Sanctity & Sanctuary

From the barrio of South Tucson, the Tucson Mountains appeared clean and sharp like hammered copper on a clear morning following the equipata or winter rains, nearly the season's last; the glassy towers downtown held the sky reflected in squares of wavery unnatural blue. The university students were on spring break and already the snowbirds were flying north, emptying the hundreds of square miles of retirement villages, trailer parks. Active Adult communities, and golf links; within six weeks the population of greater Tucson would have dropped from around seven hundred thousand to four hundred and fifty thousand people. In the Southside barrios, no one was likely to know the difference.

Three-Seventeen West Twenty-Third Street was in a neighborhood of crumbling adobe houses, shacks, rotting pancake pear, and collapsing fences. At 9:30 on a Sunday morning, dark men in straw hats sat in vacant lots under rusty palm trees drinking beer, and middle-aged Caucasians with their hair in pigtails, wearing faded military clothes and carrying packs on their backs, walked the empty streets. A sign outside said "Este es sanctuario de Dios para los opprimidos de Centra America"; another beside it, "Southside Presbyterian Church." A nylon tent was pitched in the churchyard and a line hung with clothes stretched across the grass. Cars stood tightly parked along the curb and in the adjacent streets,...

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