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 José Antonio Place. José 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,