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Author Proposes a Forgiving Thanksgiving : Harmony: Inspired by a vision, Victor Villasenor is on a global mission to ease anger over Columbus.

November 25, 1992|LEE ROMNEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SAN DIEGO — Seven weeks ago, acclaimed Oceanside author Victor Villasenor had a vision that went something like this: A gaggle of peaceful snow geese were squawking and squealing in a show of global harmony, guided by the spirit of Villasenor's Indian grandmother.

It's not the type of vision most people act on.

But Villasenor is not most people. Author of the well-regarded "Rain of Gold," which chronicles three generations of his Mexican family and their immigration to California, Villasenor put out the word that others should join him as "snow geese" and head for Spain to celebrate the first "Global Thanksgiving."

About 40 people, most of them Villasenor's friends and relatives, took flight Tuesday morning from San Diego's airport, wearing matching snow goose sweat shirts designed by Villasenor's 16-year-old son. A group of Los Angeles teachers and American Indians from the Chicago area are expected to join them in Madrid.

Three hours before sunset Thursday, the author and his followers plan to ritually forgive Columbus for invading the continent. Villasenor hopes his Snow Goose Project will catch on, drawing more and more participants abroad with messages of peace and worldwide togetherness.

Even the king and queen of Spain are being lured to the event and have been sent copies of Villasenor's book, a painted snow goose and snow goose T-shirts. An embassy official said they may show up for the event, to be held in a Madrid park. With an eye toward the long haul, Villasenor, 52, said two major corporate sponsors have already expressed interest in helping out next year.

The concept, like Villasenor's way of thinking, is somewhat fluid. But combine the 500th anniversary of Columbus' voyage with the traditional Thanksgiving notion of uniting in feast, throw in the legacy of a peaceful migratory bird and a desire to forgive the past for a more harmonious future, and you have mastered the Villasenor world view.

"You know that there's a lot of anger going on around Columbus, people saying it was invasion and not discovery," Villasenor said. "So we're saying, 'OK. It was an invasion. So what? Let's forget all the Hitlers and all the holocausts all over the world, and join hands in a real Thanksgiving.'

"Instead of having dinner with immediate family, and eating a lot and getting stuffed, invite that neighbor or the stranger down the street, or the person you never really liked, and make it really be about thanksgiving."

In Madrid, all are invited to take part in the ritual involving a gigantic, 50-year-old Mexican sombrero that belonged to Villasenor's father and a flag depicting the snow goose flying across a heart-shaped moon. The ceremony will be followed by a potluck open to everyone, including the king and queen, Villasenor said.

Villasenor had the snow goose vision after giving a talk about "Rain of Gold" in Portland seven weeks ago.

"A bunch of American Indians said, 'How do you feel about Columbus, and what are you going to do about it?' And I said, 'I don't know,' and they were very upset," the author recalled. "I woke up at 2:30 a.m. and said, 'God, what I want is global forgiveness.' "

Then came the "open letter" that Villasenor had printed in two San Diego County publications. The full page of text begins with "The Vision" and dips into a parable of greedy men who lose touch with love and family in their quest for power and fancy things.

"There's a saying in Spanish that those who dream at night are the regular people," Villasenor said as he and his fellow travelers milled around an airport ticketing counter Tuesday. "But those who dream in the day, with their eyes open, they are the visionaries."

Jim Meyers, a Sacramento cameraman, decided to go along to document the adventure. "All of us on this trip are going to do everything in our power to see that it carries our message," Meyers said. "That's why we're going with this crazy man who has visions."

Ed Singer, a Navajo painter from New Mexico, said: "I see it as a chance for the Old World to be apprised of the New World's contributions."

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