Thursday, March 14, 2013

La Frontera

As some of you know, a little over a month ago, the volunteers went on a border immersion retreat.  We spent 5 days on the Arizona U.S. and Sonora Mexico part of the border, spending a couple days in each country. My latest newsletter talks a lot about my experience on this retreat, but it was sure hard to try to fit everything into 3 pages!

I have been super intimidated the past month by trying to write about this experience.  Not only was it jammed packed with factual information from many presentations and various organization visits, but there were also the personal stories and the emotions felt...I want to share it all with you! As I continue to process, I will try to keep posting things about this experience.  But for now....

 To start off, here's a map that a fellow Mexican YAGM made to show exactly where we were, and what organizations we visited.  Thank God for techie friends that can put completely amazing things like this together...Lord knows I would not have the first clue how to do something like this.  There are pictures, a description of everything we visited, the map...it has it all! Big shout out and thank you to Casey Sweeney for putting this together! Enjoy!
https://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msid=201866615827698687936.0004d5d997a8098699dfa&msa=0&ll=31.907873%2C-109.907227&spn=1.419886%2C2.469177
I wanted to share some highlights with you that aren't included in the newsletter, and also some photos that didn't make the cut (and that also aren't on my facebook because other people took them!)
An organization that I mention in the newsletter and is talked about briefly on the map is Cafe Justo (Just Coffee).  You may be familiar with "Fair Trade" coffee (and other products), but Cafe Justo takes fair trade coffee to another level.  Essentially, they cut out the middle man (the people that hike up the price of coffee for the consumer, pay very little to the growers, and keep the profit for themselves).  By cutting out the middle man, and keeping everything, the growing, the roasting, the packaging all in one organization, they are able to double, triple the amount that the families that grow the coffee get for their product.  This organization partners with churches, universities, and individuals in the U.S. to sell their coffee to.  And man is it gooooood coffee.  It comes from the south of Mexico, from the state of Chiapas, where there is a cooperative of families that grow it. Now one might think, "ok, but what does this have to do with immigration, with border issues?" Actually, these organizations have a very close link to immigration, because they are going back to the very beginning of the process and asking, "Why are people leaving Mexico in the first place?" The thing is, I'm sure you'd be hard-pressed to find a migrant (especially nowadays with how difficult and dangerous it has become to cross the border) who would tell you that they're just going to the U.S. for fun, or to make some money for a fancier car.  The vast majority are crossing because there simply aren't jobs in Mexico, and they have no money to feed themselves, much less have a nice car. Organizations are like Cafe Justo are working to give coffee grower families the amount of money for their product that they can actually live on. An amount that is fair, and that keeps the family together.   
Learning about coffee in Cafe Justo
 I also wanted to mention that some of the best moments for me on this retreat were the moments we had to just sit down and chat with migrants.  From a conversation with a couple from Puebla (I mention them in the newsletter), one of the things that has stuck with me, was this feeling I had about half-way through our conversation.  They had just finished telling me about their ordeal with walking through the Mexican side of the desert for a couple days before finally reaching the border and the wall.  They arrived at the kilometer marker where they were told was a good place to cross. They waited, all night, and in the early morning, they jumped. And were captured within 5 minutes. And then it was over. Days, weeks, months of saving, of planning. Gone in 5 minutes.  "So, what are you guys doing tonight?" they asked me.  I felt terribly embarrassed as I answered, "Well, we're going back across the border tonight to spend the night in Douglass Arizona."  I thought about what they had been through to get to where they were.  I thought about how easily we would cross back to the U.S. in a couple hours...drive across in our nice van, to a nice warm hotel room. No problem.  "I'm sorry" I told them. "It doesn't really seem fair does it?"  It was the only think I could think of to say.  This idea of privilege because of some papers I hold really hit me in the gut in that moment.  I have no idea where that couple is now...maybe home with their kids? Maybe in another attempt they made it across...who knows.  As we got up to leave, I wished them well in their lives...again, it was all I could think of to say. 
Now,  here are some photos:
 
Driving along the wall the first day, Mark from Frontera de Cristo pointing out various things (the double wall, the camera towers, etc)

Looking toward Douglass/Agua Prieta

Looking down the other direction
Riding with CREDDA to fill a water tank in the desert


Walking to the wall


Listening to the wise words of the man who runs CREDDA, once a drug addict himself

The metal mesh wall

The two types of wall.

Gathering what was left behind in the desert near Tucson

Holding an Ash Wednesday service in the desert with Gene, a man very involved with No More Deaths

Group shot with Gene

In rememberance.

At the University of Arizona. What was once a chunk of the wall is now art.

Invoking the presence of the migrants at our closing worship service
If you want to know more, I would HIGHLY recommend this book: The Devil's Highway: A True Story by Luis Alberto Urrea.
Or check out these resources if you really want a Lutheran Pastor's perspective who serves on the Mexico/U.S. border: http://borderpastor.wordpress.com/2013/02/28/migration-resources/
And if you have a LOT of extra time, here are some more articles to blow your mind as to the complicatedness of these issues!
How long is the immigration line? As long as 24 years.  From the Washington Post    
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/01/31/how-long-is-the-immigration-line-as-long-as-24-years/
Obama could hit massive deportation toll. From the Huffington Post
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/31/obama-deportation_n_2594012.html?ir=Latino+Voices&ref=topbar
 The New — and Rich — Immigrants from Mexico: How Their Money is Changing Texas
http://nation.time.com/2013/01/14/the-new-and-rich-immigrants-from-mexico-how-their-money-is-changing-texas/ 
Arizona Border Region : Research Services : Economic and Business Research Center : Eller College of... 
 
 

   

1 comment:

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