This is a summary of a very inspiring week, April 8 - 14, 2018 in San Antonio and McAllen, Texas participating in Cruzando Fronteras - Crossing Frontiers - Connecting Humanity. The Popular Education Network of the RSCJ's (Religious of the Sacred Heart of Jesus) in collaboration with ARISE (A Resource in Serving Equality) and MACC (Mexican American Catholic College) provided us with several speakers and experiences to deepen our knowledge of the current realities of migration, immigration and human trafficking across country borders throughout our world as well as within US state borders. Our very full days began at 8:30 AM (at least for those of us who don't eat breakfast) and continued to about 8:30 PM when we arrived back at our base locations.
We began in San Antonio at MACC. The 'ice breaker' where we met one another in a circle and had to introduce our new acquaintance to the group was a challenging experience as a few people knew only English, some of us could share in English and Spanish to varying degrees, and some knew only Spanish. As we shared we each took up a different colored ribbon which at the completion of our introductions formed a web connecting all of us. We certainly got a taste of how an immigrant feels upon entering a new environment, struggling with language barriers, being a minority yet in the end feeling our connectedness through this visible image of the colorful web we had formed in the process. At all locations we were provided with headsets for translations throughout each presentation. It is difficult to say just how many of us participated as when we were at both locations many of the ARISE members were with us either in person or via live video from McAllen as well as other people from parts of South America. They also had an opportunity to share in our discussions. I had the opportunity to meet Nilza, RJM from Boliva.Thanks be to God she was very patient with my Spanish. Although she is not involved with immigrants she is very much aware of the situations near the border with Chili and other existing problems.
Although we began with topics on Integration & Interculturality, Contextualization of Migration in the US which included an analysis of the national context of migration and its political, economic, social and educational implications, government's migration policies we soon got to experience the local context of life near the border through the eyes of actual migrants and the four ARISE groups working with the people to understand their needs, finding agencies to assist with the current needs and empowering the people to become actively involved in leadership roles resolving issues and needs and even in creating centers and participating in community building.The energy, determination, joy and love with which ARISE embraces their community of immigrants as well as each of us was in itself a moving and hope-filled experience. We had the opportunity to visit each of their four centers, learn of their ways of first listening to the needs of the people and building community, meet individuals in their colonias and encounter local agencies who provide services.
Our days were mixed with presentations, small group discussions, relaxed encounters during meals, visits to the colonias and moments for reflections.
One very moving experience was when we drove to the border and walked a mile to the border fence, only a mile short of the Rio Grand itself on a hot and dusty trail littered with empty water bottles, pieces of clothing and bags. We took time to share along the way as well as time of prayerful silence for those who are desperate enough to walk this way in hopes of a better life and especially for those who perished seeking peace, justice and freedom. Two sisters picked up two ladders that migrants brought across the river to enable them to climb over the border fence and were now just lying next to the fence. The sisters placed them in the form of a cross. A very powerful image! Some of these images and experiences resonated with what I have encountered at our Mexican/San Diego area border with the Border Angels and Interfaith groups as well as my moments in the desert seeing what immigrants face there when coyotes abandon them.
Having this experience during the Easter season added to its personal impact on me. For me, this was a moment of experiencing and being Eucharist to one another and embracing our local and global communities. Celebrating our different cultures, going beyond our languages, appreciating our many colors, looking out for one another, praying as one, breaking bread together, seeing and coming to know one another with the eyes of the heart were priceless gifts for which I am very grateful.
|The photo of fresh dog prints in the moist dirt gave us chills as we know the Border Patrol |
and their dog were looking for migrants very recently.