Jim McEnteer an inspiring friend and a great friend of Los Angeles Poverty Department, died of colon cancer on July 30, 2019. Jim was, as described in his self authored obituary, “a journalist, wanderer, scholar and university professor.” Henriëtte Brouwers and I met Jim and his wife, university professor, Tina Cielo, in 2000, while traveling in Mexico. Noë Rodriguez, a fruit vendor who befriended us in Xico, in the state of Jalapa, told us we had to go meet the gringo in town. We did and when Jim opened the door, he could have been my brother.
We returned to Xico the next year and the one after that. Jim & Tina, who prefer to live outside the US, came back to the states for 3 or 4 years when Tina decided to get her PhD. at Berkeley. While in the states, Jim, who had published a number of books, including, Shooting the Truth, on political documentaries, and Fighting Words: Independent Journalists in Texas, decided to write a history of LA Poverty Department, which became the book, Acting Like It Matters. While researching he spent a lot of time with us in LA. Among other things, we were rehearsing, “Agents & Assets”, our performance on the war on drugs, as we were about to do it in Utrecht, NL. I remember Jim, joining me on a trip to a hotel on Main Street, to track down one of our main cast members who was needed but AWOL.
When Tina finished her coursework, Jim and Tina, moved to Bolivia where Tina was researching the water wars. Henriëtte and I visited them in Cochabamba, as we’d all begun to talk about bringing “Agents and Assets” to Bolivia. The following year, 2009, we did, with a combined cast of LAPD’ers and Bolivianos. We traveled throughout Bolivia performing in Zocalos, auditoriums, community spaces and inside a prison— you can watch our travelogue of the tour on the “Agents & Assets” page of this website. To make the budget work and with their amazing yet typical generosity and calm, Jim and Tina invited the entire LAPD crew to stay at their house in Cochabamba for the two+ months of the project.
Jim loved the ocean and any wave he could jump on anywhere. Two Sundays ago we were with his family as we returned his ashes to the Pacific.
In a moving tribute, Digna, Tina’s mother said, Jim was generous like a Philipino. It was this generosity, that has been squeezed out of our fast paced, time is money, culture that Jim rejected. In his obituary Jim quoted the first line of Raphael Sabatini’s novel Scarramouche: “He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad.”
Jim’s friendship was a huge gust of fresh ocean air, and how he lived his life created new dimensions in mine that I deeply needed and that have sustained me. I love you brother.