Debrief:

Well it is the last night here in Tucson! We have been here in Tucson since Friday doing some debrief and spending some time with Luzdy, the MCC West Coast representative. On Friday we did a 12 km walk through the desert with Scott from HEPAC. It was an eye opening experience, and was really meaningful to walk where the migrants have walked before us. We left some water and food care packages for the migrants, and then continued on to Tucson. We have spent time together as a team talking about the things that we have learned and spending time encouraging each other as well. This morning we attended Shalom Mennonite Church. We had lunch after church with another group from all over North America and Colombia. They are starting a migrant walk tomorrow where they will walk 75 miles over the course of a week. The idea is not for them to recreate the experience of the migrants, but to walk in solidarity with them. We had a time of sharing with both groups, and it was neat to hear what they had been learning and experiencing during their time on the Northern border as well. Tonight Tito (from HEPAC) and Luzdy taught us some Salsa dancing, and other dancing moves, and we had a lot of fun laughing together (and perhaps at each other…). We have also enjoyed great food, Tim and Luzdy’s hospitality, some time in the sun, and at the pool, and catching up on some much needed sleep as well 🙂 The last few days in Tucson have been great, but we are all ready to come back to Canada tomorrow. See you all in one more sleep!!
Erin

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More Northern Border Photos!

   

Visiting the Kino Border Initiative in Nogales. We helped serve a meal to migrants and participated in some fun activities. 

    

The border wall. 

 

Mark Adams from Frontera de Cristo sharing about the border wall and the history behind migration. We are on the US side of the border in Douglas, AZ. 

The group on the border. 

   

Visiting Cafe Justo in Agua Prieta. This coffee cooperative is addressing some of the root causes to migration by providing employment and decent wages. 

 

  
          

Freshly roasted!

    

We visited Doulga Prieta for lunch and a tour of the garden. This cooperative involves gardening, English classes, and sewing.  These baby chicks were at the garden!  

  

   

The group hiked 12km in the Sonoran desert with Scott, a long-term missionary with HEPAC. We took food and water to the US/Mexico border in the desert for migrants who frequently take this route. Many migrants die trying to cross the desert because of the extreme weather conditions and lack of proper necessities. This is a long journey. The Sonoran Samaritan and the Green Valley Samaritans often bring food and water to strategic locations in the desert to offer humanitarian assistance to peoples on the move.

   

This Ziplock bag once included a pair of socks, granola/protein bars, canned food, bandaids, and a comb. Last week, Scott brought many packages to this border and we saw that they had been used by peoples on the move.

  The food and water we left on the border. 

  

Douglas/Agua Prieta

Today we set out for Douglas, Arizona. It was about a two hour drive through the desert. We drove through a town called Tombstone, where most Western movies are made. We then drove through an area that had a Copper Mine. When we got to Douglas we had lunch at a CafĂ© that supports a coffee organization called CafĂ© Justo (you’ll learn about that later). The food was really good as well. After lunch there was a presentation with the Mexican Consulate in Douglas and a tour of the Consulate office.

 Next we went to Frontera de Cristo and had a presentation with them. They partner with many churches along the border and help migrants in various ways, they also have Micro Credit for people to start their own business. After the presentation we walked along the border that divides the United States from Mexico with Mark, a guide from Frontera de Cristo. Some of the stories that Mark told us about the wall were how people use seat belts to bring themselves over the wall. They use seat belts because they are easy to find in Agua Prieta (there is a seatbelt factory there) and they are stronger than rope. People often cut holes in the wall big enough for small trucks to fit through. The trucks that go through usually carry drugs. They have done many things to get drugs across the border. They use canons and catapults for bags and ramps for vehicles. The wall right across from town is double-walled for more security reasons. It was very interesting to see and hear about the wall. It also feels very different being on the U.S. side of the wall. It felt like you were looking into a cage with Mexico on the other side. 

 We then went for supper at the home of two retired Mennonite pastors, Jack and Lynda. Jack and Lynda still work heavily in the area of peace building along the wall, they even bought another house and called it Shalom House. The Shalom House is where people who come to visit and learn about the wall often stay. Sometimes they house migrants who are waiting to get papers. Once they also housed a Border Patrol Agent who was in training. The food was really good. Something that stuck out to me from what they were saying during supper was “we have to do the opposite of violence and the opposite of violence is not non-violence, but hospitality.” That is something that I have never really thought about before and I think that is going to stick with me for a long while. 

More to come, 

Tonja

Nogales, Mexico

Yesterday was our first full day in Nogales. We are staying at a community centre called HEPAC, “Home of Hope and Peace”. It’s a place that started by one woman feeding kids that her own children brought home and eventually grew too large for her own kitchen. Now they have a building where they feed children lunch everyday, offer classes for adults, and also skill building classes for people in many different trades. It was very inspiring to hear how the compassion of one woman turned into something big; one person can make a difference.

Our journey here started with quite a shock to our group, visiting a Maquiladora (Legacy) that had closed its doors to workers after a long weekend. It’s hard for any of us to imagine what that would be like. After working at a place for 15-20 years to just lose your job with no pay or notice. Some of the workers are still there, trying to sell the equipment and contact the factory owners.

After this we visited the JosĂ© Antonio Place. JosĂ© Antonio was 16 years old when he was shot multiple times by a border patrol agent who shot from the U.S. into Nogales, Sonora on October 10, 2012. After more than one investigation by the FBI, the family has still received no justice for this murder. 
We then went to a place near the border itself, where migrants are usually dropped off after being deported. The Kino Border Initiative is a organization that feeds migrants twice a day and also collects their information in the hopes that if they had been traveling with someone who had also been deported, they would be able to reconnect these people to each other. We had a brief intro to what they do then helped them serve lunch. It was awesome to see how intentional they were with the way they treated the migrants. They talked about how dehumanizing the deportation process is, being held in jail, many people don’t speak English and also are not aware of their rights so they often don’t get treated well. Most of the people who went there to eat were men, they came in and sat down, we served them, brought around seconds, and as much drink as they wanted. Like being at a restaurant. Some of the guys spoke English a little bit and talked with us, some of them asked simple questions in Spanish (my name and where I was from), and a few of them tried to teach me more Spanish. It was great. I personally really enjoy taking the time to talk with them and just hang out casually, even if our conversation is limited.
Today we went to Denticom, another Maquiladora where people make dentures, partials, that sort of stuff. It was one of the better ones in the area, with well trained and well paid employees, with a very low rate of job loss within the company due to the benefits provided. 
After that we went to visit with some local artists. Guadalupe Serrano partnered with Diego Taddei came together to creat the name Taller Yonke. The two artists work mainly on murals and sculptures dedicated to reclaiming public spaces for the education of youth and society about topics like racism, migration, and compassion. The group had an art piece on the wall by the Jose Antonio place we visited before. They also painted a mural on HEPAC. 
We were then treated to dinner at Gloria’s house (a woman who works in the kitchen at HEPAC). Everyone makes guacamole here. I swear we’ll eat it every night here. No complaints. Afterward we traveled to the San Juan Bosco Shelter, (the shelter where most of the people we fed at the Kino place stay) where we had a chance to break into groups of three and chat more with some people. We started with names, where we are from, and what brought us to the shelter (for both of us). It was interesting to learn a little more about who they are and why they were trying to get to the U.S. When I asked who had already tried to cross the border everyone but one boy raised their hand. All of them said they had family on the other side they had either been separated from (they got deported but their family stayed) or that they haven’t seen in many years. It’s really hard to imagine. Staying in one country while half your family goes to another. One boy hadn’t seen his mother or sisters for 12 years. 
This trip has been amazing so far. Almost done, still so much to tell you all,
Katrina

Some Nogales Photos

 On May 16th we flew from Mexico City to Pheonix, Arizona. We then drove from Pheonix (with our healthy McDonald’s supper)  to Tucson with Tito from HEPAC. In Tucson, we picked up Luzdy from MCC West Coast and together we travelled to Nogales, Sonora to settle in to HEPAC community centre. Our last portion of Uprooted will focus on the border between Mexico and the United State and the communities who live in these borderlands. 

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This is one of the largest communities in Nogales. Most of the people in this community work in the U.S. factories located next door. 

  

This factory (and all of the workers) was abandonned by “Legacy.” We heard from one of the men who used to be employed by this company. He shared that they went away for the weekend, and when they returned the locks were changed and the company had left. The workers still have not received their severance. Many people have migrated north to Nogales because of the factories and the promise of employment from the Mexican government. However, there are many challenges for those working in these factories (including poor working conditions, low salaries, etc.).

  

The group learning about Jose Antonio, a Mexican boy who was shot and killed by Border Patrol in this location a couple years ago.

 

The group (and some new friends) at the border wall. 

   

Art on the wall. 

    

Visiting the University of Sonora.

 

Today we met with Taller Yonke (Junkyard Workshop), an organization who aims to reclaim public spaces for public art in Nogales. They made the art on the wall shown above. This was a very neat time to learn about those who want to make Nogales a more welcoming and beautiful place. These are some murals painted by Taller Yonke.

  

  

 Beautiful things grow in the desert. 

Mexico City

This week has been a week of exploring, meeting with people, and experiencing some of the history and culture that Mexico has to offer. Something I have been thinking about since orientation is how to have a well balanced trip. We talked before we left about how we would feel if someone came to Canada on a learning tour and just looked at everything that we feel vulnerable about in our country, such as First Nations relations or homelessness. That put our trip and our historical and cultural adventures this week into perspective for me. It made me realize the importance of learning more about Mexico and getting a broader perspective of the country, instead of just looking at the negative aspects of migration. This week we got to experience the Ballet Foklorico at the Palacio Bellas Artes. It was a beautiful performance of some traditional Mexican dances, and the dancers did a brilliant job. We also went to the pyramids of Teotihuacan and climbed the pyramid of the sun and the pyramid of the moon. Unfortunately we did not count the stairs, but my best guess is that it was over 400! It was a lot of time in the sun, and a few of us resemble lobsters just a bit more than when we left, but we had a blast exploring and climbing around on the ancient ruins. We also got to explore the Palacio Nacional, where the president sometimes stays in Mexico. It was an expansive building and we also got to see some of the murals of Diego Rivera inside that told some of Mexico’s history. We did a lot of walking and riding the metro, the metrobus, trains, and taxis in the city. I think we are all a lot more comfortable on public transportation after this section of the trip! One evening the metro was so full that there were literally people and limbs hanging out of each of the doors before they closed. We had to get six people onto the metro, so we split into groups of three, picked a door, and pushed our way on like we were told to. It was very squished and hot, but we did it, and I would say we are one step closer to being seasoned public transporters (is that a word?) in Mexico City. We also went to Casa Tochan, as Thomas mentioned in his blog, and learned more about migration. We watched a documentary called “de Nadie” and also visited another migrant shelter called Cafemin (calf-eh-meen). The documentary was very sad as it followed the true and sometimes tragic journeys of some Central American migrants. It was also hard to hear stories from some of the people at Casa Tochan, and to think of what they have experienced in their lives. I talked with two guys there who were migrating; one who was 23, and another who was only 17. I can’t imagine what they have experienced already before even reaching 25. I can’t speak for the whole group, but I was starting to feel discouraged and overwhelmed with the whole idea of migration. As Arturo said earlier in the week, migration is a huge issue stemming from so many root issues and involving so many countries that there is no easy solution.  

     Visiting Cafemin was a breath of fresh air for me. It was a large space, which was different than any of the places we had previously visited. It is a migrant shelter mostly for women and their families, but they also house some single men. They had all kinds of programs to teach the women to sew, bake, run computer programs, fix computers, make crafts to sell etc… They also had a clinic in the shelter where a doctor comes to offer services free of charge. It was neat to feel the hope that was so evident in the shelter. Some little girls came out and tried to sell us bracelets that they had made. We could not resist their super cute little faces, and many of us purchased some bracelets to support them. They were full of joy and hugs that warmed my heart. It was really neat to see a place making a difference in the lives of so many people.

 One of the women there, a migrant from Honduras who has been there for about two months, offered to share her story with us. It was a hard story about her and her family leaving their country because of the gangs’ threats to their children. They were robbed along the way and endured many hardships on their travels, but they had made it safely to Mexico city. They are currently awaiting asylum here. It was really hard to hear her story, but also encouraging. She kept saying that she is happy despite her circumstances, and glad to be safe. She talked about how her young boys keep asking to go home and how she misses her mom in Honduras. She also helps in the kitchen at Cafemin, and talked about how that is her way of giving back. She wants to give back what she can because the sisters at the shelter have helped her and her family so much. It was so encouraging to hear her story and to see the hope that she had and the attitude that she maintained despite her terrible circumstances. It was a visit that gave me hope.  

 Another glimmer of hope is the women called ‘Las Patronas’ who give food to migrants who pass by on the train (called “La Bestia). They don’t have much to give, but they give what they can when they can.  

 It is really encouraging to see people who are doing what they can to make a difference in the lives of others. I was also challenged to not feel overwhelmed about all that could be changed in the world, or to feel guilty for the situation I am in. All I can do is use what I have to affect others in a positive way to the best of my abilities. I don’t know what that looks like yet, but I intend to continue praying and asking God how I can apply the knowledge I have gained on this trip. He is the only one big enough to understand and deal with migration, and if I wait patiently, he will reveal what my role is in small amounts so that I do not become discouraged and paralyzed at the thought of what needs to be done.

Sorry about the length of this blog, being concise has never been my strength! More blogs and thoughts to come from Mexico City and the North.

Hasta luego, 

Erin

PS: prayers for health would be appreciated as there is some sickness going around the team, and some stomachs aren’t accepting food so well as of late. Thanks!

More Mexico City Photos

   

We stayed at Casa de los Amigos for our first two nights in Mexico City. This Casa is a space where people from all over the world can come together and live in harmony (including migrants and refugees). The Casa offers support for refugees and migrants in Mexico City.

 

  

Exploring Mexico City.

  

  

Some ancient ruins next to the Cathedral.

  

Inside the Palacio Nacional.

   

  

  

The Palacio Nacional in the background. 

  

Inside the Mexico City Cathedral.

    

  

We took a trip to Teotihuacan with MCC SALTer Katie who is serving in Mexico City. It was great to make a new friend! We really enjoyed exploring this ancient city and hiking up both the Pyramid of the Sun (in this picture) and the smaller Pyramid of the Moon.

  

   

This statue was recently put up in Mexico City. It represents the 43 kidnapped students and questions why the government has not given the public answers about their whereabouts. 

    
 

   

The group in front of the Monumento a la Revolutcion near Casa de os Amigos. We had the chance to take the glass elevator up the monument and enjoy the view from the top! 

   

We often used the city’s subway system for transportation. We have a list of all the methods of transportation we were able to experience (it may come to the blog soon…).

  

  

This is the Palacio Bellas Artes. This is where the group went to enjoy the Ballet Folklorico.

  

Some views of the city. 

  


  

Clementine with MCC Mexico and SALTer Katie taught us about MCC’s work.

  

A very powerful documentary on migration in Central America. We watched this to help us learn about the realities for migrants and all of the “actors” in the migration stories. 

  

Many of us were very impressed by CAFEMIN, a migrant shelter in Mexico City. This shelter supports both women with families and single men. We were most impressed by the amount of workshops and programs that the shelter offered. Migrating peoples could learn sewing, computer skills, cooking, etc. It is also a very colourful space with the paintings on the walls.