Hearts and Mayans

Jack Leonard has opened his South Dade home to Guatemalan migrants. What more can he do?

While he admits the hurricane overwhelmed him, Leonard is disturbed that people might consider him uncooperative and prone to putting his leadership role ahead of the needs of the Guatemalans. "I'm not important. On a ruler, I'd be about a sixteenth of an inch," he says. "These people need more help. I tell all the reporters that come down here, 'Put these people on camera, they need help.' I wish we could find a leader. God, have we tried. I have had meetings and meetings to try and find a leader. Where are they?"

In the tradition of his mentors Angelo Bottani and John Clements, Leonard considers himself a can-do person. Unlike those men, however, he lacks the millions needed to bypass red tape or buy one's way through chaos. "I'm so concerned about things. I try to get as much stuff out as possible, to pick up the phone, go to all the meetings and open my mouth. But I'm better working on the outside," he says, tapping a Vantage into an ashtray filled with butts. "I walk around town thinking, 'Where will I get help? Who is going to help these people? Who will listen to me?'"

No English class was held at the trailer this evening. The boys waited, but the teacher did not arrive. Later, on the porch steps, Leonard runs into one of the teens. He apologizes to the boy for missing the class. "Lo sento, ha hablando con un reportero. Te veo manana," he says in pidgin Spanish. He's sorry, he's been talking with a reporter. He'll be there tomorrow.

The boy is missing an eye. His scraggly, home-cut hair stands straight up on end. He smiles at Leonard. "No, no se preocupe, por favor," he says deferentially. Don't worry at all...He is used to waiting, accustomed to promises.

His father still lives in Guatemala, Pasqui says. His mother is dead.
When the first Mayans straggled into Homestead in 1986, the economic plate already had been scraped clean. They kept coming, anyway.

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