May 14th on the border of Agua Prieta,MX and Douglas, USA

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Wednesday, we spent the day in Agua Prieta, hosted by Frontera de Christo, their programs and the many volunteers and participants who take part in them. Agua Prieta is a city that extends up to the Mexico side of the border wall, with Douglas, AZ directly on the other side. In many ways it seems much like Nogales, one big city split by a wall and a border, and a lot of security. Here we met Frontera de Christo staff who live and work on both sides. An interesting choice to be intentional and inviting in their ministry which takes place on both sides with individuals and families on both sides who are not able to cross to the other.

On a related interesting note; This morning as we left Agua Prieta for Tucson, we waited in line for an hour in “rush hour traffic”, which is really traffic trying to cross the border to get themselves to work, or their kids to school. There are families that live on one side and go to school and/or work on the other. They cross the wall every day. We witnessed children being dropped off for school in Mexico, walking across a school crosswalk, to show their passport and enter into the USA in order to get to school. A very different reality from my own.

The following blog post is long, but it runs through our time in Agua Prieta, arriving May 13th and spending the day on the 14th.

Agua Prieta – Part 1: by Karla
We began our day at cafe Justo, where we learned about direct trade coffee. We learned not only how coffee is grown and processed, but also the difficulties the coffee farmers face in Chiapas. Cafe Justo is a coffee co-op that was made by twenty families and is now thirty. The company is able to provide their workers with a decent wage and benefits. We had the opportunity to watch coffee beans get roasted in a special machine. It was fascinating to watch and the aroma smelled heavenly. It further inspired us to purchase some of their coffee. We learned that buying 1 pound of coffee supports 13 children and their families. Ten dollars for 1 pound we figured, why not! While we are in Chiapas; we look forward to meeting some of these families, and wonder what stories they have to tell.

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Agua Prieta – Part 2
Over lunch we visited DouglaPrieta Works, a community centre where Families come me together to farm and learn about sustainable farming practices in hue he Sonora Dessert. They have sewing classes where they sell bags and other items in the community and to visitors like ourselves, and cooking classes where they share with one another, how to use the vegetables they grow. Lucky for us they are successful. We enjoyed a delicious lunch of tamales and beans, and fresh cantaloupe juice! Muy Rico!

Agua Prieta – Part 3: Jolene
In the afternoon we went to the Migrant Resource Center, which started in 2006. They deal with lateral retribution meaning people are deported to a different place then where they entered, this is meant to make it harder for them to get back home. This Centre has 60% lateral retribution. They offer migrants an orientation, water, food and anything else they may need. They tell the participants the dangers of crossing and what to bring when they do, ex: healthy food, matches, etc.

Agua Prieta – Part 4: Davida
Border Infrastructure Tour with Mark Adams

We departed from Frontera de Cristo’s office which is about nine blocks away from the USA/Mexican border fence on the American side. Mark has lived ‘on both sides of the border’ in Douglas and Aguaprieta since 2000. We were able to learn a wealth of knowledge from him as he has first hand experience with living on both sides of the border and what that means for residence and more specifically his family. For instance, his family home is on the Mexican side, but he works on both (primarily the USA side), his daughter babysits and goes to school on the USA side while his wife works on the Mexican.

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He told us a bit about the history of this area and the implications of different events that happened around 1994: NAFTA, Hold the Line, Operation Gate Keeper (and other region specific immigration laws to ‘protect the border’). At the same time as immigration was largely being prohibited the USA, during the 1990s, the USA had an increase in need for labour. With all this said and done, the Aguaprieta/Douglas border area became a major place for illegal migration.

As we drove about 4 miles down the border fence we had the 15 foot fence on our one side and the open dessert on the other. As we drove Border Patrol trucks, quads and dirt bikes were spotted throughout the dessert area searching for migratns. It was a very surreal site to see.

Agua Prieta – Part 5: Jolene
The final event we did last night was to serve and have dinner at the CAME (Centro de Atencion a Migrante Exodo), it’s a centre for migrants to eat and sleep. We were there to serve and eat a meal with the participants. The first encounter was with a man who was taken a back as to why we where there. After explaining that we wanted to listen and take stories back home to make people aware of the border issues we all sat down for a meal. My experience was wonderful! At first Davida, Sandra and I made as much small talk in broken english and spanish as possible with Sandra interpreting. They’re eyes lit up after I offered to teach them Spanish if they would teach us English. Time flew by as we went over simple phrases back and forth. Soon a few more joined us and we were all laughing and exclaiming “Bien, Bien!” (Good, good) when they replied in English. It was quite the contrast from the beginning of the meal to the end. All in all it was a good experience for everyone, as we were able to talk about families and each others lives other then migration. We left laughing with each other and shaking hands, it was wonderful. Back at our accommodations, Tito made the best guacamole and we enjoyed a quiet evening looking at pictures of the trip. Thank you all for your prayers!

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