mi casa es su casa

No persons of any race other than the Caucasian race shall use or occupy any building or any lot.

A covenant is a provision, or promise, contained in a deed to land.

I prayed it wasn’t true.

I had often been proud of living in Richfield with its diversity. Student population at Richfield Senior High is 43% Hispanic, 26.8% White, 17.6% African American, 7.1% Two or more races and 4.9% Asian.

With their Guatemalan origin Juan and Crystel fit right in. This was important to Jody and me. Already they were unusual for having two moms and being adopted. Let them blend in on occasion. Get a break from being special.

Jody and I have owned our home for over 25 years. We welcomed Juan and Crystel into our home when they were infants. In one month, they will be graduating from Richfield High School. Yet this covenant is on our property deed.

I had read about the Just Deeds Project on our Richfield Community Facebook page. To find out if our home had a discriminatory deed I simply needed to type in our address on the interactive map. I was sure our home didn’t have one.

I’ve experienced the scorn and contempt of others for being different. Wouldn’t I inherently know discrimination? And, wasn’t it our family that always had the play dates, the school parties, and the block parties at our house to show everyone we were just like them? That we weren’t a family to be afraid of.

Instantly, I felt ill.

I did have a covenant on my home. Jody’s home. Juan and Crystel’s home. In 1968, Congress passed the Fair Housing Act, making covenants and other discriminatory housing practices illegal across the nation. Still, our house is marked. There is a pox on it.

Real estate developers began writing racial covenants – race-based property ownership restrictions – into property deeds in 1910. They were banned by the Minnesota state legislature in 1953 but not before a racial covenant was written on our property on November 29, 1946.

Richfield is home to 3,714 of these covenants.

No persons of any race other than the Caucasian race shall use or occupy any building or any lot.

How do I tell Juan and Crystel that a deed on our house states that no persons of any race other than the Caucasian race is welcomed in our home?

I can still be proud of Richfield. On Tuesday, April 13, the Richfield City Council took action to support the Just Deeds project. Starting May 1, 2021 Richfield homeowners can discharge the racial covenant on their property records. I immediately submitted an online Just Deeds Request form to start the process.

I want the next owner of our home to understand that I disagree with any type of racial covenant on our home. I want the owners to know that we made an effort to remove the mark, the pox, the stain on our house.

I can easily see one of our children owning our home and if not them a family that is not Caucasian. In fact, I would welcome that. Mi casa es su casa.

Jumping into the Unknown

Ziplining to some would be the ultimate adrenaline rush, whooshing from point to point above the treeline attached to a cable.

Zach, Crystel, and Antonio on the launch

Zach was officially our guide on our zipline adventure at the Atitlan Nature Reserve. The 14-year-old and our two nine-year-olds had become comfortable with each other. They were bonded by the mutual experience of being adopted and meeting their birthmoms. During our launch from Santa Cruz la Laguna to the shore of Panajachel where we would start our trek through the jungle to the zipline, they talked about their visit.

Zach showed the necklace he received from his birthmom, Crystel showed her earrings, and Antonio described the weavings he received. All these gifts were very important to the children – a connection to their Guatemalan family.

The start of our trek

Just as their life is complicated, a crooked tree marked where our path started. We walked upwards on an ancient trail, stepped lightly over hanging bridges, and kept our eyes and ears open for spider monkeys.

The Ziptrek tour covers close to 35 acres of land. For 1 ½ hours we rode a total of eight ziplines ranging from 295 ft. to 1050 ft. along waterfalls, canyons, the valley and a coffee grove forest.

Zach, Antonio, Jody Crystel, Beth – ready to zipline

Ziplining took my breath away. Especially the first time that I let go and zipped above the valley, above the top of trees. If the cable breaks, it is a long ways down. A mother thinks of these things, even if she is just thinking of herself. True, after the first zipline it got less and less scary and I was more able to enjoy the view. Still, I was breathless.

Jumping off the cliff at San Marcos had been a warm-up for this. You take a leap into space without being hooked to a cable. You couldn’t see the water below before sprinting off of the platform. You had to assume the water was there to catch you.

Crystel on the zipline

After our zipline adventure Antonio was brave enough to ask the staff in Spanish to order us a tuk tuk to take us into the town of Panajachel.

Later, I asked Antonio and Crystel what was scariest, jumping off the cliff at San Marcos, ziplining, or meeting their birthmom? Without hesitation they both said meeting their birthmom. Ziplining came third.

For Antonio and Crystel, meeting their birthmom was jumping into the unknown. Will she like me? Will I like her? What will it be like to look into the eyes of the woman who gave me life? The mom who hasn’t raised me? Who hasn’t grown up with me? Who opened her arms and gave me to someone else?

Antonio loving the tuk tuk he ordered

Jody and I were there to catch our children if meeting their birthmom went awry. Yet, we couldn’t take that first step for them. They had to take that leap into the unknown all by themselves and trust that they could weather what came.