Comedor Photos: July 25

Visiting with Rancheros_The Other Side of the Debate: July 24

Today we went to mass at a small, diverse church called Saint Ferdinand in Aravaca, Arizona. After mass our group and the parishoners gathered together to talk about the border issue. Most of the people were ranchers who owned land all the way up to the border. They had a gun in every room of their houses and carried one with them whenever they left the house. They explained to us that they live in constant fear of the drug cartels who frequently cross into their land. Sue Chilton, a grade school teacher, said that all the rancheros are literally raising money to fortify their four string barbed wire fence and to equally spread out the border patrol officials along the border. Another challenge is the various government agencies that control the land along the border, and the degree access that they grant to border control. This can range from a divided council amongst the Tohona Odom to bird reserves trying to respect a natural environment. The rancheros position is that inadequate security along the border between the United States and Mexico, especially on public lands, has put ranchers and their families living near the border in constant danger of the cartels and those who prey on migrants.

 95% of the border (above)
5% of the border (below)

As a group we discussed how 95% of the fence is like Sue's fence, four strings of barbed wire, and the other 5% are the huge and daunting fences we see on TV. We also talked about whether legalizing the drugs that the cartels take across would help alleviate the problem. Most of the rancheros believed that legalizing these drugs wouldn't solve anything because black markets would still monopolize the narcotics trade. The rancheros advocate legislation that would provide worker visas for migrantes, while increasing security for the cartels. 

Our visit in Arivaca reminded us that there are multiple sides to the border dispute.

For more info, check out this story: http://tucsoncitizen.com/view-from-baja-arizona/2011/04/18/arizona-rancher-blows-away-bureaucrats-at-border-hearing/

(student journal)


No Mas Muertes- SI Joins the Water Drop: July 23

4:40 am wake-up call to go on a "water drop" in the desert...

1755 recorded deaths in the desert since 2009- due mostly to dehydration in the summer or hypothermia in the winter. All week working at the Comedor we've heard first-hand stories of the harrowing 5-8 day journey, we've learned that most migrantes are lied-to (by coyotes) about the realities of crossing in the desert, and are woefully unequipped. It is estimated that a person needs 7 gallons of water to walk the trek, and most migrantes only bring 1 gallon. 

So at dawn, we crawled out of bed to join the effort of bringing water to the migrant routes...we were a little sleepy, but glad to join Pablo and Humane Borders.
Humane Borders, also known as Fronteras Compasivas, is a faith-based group whose mission statement is to ensure a "just and humane border environment." They have 102 water stations in place in southern Arizona, Mexico and New Mexico. In an effort to curb the incidents of death in the desert, Humane Borders is working towards acquiring more permits for additional water stations (particularly on the large Native reservation, which currently is protected land). 

**Prayers tonight for our friends Umberto and Andres, as they make their journey into the desert again. 


R&R at the Zatkins

Witnessing Native Heritage: July 22

Today we started off waking-up at the Tuscon Ho-Jo and a $27 budgeted breakfast for 10 at Safeway. Then we moved towards the Santa Catalina Mountains, where we hiked in to Lake Rose and set-up a small picnic feast of Subway sandwiches. After we hiked deeper into the mountains, we found a quiet spot for shared reflection...getting to know one another on a deeper level, as we continued to build community.

On the road again...we drove south to the Annual Native American Catholic Tekakwitha Conference at the San Xavier Mission. This annual celebration represented 50 tribes across the US- we were excited to partake! For dinner, we ate complimentary tortas and watched an amazing procession with a ritual dance. Even though I am not Native American, I was moved by the community and love at the pow-wow. There was a shared unity and hospitality that the people poured-out to us (even as outsiders at their sacred celebrations), and I wanted to pay respect to the traditions I was observing. So, inspired by the evening, I joined the closing procession followed the people to touch their sacred icons.

A beautiful evening of unity on the border...

(Student journal)

First Day at the Comedor: July 21

Nervous excitement filled our minds as our day of firsts began: our first time crossing the border; our first day in the comedor and many first "hellos." We helped prepare for mealtime, served meals, and sat with migrants and heard their stories. Some of us had trouble with the language barrier but most guests at the comedor speak all levels of English. I met one man who lived in the US since he was in elementary school and got deported to Mexico- a foreign country to him.

After breakfast and hearing many people's stories, we went to a women's shelter called Casa Nazaret, not far from the comedor. I was unaware of how bad the gender-based violence was in Mexico. We met Sister Engracia, who runs the shelter, and Flor, a woman staying there (who had encountered sexual abuse on her journey in the desert). Sister Engracia showed us a presentation, giving us an idea of the abuse women suffer when crossing the border. We concluded our meeting with a tragic story...a woman who had been abused for years prior to migrating to the US. The cycle of abuse these women witness through their mothers, and then as victims themselves, was a harsh reality.

Machismo in Mexican culture creates a society where women are taught to be submissive and obedient, which can lead to violence. Places like Casa Nazaret are important because they give silenced women a voice, a safe place, and a chance to be equal.

(Student journal)

Desert Sunset: July 20


Bridging the Gap: July 19

We spent the morning at San Xavier Mission, a Tohono Odom Native reservation, visiting the sacred sites and eating traditional chile rojo and sweet frybread.

Today we met the Kino teens who volunteer at the Comedor, hosting them for a bonfire at the Ranchito. These teens are either first or second generation migrantes. I met two sisters who live in Mexico and cross the border everyday to go to school in Arizona. They are not full citizens, but they will be granted citizenship in five years. This amazed me that there are children and teens out there that commute from one country to go to school in another. I was impressed by their strength, and the risks they take for their education. In our conversations I felt myself immediately opening up and being my natural self.

In their Mexican hometown, they face gunshots, drug cartels, discrimination, violence and fear. It is amazing that they have acclimated to this environment, whereas for us this has been a culture shock. It meant alot to connect with people our own age whose actual lives are defined by the border issues, and until this week, for us, border issues have been merely newsheadlines.

Although we are from two different worlds, we were able to find a common ground and share our stories and experiences.

(Student journal)


A Stark Reality: July 18

Today we went to Arivaca to visit Karl Hoffman, a documentarian on border issues. Karl took us on a hike through some of the migrant trails near his home. Along the trails were littered belongings left behind by hurried walkers-backpacks, toothbrushes, water bottles, baby food...

Then we came across a tree, strung with bras and underwear...what Karl calls "the rape tree."
Birth control pills and deodorant covered the ground beneath the tree. Coyotes ("guides" hired by the cartels), take women and young girls whom they are they guiding and rape them there. Then they strung their undergarments on the tree as signs of their conquest. I felt so sick being near it, and was fighting back tears the whole time. What was even worse was that the coyotes would make the rest of the family they were "guiding" wait back along the trail from the tree. I cannot imagine how it feels to helplessly watch your daughter, wife, or sister be assaulted and know that you can't stop it. After the rape, the women would take 2-3 birth control pills and brush their teeth- wanting to do anything to be purified and to be made clean.

Where was god in this? I couldn't see how god could be present in a place of such horror and violence. After praying about it, I thought maybe god is in our reactions. Maybe god is in our rage and emotions-the fact that we were not desensitized to their suffering.

I don't have answers right now, but this gives us a way to be more present to their pain.

(Student journal entry)

Transition: July 17

After a long delay, we arrived in Tuscon just in time for a shopping trip to Target. We got our first taste of horchata at our taco truck dinner, then off to Nogales. Arriving to our ranchito was uneventful-lots of unpacking and cleaning.
We're looking forward to our first morning in the desert.

Check out our digs...the Ranchito.


Wednesday, July 6

Nogales 2011 Chew and View
Great conversations tonight- beginning to delve into questions like "Why do people migrate to the US?," and "What happens to the families and communities that are left behind?"
Check out this fantastic documentary: http://www.theothersideofimmigration.com/

We missed Maddy, but know she's having a blast in Barcelona!
...departure in T-11 days.