Saturday, August 16, 2008

Immigration and kindness

Suzanne's great-great-great-grandma, Elizabeth Xavier, hailed from a small town (Poona) on the outskirts of Bombay, India. She met and married William Tait, an Irishman serving with the English military in Bombay. William was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormon church) and introduced Elizabeth to the church. She joined the church through baptism in 1852. In 1855, William sailed with their oldest son to San Francisco to then join the Saints who were beginning to settle the Utah Territory. Too ill to travel in 1855, a pregnant Elizabeth set sail with her daughter in 1856 to join her husband and her new church, despite the pleas of her parents. Her daughter died en route to the United States. In July 1856, she left Iowa City with the Willie Handcart Company, pulling her few belongings across the plains. The Willie handcart company infamously met an early October blizzard as they approached the Continental Divide, near the Sweetwater River, and were forced to camp in the snow and pray for rescue. Scores died before the rescue party (sent by Brigham Young) arrived with food, clothing, blankets and team-pulled wagons to pull the beleaguered pioneers into the Salt Lake Valley (incidentally, my ancestors were in the rescue party). Elizabeth survived and finally joined her husband, son and new spiritual family in Cedar City, Utah. For the rest of her life, and her kids' lives, and her grandkids' lives (Suzanne's grandma remembers it), they were mocked and ridiculed by their neighbors for being Indian.

Last February, Suzanne and I were in Southern Utah for a short spring break. Julie (Suzy's mom) pointed out a restaurant, Lupitas, in a small town (which shall remain unnamed) that was owned and operated by a Mexican family. Though the Mexican family was legally in the United States, the town members had rallied together to boycott the restaurant in a show of displeasure for illegal immigrants. We couldn't believe it. In D.C., Suzanne and I are often on the unpleasant end of prejudice and discrimination on account of our religion, and it was hard for us to believe that our people (who themselves had been much aligned and persecuted), would similarly mistreat others. In any case, I determined that during my next trip to Utah I would make time to eat at Lupitas.

After hiking Angels Landing, I took Tenny to Lupitas Mexican Restaurant for lunch. The service, food and beverages were terrific. My favorite part, though, was the new addition adorning the front of the property: a 6-foot tall replica of the Statue of Liberty.

I've seen the real Statue of Liberty many times. I've seen the replica in Paris. I've got a photo of it hanging in my bathroom. I've always known what it meant to others, but it never really meant anything to me. Until now.

There is no legitimate justification for discrimination, and with food this good and prices this low, there is no legitimate reason for not eating at Lupitas. For the love of Elizabeth, for the love of me and Suzy, and for the love of all of our brothers and sisters out there, let's stop the madness. Surely we can do better.


Jenna said...

This was a great post. Good for you for interrupting the cycle of prejudice.

I have 2 questions for Suzy:
1. We were driving south on I-15 this weekend and a Honda Element passed us with a lic plate "J Hurst" and a sticker that read "got toast?". Any relation to you? He/she was heading toward St. George, perhaps.

2. I just discovered that a relative of mine grew up next to you: Fran Warnick. She says you were mostly friends with her sister, Chanda. Ring any bells? Fran and I are great friends, our husbands are cousins. She says she hasn't seen you in 10 years, but both she and Chanda live in St. George now with their families. Small world, huh?

Jay & Pat said...

Well said, Jer. Now that we are official S. Utah residence (part-time), we will plan on supporting this business.


patatomic said...

So, how can I frequent this place without knowing where it is.


Katie said...

good post. I'm glad you went there. I remember you telling us about that. Here's to immigration and kindness.

Kate said...

Great post Jer. It's pathetic that this sort of thing happens anywhere but you'd think we would of learned something about injustice in our much maligned religion. Buttheads. That's a technical term. I LOVE that Lupitas put up a Statue of Liberty. Very poignant and pretty funny.

Alisa said...

Your post made me sad. I don't understand how people, especially members of the church can be so cruel and unfeeling to other sons and daughters of God. The owners of the restaurant sound like they are trying to remind all of us what brought all of our ancestors to this country in the first place. So where is this restaurant? I don't get to Southern Utah very much, but when I do I would love to go there.

Ye Stewart Clan said...

Because of the high demand (and not because we're trying to shame the city), we've decided to release the highly classified location of Lupitas. It's in Hurricane, Ut, at the east end of State Street, right before the road bends north to head toward La Verkin & Zion NP. Enjoy.