I once met a nun who had worked for many years as a missionary in China. One day she invited me to a Chinese restaurant. She chose a seat not far from the kitchen entrance. We ate, we paid, and after a while, she said to me: Wait for me here, it won’t take too long.
She let herself into the kitchen in a quick move, hurriedly started talking to the workers around her, and handed out brochures. At that point, the owner or supervisor of the restaurant arrived, rebuked her and began to push her away. She raised her voice and yelled something in Chinese to the workers. Finally, a couple of men came and moved us aggressively to the exit. I was confused and a bit afraid. She, however, seemed to know well what she was doing and moved confidently.
Later, she told me of her mission. She went to Chinese restaurants and tried her best to get into the kitchens. She knew well enough to suspect that she would most likely find undocumented workers who did not speak the language and had no contact with people. She knew well enough to suspect that these workers worked for miserable wages in shifts of twenty-four hours a day, seven days per week. The accommodation was deducted from their salary, which sometimes consisted of a mattress on the room floor adjoining the kitchen.
Sometimes, someone would pass some information on to her about specific restaurants or shops. Then she would go, rushed her way in, and spoke in Chinese to the workers, inviting them to free language classes, knowing that learning the language was the key to knowing their rights.
Photo: Desastres de la guerra, Goya. “Y son fieras”