E-journey: Alternative Black Friday

By: Fr. Bob Mosher
December 19, 2011

Social justice organizations from the Borderlands area (El Paso, Las Cruces and Juarez) gathered in the Columban Mission Center on November 25th to offer an “Alternative Black Friday” market of goods from developing nations and communities for the vulnerable.

Many shoppers who might otherwise have fallen into the commercialized mayhem of department and wholesale stores found themselves contemplating the carefully crafted and harvested items laid out on colorfully-decorated tables, and contributing to the welfare of battered women, impoverished farmers and just causes throughout the world.

Polly Edmonds of Border Partners, a nonprofit organization empowering people in the struggling town of Palomas, Mexico, displayed brightly colored waterproof bags, tablecloths and aprons made by Palomas Oilcloth Designs. People in Palomas live on less than $75 a week, and the sale of items outside of Mexico is their only way to reach a market for their goods.

Photographer Martin Benecomo laid out framed photos of statues and artwork from St. Pius X Catholic Church in El Paso, and a sign behind him explained: “In benefit of residents of Lomas de Poleo.” Lomas de Poleo is a small community near the Columban parish on the outskirts of Juarez, Mexico, that is resisting the pressures to abandon their lands—where they have resided for decades—by the powerful and rich Zaragoza family.

“I think this really draws attention,” said Martin’s companion at the table, Andrea Tirres, “to how your money can make a difference.”

This is the third year that the Catholic Diocese of El Paso has sponsored the Alternative Black Friday. It began after Sr. Janet Gildea of the Sisters of Charity and others saw the brief film, “The Story of Stuff,”(available for viewing on YouTube) and began to reflect on its message. The 20-minute production is full of facts about how much Americans waste, and questions the consumerism of Western cultures. Sr. Janet felt that an event that presented itself as a more environmentally sustainable way to spend money and raise awareness of social justice issues, precisely on a day notorious for its exaltation of consumerist anxiety.

The Columban Mission Center hosts a variety of events and also offers parish and student groups from around the country an opportunity to experience life in the Borderlands, providing lodging and a structured program of service and exposure to migrant and other issues of social and environmental justice.