Yesterday, we awoke to the sounds of music and children playing in the streets. It was particularly loud because yesterday is the day that the people of Mexico celebrate Mother’s Day. This is a very important day in Mexico. This became clear to us as we observed the festivities throughout the day. Flowers were being sold on the side of the road, families were seen celebrating together and “Feliz dia de las madres” (Happy Mother’s Day) was said many times throughout the day.
We began our day by going to Tiribichi, the city dump. There we met Doña Petras and Jose in addition to others who lived in the dump. In talking with these people we learned that they made their living by going through the garbage and looking for things that can be recycled or sold. Jose told us that a large bag of recyclable plastics would be worth about $1.25, hardly enough to make a fair living on. There are approximately 70 families that live in the dump. Doña Petras is considered to be one of the highly respected elders in the community. People come to her when they are in need of medication and other care. Our group was shocked by these peoples living situations, especially when we looked over the valley and observed the contrast between the homes of those who lived in other parts of Nogales.
We then stopped at Grupos Beta. Grupos Beta is a program that works to help migrants who have just been deported to settle back into life in Mexico, or to prepare migrants who are planning to cross the border for the long journey that awaits them. It was here that we got to talk with people and learn their individual migration stories. One man, named Haroldo, was preparing the cross the border however after hearing the trials of fellow migrants, he was reconsidering. Others had just been deported that morning and some had even travelled from Honduras in hopes that they would find a better job in the United States.
Our afternoon consisted of returning to HEPAC and enjoying a few hours of free time. Many of us chose to read, journal, connect with home, and catch up on some sleep. After a restful afternoon, we drove to downtown Nogales to spend some time shopping. Then we went to La Salida Restaurant where we enjoyed another wonderful Mexican meal.
We then drove down to the border wall to join in a vigil for Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez. Jose Antonio was a young man who was shot and killed by border patrol. The details of his death are fuzzy because the American government refuses to release the surveillance videos. The Americans claim that Jose Antonio was throwing rocks at the border patrol, so they shot him because they felt that he was putting them in danger. These facts in addition to others, paint a blurry picture as to why Jose Antonio was killed.
Our group joined members of his family and friends at the location where he was shot. Stories were told to bring hope to those who had been effected by Jose Antonio’s death and to provide encouragement that one day the border wall would be a place of peace where people could gather together, instead of a place that separates them. The vigil ended with the whole group singing “No nos moveran”.
(The group organizing these vigils, on the 10th of every month have a Facebook page where you can learn more about Jose and the 48 other cases like it, of individuals killed by the border patrol and presence of the wall. It is called “border patrol victims network”: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Border-Patrol-Victims-Network-Red-de-Victimas-de-la-Patrulla-Fronteriza/452623394841164)