Locating the community via church and laundromat


From the local paper I saw that I had just missed a huge 5 day bike competition. One of the local youth with the last name Chavez, was shown on the front page in mock victory salute. The winner of the previous day’s stage was a Cuban American named Dominguez, dubbed the Cuban Missile Crisis by the locals for upsetting the local favorite.

Attended Spanish language mass at St. Francis of Assisi community center in NE Bend on Sunday morning. I’m not a practicing Catholic but unable to find a geographic concentration of Latinos, I figured this was a sure way to locate the community. The laundromat being another one as I discovered on Saturday evening. The church’s central parish in downtown Bend offered a Saturday evening mass in Spanish and then a Sunday noon one at the community center located several miles away from the city’s center. Initially I thought maybe this was a secondary location in the boondocks but as I rode out there I realized it was an expanding part of the town. The location was home to a K-8 school and a new church was being planned. Though plain, mostly cinder blocks and wood with a vinyl tile floor, it was quite nice. Equipped with about 500 plastic chairs, there were about 300 attendees present, almost all Latino. It was evident to me, an insider-outsider that this was a close-knit community of folks who knew one another as friends and family in the way they acknowledged one another with hugs, nods and handshakes. This same intimacy came through in the priest’s homily when he addressed parishioner’s by name as he actively engaged them in in questions and called them by first name (Manuel, Felipe, Victor, Jesus, etc. All men}

The sermon was quite interesting as he entreated them not to be seduced by American values of materialism. That they should measure the quality of their lives by their love of God, their loving actions towards one another, and not by what they owned or what they could buy. “Don’t think you can buy your way to happiness or Salvation like Americans. Este religion no vale, ” he said. Live your beliefs, don’t be hypocrites. Don’t be fooled by outward displays of happiness such as big smiles, jokes if you go home to an empty house and an empty heart. (This is a paraphrased translation of his Spanish). It wasn’t anti-American or even pro-Mexican but I took it as an a cautionary tale for new immigrants not to assimilate uncritically.

What I also found interesting was the many single men in attendance at church.

After mass parishioners sold ice cream cones and cups of fresh fruit with a slice of lime and cayenne spice sprinkled.