“Like Mary and Joseph, we are not the first immigrants. And like Mary and Joseph, we are also immigrating for the safety and health of our families,” Yessenia Alfaro, director of organizing for the Chelsea Collaborative, told the group gathered outside the environmental, social and economic justice organization’s office in Chelsea tonight.

They’d just begun “Las Posadas,” a reenactment of the Christian story of the birth of Jesus, the story behind the Christmas holiday. “Las Posadas is a beloved Latin American tradition that recreates Mary and Joseph’s perilous journey, running from danger and seeking shelter,” organizers wrote on facebook. “As we walk and sing together in solidarity with all immigrants and refugees, we will raise awareness and celebrate the strength of our community.”

The Bible says Jesus’s parents Mary and Joseph were turned away from a guest room (or an inn) while traveling, so his pregnant mother ended up delivering the baby in a cave/barn. In this dramatization, the group, led by a woman and man costumed as Mary and Joseph, stopped at the Chelsea Police Department and Chelsea City Hall, but were turned away.

The group banged drums and sang carols as it walked: “En el nombre del cielo / os pido posada, / pues no puede andar / mi exposa amada // Aqui no es meson / sigan adelante, / pues no puedo abrir, / no sea algun turante.” (“In the name of heaven / I ask you for shelter, / for my beloved wife / can go no farther. // This is not an inn / Keep walking, / I cannot open the door / you might be a thief.”)

People dressed as the Biblical Mary and Joseph lead a procession of “Las Posadas" carolers in Chelsea, Dec. 20, 2016. (Greg Cook)
People dressed as the Biblical Mary and Joseph lead a procession of “Las Posadas” carolers in Chelsea, Dec. 20, 2016. (Greg Cook)

The group finally arrived back at Chelsea Collaborative, where about 60 people gathered in a function room. Everyone stood in a circle and held hands while some made speeches.

“That would be my wish—for Obama to pardon the 11 million undocumented people that are living in our communities,” Chelsea Collaborative Executive Director Gladys Vega said.

“Yes!” the crowd of some 60 people answered.

“In our church we believe in justice, equality and compassion for everybody,” said Ellen Blaney of First Parish in Brookline, Unitarian Universalist, which has collaborated with the collaborative on two previous Las Posadas processions in Brookline. “Those would just be words if we did not take action together. We’re here in solidarity … and love with Chelsea Collaborative and all the families of Chelsea.”

“As Jesus Christ was born in a manger,” one woman said, “our heart has to be something similar so we can gather all the love we have for each other.”

“After Jan. 20, we must remain this way,” Vega said. “We must remain in unity and solidarity.”

“As an immigrant myself, we have a big duty and responsibility to make our brothers and sisters know that they’re not alone, that they have rights,” Alfaro said. “A lot of people who were going to come today, they did not come because they’re still afraid.”

Photos copyright 2016 Greg Cook.

“Las Posadas" procession in Chelsea, Dec. 20, 2016. (Greg Cook)
“Las Posadas” procession in Chelsea, Dec. 20, 2016. (Greg Cook)