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Colorful quilt covers area

Years ago, my uncle, Clyde Wesley Plenty Chief, was very ill and came near death. When he recovered, he told me his strength was regained by the many, many prayers that were said for him.

Years ago, my uncle, Clyde Wesley Plenty Chief, was very ill and came near death. When he recovered, he told me his strength was regained by the many, many prayers that were said for him.

He said he had a vision during his illness. In that vision, he could see far above the Dakotas and Montana. Spread out over the land were multicolored quilts that represented the people who had prayed for him. They weren't just Sahnish (Arikara) people, but people of different religions and colors. Their prayers were heard as one people, he said.

That is what this country is: diverse in religions, races and cultural ways. It is our strength, if we let it be.

These thoughts about diversity and differences brought to mind the Mexican holiday Cinco de Mayo, coming Monday. I realized I don't hear much about this growing group in our community. With only a little research, I found a Thursday report by the Census Bureau that says the Hispanic population has grown to more than 45 million people. That's 15 percent of the total population the U.S. and is the largest minority population in the nation.

This group probably will triple by 2050, reports say.


Cristina Campos was recommended by the Rev. Raul Perez-Cobo of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in East Grand Forks as a good person to talk to about the Hispanic population in the Grand Forks area.

Campos spends much of her time helping her community over the grocery counter of the East Grand Forks Food Shelf, which she manages. When I told her what I was looking for, she said Hispanic people are the "silent population."

Campos is a cancer survivor and widow with two sons and a daughter. Her chemotherapy-styled hair looks chic and trendy.

She and her family were migrants to the Grand Forks area. Campos visited the East Grand Forks area several years before she and her family decided to call it home. At first, they came here to work -- weeding sugar beets, moving on to Wisconsin to pick cucumbers and returning here for the harvests. Then, they settled here, found good jobs and made good lives for themselves.

Hispanic people in the Grand Forks area tend not to get involved in city and community politics. They tend to stay somewhat to themselves. They may be right about sticking close to their own community: Sometimes, if you're outspoken, you become a target for "meanness," and that might not affect you, but your family.

So, I suspected that Hispanic residents keep their heads down in order to keep their jobs and improve their families' well-being.

Campos doesn't have much to complain about, she said. She's too busy, but she did say that it can be hard at times to find good-paying jobs. "You have to prove yourself more than 100 percent," she said.

I asked her if they would be celebrating the upcoming Cinco de Mayo. The holiday commemorates a battle in Mexico's struggle for independence. She shook her head. It really isn't a Mexican holiday or a huge feast day; the Mexican independence they celebrate comes in September. The Cinco de Mayo battle was just a "skirmish," she said. But it is one of the few holidays that Hispanic people in America celebrate as a group.


Campos was thoughtful for a minute. She was raised in Texas and went to segregated schools, where they were pushed toward assimilation rather than acceleration.

Hmm, I've heard that before from my own American Indian history.

"Texas," she said, "was Mexico, so we were enveloped rather than migrated to Texas." Texas was part of Mexico and was the land of both Indians and Mexicans.

Campos is bilingual. She speaks excellent English and Spanish. Older people who come here have a hard time learning English and don't want to change, she said. They hang on to the old ways, too. She does, too, she said ... for some things.

For example, she brought a stone tool for making tortillas called a molcajete, which is used for grinding jalapenos and tomatoes for salsa. Her family brought the stone with them when they came to this area from Texas. The older generation still prefers tortillas, while the young people like bread better, she said.

Campos likes her life here in the Grand Forks area and calls it home.

As I sat listening to Campos, I thought how familiar her Hispanic ways are. We are as my uncle Plenty Chief said, alike in many more ways than we realize. Like the multicolored quilt that made up the lands he saw, our prayers are all heard no matter our skin color, race or cultural ways.

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