Tag Archives: nogales mexico

The Best

I cannot believe this is my final post. It’s weird that this officially means it’s all over and it’s really weird to reflect on the experience and consider what it all means to me now and what it will all mean to me in the future.

There was so much I learned and I think I covered a lot of that but one thing I haven’t really talked about it how grateful I am to have been a part of such a wonderful project with such a wonderful group. I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on the deeper aspects of the project, but we had a lot of fun too.

Living in a small house with 16 people can either be really fun or just the worst and it was really fun. We danced while making dinner, we danced while doing dishes, we played ridiculously specific rounds of mafia.

We also met so many incredible and interesting people. One night we went for dinner and margaritas in Mexico with a lawyer who was prosecuting for a family whose 15 year old son was shot on Mexican soil by an American guard on the border. His son and his son’s friend were there as well, both had family in both the Nogales, Arizona and the Nogales, Sonora side. The level that these two cities and their cultures are intertwined is truly astounding, especially when you see this massive iron structure sneaking between the two.

We also met a priest named Father Peter Neely who had been living in Nogales for some time and was extremely intelligent and well versed on the issues. Some of my most profound understandings came from talking with him. He introduced to some ranchers who own a massive ranch right on the border and have hours of footage of cartel members carrying huge packs of drugs through their land.

There were just so many layers and so much to take in, but having people there going through the same experiences who you could laugh with and cry with was something truly special.

One of my favorite times spent with everyone was when we went to a lake in Arizona, near Nogales. We spent the day swimming and A.J. (aka the group’s “dad”) cooked us all burgers and hotdogs (burgers and water–my two favorite things).

Later that night, some of stayed to fly the drone and play soccer. John called us over, saying he was going to teach us to meditate. So, approximately 10 of us sat down on the ground in a classic meditative position (legs crossed, hands palm-up on your knees) facing the water. At this point, the beach was still pretty crowded; people were boating and swimming, and it was probably a pretty funny (or super creepy) sight to see 10 people sitting in that position, dead still and dead silent, eyes closed, for 10 minutes straight.

That didn’t really occur to us until we heard a little kid in the water yell, “Mom, what are those people doing? They look so creepy!”

So, yeah, there were a lot of those funny moments throughout the trip which just made it so enjoyable and I feel like, right now, that’s what I’m holding onto. The profound experiences I had and the things we learned are things that will take more time for me to process, but I have no trouble saying I had the best time with the best group at the best school.

Getting tacos together for John's birthday.
Getting tacos together for John’s birthday.

Distractions

Being back on the ranch was really tough for me in a new way than any problems I ran into on the actual trip itself. I think the hardest thing about being back on the ranch was that I was “back” meaning my life was back to its full array of distractions. Friends had returned to Omaha, I was working on moving into my house, getting a car, and starting at my new job. With all these distractions, it was easy to feel like because the physical trip was over my responsibility to the project was over as well.

However, as we got further into the editing process and we began to watch our story come alive, I again became exhilarated and focused on the task at hand. But then, I would go home or go to work and again be distracted by a whole variety of things that didn’t exist while we were back in Nogales living in one space together, always focused on what we could contribute to the project next.

I think this process of distraction and refocusing was a good one to have immediately after the trip because it made me cognizant of that loss of focus whereas if I would’ve just come home and done nothing with the trip, I would have immediately sunk back into my routine without any sort of immediate reflection on the trip and what it meant to me. This way, I was not only forced to stay focused on what I’d learned, but I was also able to help put something together that will allow other people to get a glimpse of that experience as well.

Additionally, I’ve learned now how quickly I can get distracted, and I don’t want that for myself. I want this trip to always be on the back of my mind when I’m navigating my life in the larger scheme of things.

Putting together the storyline for our documentary.

Action and Inaction

A few days ago, I found myself getting really frustrated.
We were interviewing a retired defense attorney and passionate activist for immigration rights, Isabel Garcia, and she gave us so much to think about. “I wish all of America could have been in there,” someone said.
I 100% agreed. I, too, wish all of America could have been there. Instead, her audience was made up of a select number of people who already cared enough about immigration to seek these answers. The people who need to listen to people like Isabel Garcia or, more importantly, the people who need to visit the comedor and look onto the faces of humans hurt by poor policy, misplaced fear, and discriminatory hatred, aren’t going to seek those answers. The people already asking the questions are the people ready to hear the answers.
Think about how information is disseminated today: largely through social media. I get most of my news through my Twitter and Facebook feeds based on what publications I follow. I read, watch, and share articles that are consistent with my own world views.
John Oliver’s HBO segment “Donald Drumpf” had a record breaking 85 million views. In my opinion, that segment was brilliant. I think everyone who supports Trump should watch it. This goes for a variety of good articles I have read on him as well. However, I know the people watching and reading articles and videos that substantially oppose and dispute much of what makes him popular are people  who, like me, are probably not supporting him anyways.
Similarly, while I think everyone who opposes immigration should come to the border and look at the issue firsthand, or at least watch our video with an open mind, I know that’s probably not likely.
This realization hit me hard. Could the people who call migrants criminals and demand they all be deported look Pepe in the eyes and tell him he does not deserve to meet his 7 month old son? Could they look a migrant in the eye who has lost his leg from diabetes because his medicine was taken from him by border patrol and say ‘You deserve to be dehumanized.’? Could they they look a man who has lived and worked in the United States his entire life and doesn’t know a soul in Mexico and say ‘You don’t belong in my country.’? Could they look the mother of a 15 year old girl who lost her life on the journey north in the eyes and say “Your daughter was a criminal.’?
In the midst of this frustration, I talked with someone who made me consider an important point. Before this trip, I was not anti-immigration. I did not believe in the wall. However, there was a lot I didn’t understand and a lot I hadn’t considered on either side of the debate. The 11 other students I’m here with have expressed similar sentiments.
When we were interviewing Isabel Garcia, we asked her what, if anything, gave her hope for the future of immigration reform. She said she saw hope in our generation. The responsibility falls on us, and she believes someday we’ll look back at our current system and wonder how we could have ever let it get this bad.
I think there is a lot of truth to this. Although we might not be able to illicit change dramatically enough to completely shift a person’s worldview, we can educate people who don’t fully understand the issues but are open to learning. While many people are stuck in their ways, many more people, such as the 12 students who signed up to take a 24 hour van ride to the border of Mexico, knowing little to nothing about the issues at hand, are willing to learn. It’s those people who will hopefully be moved by our project and inspired to take action.
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Setting up the shoot for Isabel Garcia’s interview.

A Human Being

Today I met a man while visiting the Kino Border Initiative’s Comedor in Nogales, Mexico. The Comedor is a place where migrants who have been deported back to Mexico can go to get a couple of hot meals twice a day, as well as any other help and assistance that they may need. It’s a place of refuge for those who have no where else to turn after they’ve lost everything, and it’s filled with volunteers who care greatly about each individual and do their best to make them feel important. The inside of the Comedor is covered with posters that all start with “Tengo derecho a…”, stating the rights that everyone in that room deserves to have. The people who work at KBI do everything they can to make sure those who were deported understand they have these rights, and help them share their stories of the trials they’ve faced resulting in them being back in Mexico.

The entrance into Mexico in Nogales, with the Kino Border Initiative Comedor located to the bottom left underneath the sign
The entrance into Mexico in Nogales, with the Kino Border Initiative Comedor located to the bottom left underneath the sign

Today I had a conversation with someone who kindly pulled me off to the side away from another conversation I was listening to. The first thing he said to me wasn’t to ask my name, or to ask how I was doing. Instead, the first thing he did was shake my hand, look me in the eyes, and ask: “Are you a Christian?” I was somewhat caught off guard by this question, not expecting this to be the beginning of our conversation. I hesitated for a moment in answering him: I haven’t been a practicing Catholic since I was in middle school, and even then I never really considered myself a devout Christian. But given the fact that this was the very first thing this man asked me, I knew he must care deeply about his faith, and was looking for someone to discuss the matter.

Today I lied to man about my faith and answered him with a smile: “Yes, I am a Christian.” He immediately began to confide in me, and we dove into conversation for the next several minutes. His name was Francisco, and he had been in Nogales for the past 2 weeks. He was separated from his wife Roxanne, who was stilling living in the United States, about 3 months ago after he was detained and deported back to Mexico. His son, Daniel, is currently living with his sister in a city 8 hours away from Nogales, and hasn’t seen him in awhile either; he missed his 7th birthday in the middle of April, and wished that he could have been there to see him. His son will be taken to his wife later in the month, since he has all of his legal documents, as does everyone else in his family but him.

Today I saw the personification of determination in Francisco. Despite everything that has happened to him, he kept assuring me that he would see his wife and son again. “I know I’ll get my paperwork soon, and I can see my family again. I know it’s possible with God.” He asked me to pray for him and his family, and to keep them all in my thoughts. He also told me to pray for everything else in this similar situation. “I’m not the only one going through this; there are so many others that are going through different things, and they all have their own story.” And he was right: just earlier in the Comedor we heard stories of other migrants who were just recently deported and what had happened to them. Some tried to hitch rides on a train but fell off, almost dying. Some tried to walk through the desert, only to be detained after the grueling journey defeated them with dehydration and exhaustion. All different people with different stories and different backgrounds.

Today I heard but one example out of hundreds of thousands of stories about the hardships migrants face when it comes to finding a better life. I saw how much his faith mattered to him that he would ask me, someone he believed to be a Christian, to pray for not just him, but for all other migrants facing the many different facets of injustice. I admired his devotion to his religion, that he can have so much faith in God and still be so optimistic to see his family again, and ask of others to have faith in his mission as well.

Today I prayed for a man after years of not practicing any religion, in genuine hope that he will see his family again.

Today I met one man out of so many others who just want to reach a better life across the border.

Today I met a human being.

Anticipation

Remember when you were little and you had that funny and slightly funny and scary feeling in your stomach on Christmas Eve? Well that is exactly how I feel as begin my 4 week adventure to Nogales, Arizona/Mexico.

Hi. How are you (yes Mom I’m having fun, it’s only been two days, I’ll text you…) My name is Maria Fagerland and I am from West Des Moines, Iowa. I am a senior at Creighton University in the Journalism Department on the Advertising track. I hope to either join JVC or America Corps for a couple of years after graduation and then do advertising for non profits.

Backpack journalism was first introduced to me at Creighton in my very first journalism class with Dr. Wirth. She mentioned it just in passing, but I remember pulling out my laptop in the middle of class (which she didn’t like) and I began to read pages and pages of blogs post from the previous trips. As I finally worked my way through past students triumphs and failures I found myself waiting in anticipation til I finally had the chance to be apart of this amazing trip.

I felt a physical pull toward this. Every part of my body told me that if I didn’t do this, I would be missing out on a huge and potentially life changing experience. In order to learn more I talked to Carol Zuegner (one of the professors in charge). We sat down in her office and she just talked to me about her past experiences on the trip and the a ha moments that she has had.

I found myself holding back tears because I couldn’t wait to have those feelings of clarity or to be apart of something so incredible with 11 other students. I mean who gets to say that they get to film a documentary in college with some of their best friends? I know I am very lucky to be apart of this and I can’t wait to see how we all will be after this.

I hope to be the voice for the voiceless and to shed some personal and real light on the current political tension and controversy. I am anxious to see what it is like at the border and what type of conditions we will be witnessing. I am nervous to be that up close and personal with those directly affected by the border.  But I do know I will somehow be able to get through it. This prayer has personally helped in times of uncertainty and anxiety:

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

Day 1:

I woke up at 6:00 a.m. Fellow backpacker, Aly Schreck and I walked (backpacked) from our apartments to the first day of class to reflect and talk about our fears and hopes.

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The rest of the day consisted of “bootcamp” and lectures. It was a packed first day, but I enjoyed it immensely. Can’t wait for day 2. Stay up to date with all of our blogs during the next couple of weeks!