Tag Archives: Nogales

Started from the Bottom, Now We’re Here

I knew from the start that my passion for social justice was about to grow indefinitely. I was completely right. I have learned so much on this backpack journalism trip. 

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I’ve learned how to be a better photographer. I’ve become an amateur film maker. I’ve learned how to conduct interviews, set up cameras, make sure all of the chords are plugged into the right places, always have backup sound in case you forget a chord, converse with the interviewee, and edit the final product. I have learned how to capture a variety of shots in one setting so that I can edit them into one scene later. 

I’ve learned about the Avery Dulles’ Models of the Church. I was introduced to the many varieties of these models and how they can differ depending on the location of the Church. While I grew up in the Catholic Church, I never thought of the concept of the church being based on models. I also had this idea in my head that the Church was the same everywhere. I personally thought that everyone had the same old way of doing things. I became bored with the monotone masses I was attending and found myself not being able to relate to anything concerned with the church. In my time at Marian and Creighton, I have had my views altered and had them evolve. Avery Dulles, SJ, brought up a whole new dimension to the church in his book, Models of the Church. Before  I read this book, I saw the Church as more of an institution of old men and chanting people.

I believe that Dulles brought to mind some good points and recognized the disadvantages as well. It went hand and hand with our trip to Nogales. I assume that the knowledge will help me in the future as well. I wa able to learn more about the Church as well as myself and my position within the Church.

I read and watched a lot about Jon Sobrino, S.J. who is a liberation theologist. He discussed this idea of the Crucified People. 

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We are called to stand in solidarity with migrants who can easily be seen as a Crucified People. These are our neighbors that we are talking about here. Since we as Americans are the more privileged of the two, we are called to advocate for those who cannot. Both countries have a shared “faith that calls for a living and just world, not one that is ruined by violence and discrimination.” We followers of Christ, we must work and pray for the universal good.

My confidence in the subject of migration has evolved and although I am not a master, I am more educated. I know that I will be able to live differently by how I handle myself when encountering strangers. Everyone has their own cross to bear, their own hardships. It is not my place to turn a blind eye or judge them. Instead I will meet them where they are and walk with them as my brothers and sisters. 

Because of Backpack…

I anticipated that I would finish the five weeks with new knowledge of immigration, the ability to turn a camera on and other practical skills every journalism student should know. I had no idea that the knowledge would change me. I know, I know that it sounds incredibly cliché, but it’s true.

Because of Backpack… I am a seeker of truth.

Because of Backpack… I am margin traveler.

Because of Backpack… I am a listener.

Because of Backpack… I am a team player.

In my first blog, I wrote about how I am a “Yes Woman.” And even though I found this trip by saying no, it taught me that it is almost always right to say yes. By saying yes to the early morning B-roll, the extra interview, the longer explanation… I have learned so much and gained an incredible amount of confidence. It is Because of Backpack that I have grown as a writer, a film maker and as a friend. Saying yes, even to something that scared me, has been the greatest decision of my life.

Because of Backpack… I am thankful.

 

My teammates. My friends.
My teammates. My friends.

 

So, what is something I can do differently based upon what I learned? I can stop worrying about needing to say no and start embracing my love of yes.

For now,

Natalie

Piece by Piece

My comfort zone is located in several odd locations: any rollercoaster, local coffee shop, or airplane.

However, you won’t find it anywhere near spicy food.

You won’t find it by a scorpion.

You definitely won’t find it behind a camera.

After two weeks of hanging out with all of the above, it felt incredible to be welcomed back with words.

I was in my element in Hitchcock 203. The satisfaction of seeing the story sprawled out on the surface was spectacular. (Side note: I love alliteration. Can you tell?) I loved collaborating with my teammates and organizing our hundreds of pages of material. It was much harder than expected to make the cuts; I wish our movie could be a day long, but I don’t know any film festivals with that requirement.

Overall, I loved reading the interviews again. That’s when I knew we had something special, when I was excited to read an interview that I already knew by heart. The writing team would shout out great quotes from the transcript they were reading and we would all comment on how much we adored it. Praise for our people became a regular pastime in that room. I hope… No, I know that we will make them proud.

I have a wonderfully excited feeling about this film and I cannot wait for you to watch it.

The Piecing Process. PC: Carol
The Piecing Process. PC: Carol/Aly

More to come,

Natalie

If Memory Lane were a Photo Album…

When I studied abroad in Rome last year, one of my favorite professors forbid photographs. He would take us to the most beautiful churches in the world and go absolutely ballistic if he saw a student snap a photo.

Despite my initial annoyance, I learned how to appreciate whatever was in front of me (something very hard to do nowadays). Besides filming and updating the Snapchat, I didn’t take pictures during my time at the border.

Thankfully, my classmates did.

Here are some of my absolute favorite people/memories:

Lil' John. Our tour guide for the desert walk.
Lil’ John. Our tour guide for the desert walk.
Fr. Neeley and Daniela
Fr. Neeley and Daniela. Two awesome interviewees!
Desert walk selfie!
Desert walk selfie!
Some of the CUbackpack team
Some of the CU backpack team
Dinner/Dance Party!
Dinner/Dance Party!
Shrine in Tucson, Arizona
Shrine in Tucson, Arizona
Entrance to Mexico
Entrance to Mexico

(Photos do not belong to me)

10 Things I Never Hated

The border is a complicated and sometimes, intense place. One way to wind down after a long, heavy day was to hang out with my incredible Backpack family. While we were there to learn, we laughed a lot and made memories that I will smile about forever. In the style of one of my favorite movies, 10 Things I Hate About You, here are the 10 things that I “hated” about this experience:

 

  1. I hated stepping outside of my cooking comfort zone.
  2. I hated the way my dance moves looked on Snapchat.
  3. I hated losing my breath from laughing too hard on the long van rides.
  4. I hated the deflated beds that created so many jokes in our room.
  5. I hated being caught as a member of the “mafia” during our silly game.
  6. I hated how my classmates cheated at Tenzi.
  7. I hated the way we all looked out for each other.
  1. I hated the pressure of picking the perfect song when I had the aux cord.
  2. I hated how my cheeks would hurt from smiling during our hilarious dinner chats.
  3. But mostly I hated the way I didn’t hate it, not even close, not even a little bit, not even at all.

 

Thanks, Aly for your awesome selfie skills.
Thanks, Aly for your awesome selfie skills.

The Grey Shirt

The Endless Desert PC: CUbackpack
The Endless Desert
PC: CUbackpack

I started writing this blog when our group took a desert walk with the infamous Lil’ John. I was about halfway through it when I found myself holding down the delete button. All 237 perfectly crafted words were erased in a matter of seconds. That was the problem. They were perfectly crafted. They were artificial. It wasn’t me.

I wasn’t prepared for how the desert walk would affect me. Even today, I feel an ache in my stomach when I think about it.

Let me start by saying that I am not much of a hiker, so my first thoughts as I walked through the “moderate to easy “ trail were negative. Our usually silly group seemed more serious as we slipped and stumbled on the path. We were wearing athletic gear, sunscreen, had water and were well rested. But we were all struggling. My selfish, negative thoughts subsided when we stopped to hear Lil’ John talk about the migrants.

For the first time, it was easy to understand the migrant reality. I could imagine why people twist their ankles, run out of water, get lost or lose their life in the desert. It was hard for me to believe that anyone ever made it out.

Even though I was on the border, talking and serving the migrants every day, I couldn’t really comprehend that this was real. For some reason, I didn’t understand what I was seeing until I walked the path in the desert.

The moment that will stick with me for the rest of my life was when I first spotted a shirt. It was long sleeved, grey and looked like something one of my brothers would wear. It was proof. It was a reminder that this was real. That it belonged to someone.

It hurt when that reality hit me. It hurt that I would never know his name or his fate. I wanted to save him and knowing that I couldn’t and knowing that there were thousands out there was crushing. I think about that shirt and the man who left it all the time.

I want people who are against migration to understand that no one would want to walk that desert trail unless they had to. I want those people to think of their families and what they would do to save them. I don’t want them to step into his shoes, I want them to wear the grey shirt.

More to come,

Natalie

Nuggets of Knowledge

On our first day back in the classroom we watched and transcribed the interviews from the various people we met along our journey. It struck me that we had met and interacted with a variety of very knowledgeable people who were clearly passionate about migration. We were told to search for little “nuggets” of the interviews that really packed a punch. It became clear pretty quickly that we didn’t need to do much digging because we had hit the jackpot. We were in a goldmine of succinct, well-spoken ideas that really struck a chord with the interviewee. Here are just a few of my favorite “nuggets” of knowledge from the trip.

“The only law is love your neighbor. You tell me how putting up a wall is loving your neighbor. You tell me how deporting women and children back to a place where we know they will be killed is loving your neighbor. It may be loving yourself because you want to hold onto your thing. But we are making decision based on material things not on human beings and that is no way, shape or form something that we can tolerate as American citizens.” – Rev. Peter Neeley, S.J., Assistant Director of Education at KBI

Group picture of Backpack journalism crew and Daniela Vargas
The Backpack Journalidm group with Daniela Vargas outside our home away from home.

“When you stop asking questions, that’s when something’s wrong because you’ve become complacent with the situation. But when you continue to ask the question: ‘Why is this happening?’ I think that continues to change perspectives.” – Daniela Vargas, KBI volunteer

“Because you are made in the image and likeness of God, you have inherent dignity. As a human being, you have dignity, you have certain rights. These aren’t rights that a government can give or take away. These are your rights because you are you, just because you were born, just because God created you.” –Joanna Williams, Director of Education at KBI

“Migrants as the human person have something to teach us. And yet, they are marginalized. They are pushed aside, they are not seen, they are not heard, they are not valued, the are pushed outside.”Rev. Sean Carroll, Executive Director at KBI

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Maria talking with Isabel Garcia.

“It’s what we really do to the least of us that defines us.” – Isabel Garcia, Immigration lawyer

“It’s a lot of suffering. One suffers a lot. there are people who say ‘Oh, it doesn’t matter. He’s illegal,’ or this or that. But there’s people like me who do it for their families, for their brothers, for their kids. We are all taking this journey, and this is a journey where a lot of people fail and are left behind.” – Jose “Pepe” Guillen, deported migrant

“Many of these people who have decided to take on this migrant journey are not doing it because they want to, they’re doing it because they have to. Part of the need also is the dream, and the dream is that someday they will be able to provide for their families what they’re currently not able to provide and give to them.” Daniela Vargas, KBI volunteer, daughter of migrant

Natalia performing at the Commodor for migrants who were recently deported. She invited them to sing along with her and their spirits were immediately lifted.
Natalia performing at the Commodor for migrants who were recently deported.

“Make a friend on the border. I think you’ll learn so much more about the border by knowing a person in depth than you will a concept and having to read a lot about it.” – Natalia Serna, Singer/songwriter

“What gives me hope? That’s a hard question to answer. I have faith that the goodness of God is stronger than any greed or any desire for money in this world. We have to do the little bit we can every day with faith and hope. And more than anything, what gives me hope is the faith of the migrants. A faith that doesn’t fade even against everything they have been through.” – Sister Maria Engracia Robles Robles, M.E., Education/Advocacy at KBI

 

Lil John showing us the migrant trail.
John showing us the migrant trail.

“The wall that’s a few miles from here would not be there if there weren’t walls between our ears. We have walls. We’ve built walls. We don’t even know they are there, cultural walls. And until those walls are taken down, the other ones won’t fall. They will someday, those walls are coming down. But the ones that put them there in the first place have to come down first.” – John Heidt, Activist

That’s all folks

 

Disclaimer: Every time I’ve tried to write this last and final blog post, I’ve started to cry. Which isn’t ideal because I am in a public place. This is my official apology to the customers and workers of Beansmith Coffee and to Aly Schreck and Maria Watson for putting up with me. Be prepared for sap

I’m not sure how I want to start this last and final blog post. I’ve tried to write the opening at least ten times. But I am struggling to come up with a clear and coherent way to describe all of my emotions. Currently I am depressed, overjoyed, elated, excited, tearful, emotionally drained, full (mentally and physically) and so much more.

Today is the final day that we will all probably be in the same room together. It’s been an interesting 4.5 weeks. All 15 of you have grown into my favorite friends. It’s hard to think back to when we were awkward acquaintances all pretending that we weren’t nervous to talk or show our true selves. Look below to see us all in our awkward glory.

Creighton Backpack Journalism group 2016 on day one.
Creighton Backpack Journalism group 2016 on day one.

But here we are 4.5 weeks later. Best friends. Journalist. B-roll experts. Camera aficionados.

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Head and Heart Full

After a stressful and difficult past year, I almost thought about not coming on Backpack Journalism. My grandma who turn 89 yesterday has been in and out of the hospital for the past year.

Happy Birthday Grandma. Love you xo
Happy Birthday Grandma. Love you xo

Before I was about to go on the trip my grandma was hospitalized for the second time with pneumonia. I was anxious to go on the trip because I was worried about my grandma and her health.

While in Nogales, my grandma was hospitalized again. I didn’t tell anybody in the group. I also found out the same day that my 18 year old cousin was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. I immediately regretted being there. I wanted to be with my family and with my mom. I discussed with my mom going home early, but she told me that I needed to do this trip. That it was important for me to be apart of this. I listened to my mom and decided to handle how it how I usually deal with things. I threw myself into the program. I distracted myself by reading, cooking with the group, hanging out with everybody and being truly present in Nogales.
While it was hard for me to do, my sadness and tears quickly turned into a smile. I was told by a couple of group members that I am always smiling. While I do this unconsciously, I am smiling because of them. They didn’t even know what was going on, yet they managed to encourage and push me to do and be my best. I think that says a lot about the people who were on the trip. They are some of the best people I’ve met. During our last and final reflection, I told the group that I was thankful for them. These rad kiddos are so wonderful that I can’t even begin to thank them. Even now that our trip is done, I am still left with a constant smile on my face.

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Too happy to see the haterz

During the trip something I kept thinking about was what can I do now? So it’s appropriate that Carol asked us this question in our final blog post, What is one thing you can do differently based on what you learned?

After meeting and listening to peoples stories I think the best thing I or anybody else can do is to stay informed and to inform others. It’s important to humanize immigration. It’s a complex human rights issue. I hope that because of what I experienced in Nogales I can be a source of information for those who have question or to challenge their thoughts on the issue. By no means am I an expert, but I feel as though our documentary will encourage others to go and bear witness to the conflict at the border.

While I’m not necessarily satisfied with that I think it is important to realize that I can only do the best I can with what I have with where I’m  at.

I don’t want to end this blog post because that means this is all truly over.

I am thankful for all the individuals that I met. I am thankful for John and Carol for bringing this project to Creighton (you guys are amazing).

If I can take anything away from this experience it is to say yes. Thank you Carol for teaching me to be open and to say yes to things even if it is difficult.

Hasta Luego,

Fargie

Unanswered questions

There are no easy solutions to immigration. There are issues in every sector and across both sides of the border. The corruption that is the immigration system means that we are far from having a solution.

I can walk away from this project saying that I still don’t understand everything there is to know about immigration. Some of the questions I’m left with include:

I need to know why we have not had immigration reform before this. I need to know why we are constantly seeking the most simplistic answers to the most difficult questions.  I need to know why we cannot band together when we clearly know the wrong of something, but refuse to do anything about it.

I am deeply concerned about my beautiful and wonderful country turning into one I am no longer proud to live in by those who wish to turn us back in time to “ greed is good.”

I can only hope those dearest to me will not drop the ball, but fight for the rights of all who are here to live in this land and respect the people who have come here for a better life.

This experience has drastically changed what I thought about immigration. I went in thinking one thing and left with thinking another.

I encourage whoever is reading this blog to educate themselves on immigration. It is a very real situation that is happening right outside. Seek out sources and individuals that challenge your current way of thinking.

And remember you can’t build a wall against hope.

A symbol of peace and love on the wall in downtown Nogales, Sonora

Those Damn Vans

So, I got behind on blogs, big surprise.  I should’ve listened to Carol. So bear with me as I recount back to the drive home.

If you have been keeping up to date on my blog posts, you know that I get very car sick. So in order to keep my mind off of things, I talk to people. Often times whoever gets stuck with sitting next to me has to talk to me against their will. Special shout out to AJ and Aly for being my seat mates.

So on the morning of our departure back, I put my anti nausea wrist bands on, ate a banana and popped a Dramamine. Well, 30 minutes into the ride I started feeling sick.

At one point we stopped to go to the bathroom (probably because John had to pee) and I thought I was going to vomit. I decided to pop another pill  so that I could hopefully sleep.

Well, as  a former dancer I tend to sleep in very weird and often uncomfortable looking positions. See photo below:

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I was restless and unable to sleep. After we ate lunch I felt a little better so I tried to relax. I was able to sleep a little bit and I felt much better.

This trip was so much different than the drive down. The drive down was filled with excitement and nerves. Whereas the trip back was filled with sadness for me. I was thankful for my experiences, but I was thinking about Pepe and the journey that he was on.

By the end of the day you could tell that we were all so tired. At one point some swear words were shared between the vans after we couldn’t find a place to eat in Santa Fe. The experience in Santa Fe has thoroughly scarred me. And for this reason I cannot listen to one of my favorite songs “Santa Fe” anymore. Which is a shame because I really like that song.

The second day of driving started with a delicious brunch. We were all so eager to get back. The rest of the drive consisted of watching 7 Days of Nico and reading our cosmo horoscopes.

When we finally got back I realized that I would never have to ride in one of those Creighton vans ever again and for that I am thankful.