Tag Archives: kino

Obviously the Outsider

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Photo of cacti.

Being uncomfortable is the worst. That desire to crawl out of your skin and go hide somewhere no one can see you.

As I reflect on the trip, a lot of good memories and feelings come to mind. But when I really take the trip apart, and think about everything situation we were in , I’m reminded of the number of times I felt out of place.

In a sense, crossing the border each day was like entering into Narnia. Walking through the wall was like walking into the wardrobe. We very seamlessly went from one world into another.

The signs changed from English to Spanish, instead of McDonalds we saw fast food chains like Pollo Feliz, little pastel houses sprinkled the hills, men wondered the streets selling gum and cold treats.

Bienvenido a Mexico.

The first time I felt uncomfortable was at the comedor. As migrants walked in, the Kino volunteers welcomed them each with a handshake and hello, and then sat them at a table. As the small room quickly filled up, volunteers scurried to put food on the table and make sure everyone had a place to sit.

Saying I felt uncomfortable at the comedor feels silly, because the comedor really was a place that welcomed everyone. But I felt awkward in the sense that I didn’t need to be there, I was helpless, I was in the way.

I realized very quickly how poor my Spanish was. All I wanted to do was have a small conversation with the some of the migrants, make a small connection, get to know them and their story. After all, that’s what we were here to do. It was difficult watching them laugh or talk with each other, and to not be able to understand what it was they were laughing at.

I again felt this sense of being out of place in walking through the streets of Nogales, Mexico. We might as well have tattooed “American” on our foreheads and worn Hawaiian shirts because of how much we stuck out like cookie-cutter tourists. With our cameras, tripods and adventure pants, caravanning together up and down the streets, it was very clear that we weren’t locals. Heads turned, storeowners welcomed us into their shops and one man sitting on a bench yelled out “Americans! What are you doing here? Are you lost?”

Lastly, sitting in the courtroom to witness Operation Streamline in action felt very abnormal. I mentioned in a previous  post how it was difficult to have the shackled migrants look you in the eye. You could sense they were confused as to why we were there, watching them as they were prosecuted. I assume they were humiliated that we were watching.

I guess that a lot of the discomfort in these situations stemmed from very unmistakenly being the outsider. It made me think a little bit about how the migrant must feel when they first come to America. Unwelcomed, unfamiliar, obviously the outsider.

I think an even greater part of the discomfort came from feeling like I was there to view these people and their lifestyle for my entertainment. So badly I wanted to express that I wanted to help them. That we weren’t the bad guy. That we understood where they were coming from, or if we didn’t fully, we wanted to.

A22

I know his name, but I won’t say it.

They know their names, but won’t say them.

When I interviewed Fr. Neeley, who used to work in detention centers, he told me that the guards would call migrants by letters and numbers. According to Fr. Neeley, dehumanizing migrants made it easier to mistreat them. For me, this was one of the most disturbing moments of the interview. I couldn’t imagine categorizing another human to avoid my own reality.

For this blog, I will do just that. I will tell the story of a migrant that I met and only call him by A22. I want to prove to myself and to the readers, how uncomfortable and disgusting this practice really is.

I had just finished cleaning up the evening meal at the comedor. Almost all of the men and women whom I encountered during dinner spoke Spanish. I communicated with a smile, service and a lot of Spanglish. I was surprised when A22 approached me and even more surprised when he spoke perfect English. A22 wanted the proper translation of an English word for his friend and asked for my help. Somehow A22 and I went from speaking about synonyms to telling his story. Right away, I could tell that A22 just wanted to be heard, and so I listened.

A22 came to the country when he was just 13 years old on a temporary visa. He stayed when it expired and started to make a life for himself in Arizona. He fell in love and had a son with his American girlfriend. After his son was born, his girlfriend became a drug addict. A22 told me that the plan had always been to marry her to become a real family and to also earn his citizenship.

“People always ask me why I didn’t just marry her. I know I wouldn’t have been deported if I did, but I couldn’t. The drugs took over her life. It ruined our relationship and it ruined her role as a mother. I wasn’t going to do that to my son. I wasn’t going to be that stereotype,” said A22.

At this point in A22’s story, I was almost in tears. The far right likes to believe that Mexicans are all criminals who will cheat the system to enter the country. A22 was a perfect example of how this idea is untrue. There are people with citizenship who do not have the moral compass that A22 holds; his girlfriend is a great example.

A22 won full custody of his son and split from his girlfriend. After some time, A22 made, what he called, a human mistake. He got back together with his girlfriend. His girlfriend became pregnant again and, according to A22, she continued to do drugs during the pregnancy. A22 told me that she was receiving the drugs from her brother.

“I made a mistake. I was so angry with her and her brother. This is my kid that she was hurting. She wouldn’t stop. He kept giving her drugs. I tried to warn him. She was killing my child. I had to do something,” said A22.

A22 assaulted his girlfriend’s brother, was charged with a felony and was deported in April.

“I just want a second chance. Why don’t I get a second chance? Is it because I’m brown? Is it because I’m different? I tried to tell the judge I was protecting my family, but he didn’t listen. Why does she get to keep our kids and I have to leave? I don’t get it,” said A22.

A22’s first son is now in the mother’s custody. His second son was born with Down syndrome and a missing limb because of his mother’s drug abuse. A22 has never met him.

A22 has been in Nogales for about a month. A22 shares an apartment with other migrants and has a job that only pays him about $10 a week. A22 is developing a case with a social worker to return to the country and raise his sons. It could take six to twelve months to process.

 

A22 is important.

A22 is real.

A22 is human.

 

Our Chat in the comedor
Our chat in the comedor

The Dividing Line

Due to our very long and rigorous schedule, I find myself behind on posting my blogs. As soon as something happens during the day I write it down  in my notebook, but as soon as I think about writing the post for the blog, something even more amazing occurs. So please bear with me as I try and explain the current hectic and crazy happenings that are occurring in my brain.

 Tuesday was a really hard and difficult day. We got up at 4:00 a.m. in order to get some broll of the sunset in Nogales. It was a beautiful event to witness. I’ve never gotten up early to watch the sunrise and watching the sun peak up over the corner of the mountains and on the wall was a beautiful experience to witness.
It was interesting to see the actual physical presence of the wall that divides these two countries. But, when I look out at the sunset, all I see is the warmth and joy that is the sun and for those moments, it seems as thought there is no current crisis involving a country that deserves the same basic and natural rights as any human being.
The rest of the day consisted of going to the women shelter, lunch in Nogales, interviews and a walk through Nogales.
I have never felt like a minority in my life. That was the first time I’ve felt out of place in the world and that I didn’t belong. I felt ashamed, embarrassed and scared of who I am and where I came from. That moment of walking through Nogales was one of the first times I’ve felt ashamed and mad at myself for having the life I have.
After we left the commodore, we went to have lunch. In order to get there we took the bus. We all stumbled onto the bus and filled it with our equipment. People from Nogales stared at us just as much as we stared at them. I struggled to make eye contact with those on the bus. I didn’t want to encroach on their environment anymore that I already felt I had. The next individual who boarded the bus was a disheveled looking man. He was caring some of his few belongings in a plastic baggy. He began to ask the occupants of the bus for money.
I watched as many of my fellow students avoided eye contact with the man.  I struggled with what I should do. There was this internal struggle to help the man but to also pretend like I was invisible and I couldn’t see the man and that he couldn’t see me. Later during our evening reflection, we talked about the bus ride. The man went up and talked to Nico. He asked him to translate into English that he needed money. Nico replied that we had no pesos. The man was persistent and continued to ask Nico to ask us for money.
During our reflection, Nico told us his thoughts and feelings he was left with after the bus encounter. He asked us why we acted as thought the man did not seem to exist to us. Why do we treat some individuals who we’ve never met with care and compassion and others with little to no love or care? Where do we make the distinction? I know Nico’s asking of the question wasn’t to make us feel bad or ashamed of what happened, but I did. I felt pretty ashamed of being American.
I know that I will have more experiences with this kind of feeling or interactions. I am wondering what the solution is . I know that there is no easy solution or easy answer to any of this.
I like to think of myself as a very compassionate and giving person, but for what reason did I treat this man as though he should be ignored? I am thinking that maybe it was because he made me uncomfortable, because he was asking for money or because he was dirty. All of these could be reasons for me wanting to not look at him. But If him and I are both on this bus, both trying to do our best in life, then why didn’t I allow him to feel as though he was important.
We are taught in our life that avoiding eye contact with an individual is a sign of disrespect. It is important to show eye contact so that people know that they are being heard. It allows you to make a deeper connection with a person.
Wednesday: blog post to come
Today we got to kind of relax. This was one of the first days that we actually got to do some touristy stuff. We went to the Old Jesuit Mission. It was very pretty and we got some of that b-roll. We also were able to take some photos of each other which was nice. Afterwards we went to this great place for lunch. It was muy delicioso. Our next adventure was a park where we just walked around. And then we took some more broll.
Tonight will be a night to relax and reflect. The trip thus far has been extremely difficult but also very rewarding. It has been great getting to know this wonderful group of people. I am absolutely dreading going back to Omaha. I find myself even now as I am lying on my inflatable mattress that I was at the commodore. I wish I could be there helping in any way I can. But for now, I will take in the relaxing day and get ready for another eventful day in Nogales.

 

 

 

My one and only, Alyson Schreck and I running down the stairs trying to get the b-roll
My one and only, Alyson Schreck and I running down the stairs trying to get the b-roll