambhala Principle.

Basic Goodness as a Right

What could it mean to have the right to Basic Goodness? Could it mean that we have the right to be good if we choose to be? Well, of course we have the freedom to be or do good. But the right to Basic Goodness is more powerful than that. It means that each of us is fundamentally, indisputably good – each of us is necessarily valuable, and no one can take that right away from us or dispute it, which is why we are all covered by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

You might ask, “But how can we all be considered good when there are all sorts of bad things happening in the world brought about by bad people?” The simple answer is that there is no such thing as a bad person; we are what we think [Buddha], and our actions are often reactions to our fears.

One very important thing I recently learned is that when we fear or distrust someone, that itself is a refusal to acknowledge that person’s Basic Goodness, which translates to disrespect. In turn, when we disrespect someone, we disregard their dignity, which all people have according to the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world[…]

How can we stop suppressing others, and ourselves, from our fundamental right to Basic Goodness?

1)  We cannot possibly acknowledge others’ goodness without first acknowledging our own. How many times have you barraged yourself for not meeting expectations from others or yourself? We weren’t born thinking we weren’t good; we started when we believed someone that said that of us. Therefore, we have to deprogram that belief. The first step is acknowledging your Basic Goodness; know that you are good without having to add or subtract any qualities. This step might entail a lifetime of work; it usually happens regularly on a meditation cushion, where you have to be with yourself in the present moment. It requires kindness, gentleness, and patience with yourself.

2)  Once you have come to acknowledge your Basic Goodness, the second step becomes easier, and might even happen automatically. Once you have the confidence that you are Good, fear diminishes and courage blooms. Fear springs from doubt. Conversely, joy, love, and courage spring from confidence.

3)  After learning kindness, gentleness, patience, and courage with yourself, and experiencing self joy and love, your generosity of these gifts organically grows, making it easier to bestow on others. Giving these gifts might not be easy, per se, especially if we are under attack. But when we have confidence that we are Good, and have courage, then we can view what others say more objectively, instead of taking offense. The objective view makes it easier to extend the generosity of patience and kindness to others, and these might help you see where the other person is coming from, which is called compassion.

4)  The fourth step is beyond us, but happens because of us. Have you heard of the butterfly effect? Whatever we do has an effect on the world at large. Once we extend kindness and compassion to others, those we touch leave with an impression of the same. It might not take effect with them immediately, but once an impression is made, repetition over time reshapes, like a stone weathered by the gentle currents of a stream.

Thus, when we acknowledge our own Basic Goodness, we gain courage and compassion. These, in turn, help us acknowledge the Basic Goodness of others. By acknowledging the Basic Goodness of another through interaction, we plant the seed of understanding-oneself-as-Basically-Good in that person. When those seeds are planted and nourished in others, their internal fears diminish and their courage and compassion grow, leading to expansion to the rest of the world by way of the butterfly effect. :) ♥🙂

Ensuring everyone’s human rights might seem like a daunting task. However, the objective is met by acknowledging the Basic Goodness of all humans, starting our work first with ourselves, at every present moment, in every single now. After working with ourselves, the qualities of kindness, gentleness, and patience can then be organically extended to others, with understanding and compassion.

Go out into the world, and let your Goodness shine so others can find courage in their darkness so they can shine too!

Finally, I hope you don’t mind a plug. I’m currently (Fall 2013) working on an Environmental Education project so the Next Generation of Subsistence Farmers in El Salvador can have clean water and air, and healthy food to eat   Please Help!, so basic needs can be met in the future of our world :) ♥🙂

Peace, Love, and Compassion to You,

– Maria

New Book Project: Help Needed


When I received an invitation a couple of months ago from some U.S. doctors to translate for them during a medical mission trip, my heart rejoiced at the opportunity of returning to the land where I served four years as a volunteer.

Since then, I’ve been looking forward to reuniting with old friends and coworkers, to the point that I started thinking about what kinds of gifts or tokens I could give to show them my love. The “trouble” is that I’m a practice person, and I value useful, purposeful gifts over trinkets.

I looked at what I have: an environmental coloring story book I self-published in 2007, which got great user-end reviews; it was fashioned for their culture. During a visit in 2010, I saw positive changes; environmental awareness was stronger than before. The teachers asked, “So will there be more books? We’ve just about depleted our stash; we keep a couple in reserve so we will always have them.”

I told the truth; the project had been made possible only through donations, and I just didn’t have the social network to launch another successful campaign. The school principle looked disheartened.

As a side note, towards the end of my service, I started a small technological project. Mostly, it involved networking various entities to pull resources together. A small group of student would travel out of the village to a larger hamlet, which had computers, but families groaned at the travel costs. The teachers in my village started going to the nearest city to get internet certified, but the computer learning center went out of business before they attained certification. Bad luck!

Fast forward to 2013. With a small social network and a heart full of love, I took courage and decided to jump off the metaphorical cliff into the sea of Chance, without looking at the odds working for or against me. I had heard of crowd-sourcing, but I didn’t know how to play the game. Off the cliff I went, and launched a fundraising page to benefit others on my upcoming “missionary” trip.

Money for this project will provide rural schools with environmental coloring books for a new generation of children, and if enough money is raised, a laptop and router to the school in the community where I lived.

I’ve been asked about project parameters. Peace Corps experience taught me to take things as they come. Specific project parameters depend on the amount raised. I’m flexible. Based on experience, only one thing is certain: the people benefited will be flabbergasted by the kind generosity of strangers🙂

My greatest wish is to effect the world in such a way that it will grow into a harmonious home for all of earth’s inhabitants, and that people come to know there is more to life than the narrow confines of self-gain. My faith: Love and compassion are the recipe for a life well-lived❤

The project page can be found at this address:

New Project: Please Help

I’m returning to El Salvador on Oct 25th, and need help for a new project. All help is appreciated!

The first project done in 2007 had great results as evidenced by a visit in 2010.

Project monies will provide rural communities with environmental coloring books for a new generation of Eco-Friendly kids, and if enough money is raised, a laptop and router for a local school that is lagging behind in this tech age. See the link for details … Thanks!

Fundraising with GoGetFunding