Thirty-five years later, in 2015 Barack Obama was president of the United States, and Greg Abbot just became the Governor of Texas. The Jesuits had a large area that was lead by an Arch-Rabbi named Gustavo Garcia-Siller, he lead the area of west Texas. Juan, the son of Zachary and Isabella, was now 36 years old. He, also, became a priest. Though, he did not feel welcomed in many church buildings. He decided to forge his own path. He preferred, instead, to hold services under tents in distant fields far away from populated areas. Many rumors circulated about him. Many thought he lived in a cave. There were rumors that he had survived by eating wild honey and grasshoppers. He didn’t help these rumors, by dressing very simply. He wore a ratty old leather jacket, very worn jeans, and an old “Hewey Lewis and the News” t-shirt most days. This didn’t stop his gatherings from drawing hundreds, if not thousands of people from the surrounding areas to come to one of his big tent services.
The people came from San Antonio, the Rio Grande Valley, El Paso, Austin, and even some from Dallas and Houston. They came and they listened. They came because he also listened to them. He heard their stories. It was as if when all gathered they were family. He used water from the Rio Grande to do ritual washings telling of the symbolic nature of water. Word began to spread far and wide of this eccentric leader in the wilderness of West Texas. Many began to come to these services soon the leaders and officials of the Jesuits and State caught word of this wild man drawing so much attention.
Some Rabbis and Priests came out to hear him speak a few times. He noticed this large gathering of leaders near the back of one of his services. He called out to them. “Liars and thieves, who said the end is near and sent you out here? Stop misleading your people and start teaching of the power of love. Stop hiding behind your ‘holy orders’ because anyone can and should read the good news for themselves. The Divine is ready to uproot that church because you do not bear good fruit. Instead, it is about to be composted.” The crowd grew into a murmur. One of the crowd asked him, “What are we supposed to do? He turned and spoke to the crowd, “If you have two coats, give one to someone who doesn’t have one. If you have more than enough food, give the leftovers to those who are hungry. Quit hoarding for yourself.” There were also gathered the wealthy and elite oil tycoons who had gathered in the crowd. Juan spoke directly to them now, “Don’t take more money than you have to. Don’t be greedy.” He turned to those in police uniform in the crowd. “Don’t abuse your authority over civilians. Treat everyone with the same kindness and love no matter their lot or skin color.”
The rabbis and priests, now deflated, called out accusingly. “Why are you leading these services and saying such things if you aren’t the chosen one, the Messiah that was to come?” Juan turned back to them and said, “I am just the messenger, not the Messiah. There is one who is coming who is so much more important than I am. I am not even worthy enough to shake Her hand. I have shown you the symbolic nature of being washed by water, She will fill your souls with water of life cleansing you from the inside-out.”
One of the Governor’s aides was in attendance at that service. This man spoke against power structures and threatened the very power that the state government had over the people. This aide also feared that his own sins would be pointed out to everyone, so he began to plot against Juan. The aide worked to plant evidence of a crime upon Juan. This was done, and Juan was thrown in prison. Juan did not put up a fight but cooperated with all that was asked of him. He talked with the other prisoners and told them of the freedom that the Divine provides.
Before Juan was imprisoned, Esperanza came from Eden, Texas to one of her cousin’s services. This service was held along the Rio Grande just south of Del Rio, Texas. She went to his service because she heard of the ritual cleansings he did, and needed to experience this for herself. Juan was very against the idea when he heard of it. He said to her, “I need to be cleansed by you, not the other way around.” Esperanza said to him, “It’s alright. It is necessary for me, and a symbol for others.” Juan gave in and performed the ceremony. When Esperanza came out of the water the clouds rolled away and the sun had shown seemingly directly upon her. The wind picked up and it sounded like the Divine’s voice carried upon it saying “This is my child, with whom I am delighted.” Esperanza spoke to those gathered, “The Divine waits to delight in you as well.”
All this took place during the beginning of the year. As I have written before, not much is known about Esperanza’s early life. There are many stories though none that I felt necessary to tell. There is one that struck me deeply, if true. It has been said that Esperanza was married in her twenties. She had two children. This family was well beloved by Esperanza. It has been said that they loved her deeply as well. Esperanza’s parents had grown older and could not cross the border as they used to. Her siblings were all grown and had moved all over the country. She was the only one left in Texas. She made it a point to go and visit her family regularly. She would legally cross the border with her family, stay a few days, and return without issue. Though it seems not all of these trips were without issue. On one such journey returning from Durango, Mexico to Eden, Texas, the family was pulled over by the state patrol. They had received a report about a vehicle the same make and color that Esperanza and her family drove. It was reported that a drug cartel was using such a vehicle to smuggle drugs and other things across the border. When it was seen that a Mexican family was traveling across the border in such a vehicle, the state patrol jumped into action. It was dark and the family was ordered get out of the car with their hands up. As Esperanza’s husband was helping the younger child out of the car the, older child had poked his head in around his father to grab one of his toys to show the police. His father stood up and took the toy plastic gun from his son. This was mistaken as a real weapon by the police officers. The officers took a few shots and killed the father and two children. This was in the year 2013. Esperanza mourned the deaths of her family, though during her ministry she never spoke of this incident. It may be just a rumor, but this story gives so much more weight to the things she said if it were true. I share it because I feel as though it is true of her character.