Tag Archives: Mexico

Weavings of Beauty

I looked over my notes and questions I would be asking Danny throughout the interview.
I looked over my notes and questions before my first interview.

I had the chance to conduct my first interview with a gentleman named Danny who is a citizen from Nogales, Mexico who volunteers at El Comedor.

I was able to interview Danny, who had been born and raised in Nogales, Mexico. He has been volunteering at the Commodor for seven years.
I was able to interview Danny, who had been born and raised in Nogales, Mexico. He has been volunteering at El Comedor for seven years.

One of the questions that I asked was, “Where do you see God in all of this?”

After a few meditative moments, Danny’s response was, “God is in us.” He explained that even though he prays for things to get better, he sees God in the actions of people helping other people. He emphasized the ability to see migrants as people and not as a statistic. When we treat people with human dignity and interact with them as an equal, our hearts are impacted and transformed. What an incredible response that really embodies the very essence of what it means to be made in God’s likeness.

I’ve always wanted to change the world, to make a positive impact for those who needed it the most. As I’ve grown older, I’ve realized that it’s a lot harder than it sounds. But I refuse to be derailed from my goal to change the world. My goals have just have just become more focused. I’ve realized that every person has their own world that weaves through other worlds. When my world collides with another, it is the perfect opportunity for me to take the gifts I have been given to share with another. Our human stories become one, if even for an instant, and we both can benefit. The weaving of all stories under the human race is truly an awe-inspiring mystery.

Even for those of you who don’t believe in God, I hope you believe in the beauty that surrounds us everyday, especially in the face of hardships. Since I have been on this trip, I have seen this over and over again.

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 Commodore for migrants who were recently deported. She invited them to sing along with her and their spirits were immediately lifted.

Natalia is a singer/songwriter who used to volunteer at El Comedor. She was born in the US but spent most of her time growing up in Columbia, where she became fluent in Spanish. When she started to hear these stories that the migrants would tell her, she became moved to write songs about their terrifying experiences and turn them into hauntingly beautiful songs.

Maren and I were able to film Natalia interact and play for the immigrants. One of her songs lyrics talked about the fire that burned in their souls to achieve the dream of a better life.

Natalia performed a concert at El Comedor that I was able to help film. A group of men who had just been deported moments before, had been dropped off just as everyone had sat down. The only table left was between my camera and Natalia. While I was filming, I made eye contact with a man and immediately smiled at him. He just sort of stared back at me. A few minutes later, our eyes met again and again I smiled. Shyly, a grin started to emerge from his face. The next time that our eyes met, he was beaming and his eyes twinkled. After dinner, I was conversing with a few other men in my broken Spanish and I could see him standing back and waiting. I went over and introduced myself to him and held out my hand to meet his. I learned that he was from a town in Central Mexico, 20 years old, and traveling by himself. His warm smile is what kept my tears from pouring out. We spoke very few words between us as I had to start packing up our gear, but the smiling seemed to be enough for the both of us.

The bottom image is flipped to make the image look more aesthetically pleasing. However, the bottom image is what the wall looks like that splits the United States and Mexico. The wall in the top photo was painted blue in order to “erase” the wall.

This wall that everyone keeps talking about is ugly both physically and symbolically. It’s brown and metal and not aesthetically pleasing whatsoever. A Mexican-American artist, Ana Teresa Fernández, has painted murals on the wall in different cities at the border. Her project is called, “Borrando la Frontera,” or “Erasing the Border.” Her mural in Nogales is sky blue, meant to look as if the sky had been brought down and the border erased.

We need to believe in the power of our individual talents and abilities to interact with others in a way that can make a lasting impact, even if only for an instant.

“What sunshine is to flowers, smiles are to humanity,” Joseph Addison
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Thanksgiving in May

Today is Tuesday, the 24th of May. Joanna took us to the Kino Border Initiative’s humanitarian shelter for women migrants, Casa Nazaret. We met women and children who had been staying in an apartment room on the top floor of a rickety old building. As we reached the top, we were greeted with grins and giggles by the families seeking shelter.

We listened to a presentation about the people who the Casa Nazaret served. I learned that the Border Patrol has a program that is aimed to interrupt migration routes by separating families traveling together. This makes families more vulnerable in an infinite amount of ways.

A fact that left me bewildered was that 75% of these women have had less than a middle school education.

How could this be when I have had the privilege of attending an all-girls private, college preparatory school. I had a flashback of all the things I had learned there and how much I had developed into a confident, independent, thinking leader.

I asked Joanna why this was. She said that even though education was free, families still had to provide money for books and uniforms and transportation. Most families can barely even afford their children taking time off of work to attend school. Since the education for women is so low, it becomes harder as they grow older to find work. Weavings of Hope is a program that provides women with the opportunity to have some sort of income by making bracelets.

Women are able to weave bracelets and sell them as a way to make money. The process of making these bracelets is meditative and can also have a huge impact psychologically.
Women are able to weave bracelets and sell them as a way to make money. The process of making these bracelets is meditative and can also have a huge impact psychologically.

After the presentation, I read testimonial after testimonial of women who had passed through Casa Nazaret. I found the main thing that tied a lot of the stories together was family.

I remember one story about a woman who had grown up in a family where she had been neglected simply because she had been born with the wrong set of chromosomes. She was abused both physically and mentally in the most crucial stages of her life. As she started to have children of her own, she made a promise to herself to never expose her children to the hardships she had known growing up. She crossed the border illegally and had four children in America, a place where she could receive aid and her children could receive an adequate education.

One day, she had been driving her daughter to an appointment. She was pulled over, handcuffed, and taken to be detained right in front of her daughter. She had no time to gather her things or say goodbye to her husband or her children. This women was deported back to Mexico, miles away from the loves of her life. But how could she call her children and explain why she had to leave?

At the end of today, I am thankful. I am thankful for the opportunity of not only an education, but one that celebrates what being a women means. I am thankful to have been able to focus on my studies rather than having to work all of the time at a young age. I am thankful for having job opportunities that provide me with more than $4 at the end of my shift. I’m thankful for the nurturing family that continues to care about my whole well being and supports me.

Not all goods things can be captured

At 3:30 am I woke up to start the day. After showering and eating we drove for about 10 minutes to a beautiful vantage point above the city. We broke out into our teams and we all had different shots we had to film of the sunrise. My partners name is Maria aka Goose (check out her blog to get the story behind her nickname). We climbed up a hill, higher than everyone else, in order to get the perfect shot.

We reached the top of the hill and could see almost all of Nogales, Arizona. It was quite a site to see. We set the camera up that we share in order to film the sunrise but it didn’t go as planned. Nico, our videographer expert didn’t mention the trick about shooting sunrises until we met back up at the van. Long story short we got to see a beautiful sunrise over the city and the landscape that empties to the mountains but our camera told a completely different story. Our aperture was perfect at the beginning but by the time the sun was up it was a white screen.

Sunrise in Nogales, Arizona
Sunrise in Nogales, Arizona

Later in the morning around 8, Joanna came back to our house and we went to a women’s shelter in Nogales, Sonora (Mexico). It was an eye opening experience seeing the women and their children who were either just deported or planning on making their way across illegally.

The thing I enjoyed most about today was getting to know some of my fellow classmates better. I had many good conversations wether it was walking across the border or walking around in downtown Nogales, Sonora. One of these walks led to where El Chapo lived and where he built his tunnel under the wall. It was really cool standing in front of his house and knowing that there is a tunnel under your feet that was used for drug smuggling among other things.

Tomorrow is another busy day and I am already excited. We have nine more days down here on the border until we depart back to Omaha and I already know that I am not going to want to leave. The culture, the people, and the landscape is truly unreal. I am blessed to be here and I hope I can really do something meaningful and impactful through this project.

Women's Shelter Nogales, Sonora
Women’s Shelter Nogales, Sonora

Morning at the Comedor

Vulture in our backyard in Nogales, Arizona
Vulture in our backyard in Nogales, Arizona

This morning we met with Joanna Williams who took us to the Comedor in Mexico. I was very surprised how easy it is to get into Mexico. All we did was walk along the sidewalk until we were in Nogales, Mexico. We didn’t have to show a passport or even talk to a single person. The lines for vehicles were very long to get into the United States because people wanted to get to work.

Once we got to the Comedor, eight of us went inside to help with breakfast and eight went into Nogales. I stayed and helped with breakfast which was a great experience. After making the plates and serving them I talked to a man who is from Mexico City.

Joanna was helping me translate because i know very little Spanish and the man I met knows no English. He was telling me how he left his home because his weekly wage went down $20 US dollars. I asked where he worked and he said he was a welder for a automobile company. He worked 12 hour days, 7 days a week.

He arrived in Nogales two days ago. He has family in Sacramento and Florida but neither would help him and his family back home. He decided that his conditions back home weren’t good enough for his 2 daughters. He didn’t tell his daughters that he was attempting to cross the border. He only said that he was going to a near by city. I asked where he gets his strength from and he told me his daughters are his joy and world. He told me, “God’s greatest gift to me was my daughters and I love them.”

He hopes to cross the border once he can get enough money to hire a guide. Saying goodbye to him was sad in a way because I will probably never see him again and also because I will never know if he will make it across the border. I was also filled with inspiration because he made a 2 day journey by bus, alone, in order to get to this point. Hearing about how the Mexican authorities in both Mexico City and a town just south of Nogales would stop him and search him and how he had to pay them 100 pesos not to get in trouble and another 100 pesos to help him. This is just a snippet of one persons story. There are hundreds if not thousands more that never get told. I hope to keep you all posted on these stories and more that I come across.

We have a visual

Day one was pretty uneventful in the van. Nico and John drove to Raton, New Mexico which was 12 hours from Omaha. Almost the whole time all my fellow classmates were sleeping except for Matthew. We had a blast dancing and having a good time with John and Nico. It seemed like we had to stop every hour for someone to use the restroom so it seemed like we were on the road forever.

The landscape was pretty barren but it was cool seeing the difference from Nebraska to Raton. On day two I was in Carol’s car which was a treat. I found out that she has some pretty decent moves. Besides our High School Musical dance party there was a lot of sleeping but I really enjoyed the scenery. I was very surprised about how green it is here in Nogales. We passed some really quaint little towns and also had a really good lunch at a authentic Mexican restaurant.

Hatch, Arizona
Hatch, Arizona

When we were driving into Nogales I couldn’t help but stare out the window. I am not quite sure what I was feeling inside. I do not think I was sad or happy but the realization that we are finally here and about to start this amazing documentary had me speechless.

It is currently 5 AM Monday morning as I am writing this and we have a busy day planned ahead. At 8 AM we are already off to Mexico to visit a women’s shelter and to get a feel for that side of the border. Then in the afternoon we have a presentation from our main contact down here and we are also interviewing her later in the day. I am beyond excited that we are finally here.  As we constantly say on our walkie-talkies, “eagle one to eagle two… we have a visual.”

The Long and Winding Road

37 hours and 1,450 miles later, we’ve finally reached our destination in Nogales, Arizona. We’ve bunkered down in a guest house 15 minutes away from the border, where we’ll be staying for the next two weeks. Most of us, if not all of us, are pretty tired from our two-day long pilgrimage, and I can imagine we’ll all sleep well tonight. But despite the exhaustion, this has already been a great trip so far, and I’m looking forward to what else the rest of this journey has to offer.

Our car rides have been filled with friendly conversations of trying to get to know each other, singing and jamming out to different kinds of tunes, starring out the window to appreciate the constantly changing scenery, and many spread out moments of quiet nap time. Though, to be honest, gazing out the window and taking long dispersed naps is what took up most of my time. And everyone else’s, for the most part.

Several Backpack group members sitting on the wall behind our guest house in Nogales, Arizona
Several Backpack group members sitting on the wall behind our guest house in Nogales, Arizona

But it’s been great getting to know everyone that I’lll be around during this trip and making new friends. I know everyone here will be an amazing part of this trip and contribute so much to the final product of our documentary, whether it be through filming, interviewing, editing, etc. Even within the first few days of boot camp, everyone was able to show where their niche was and what they’re best at, so that will all easily translate into all the hard work we’ll be putting into this film.

As we drove through the deserts of New Mexico and Arizona, I began to think about the people who risk their lives just to make it to the United States. Many of these people walk hundreds of miles through hot, dry weather just to find a better life, no matter how long that will take them. Seeing and experiencing the hot desert landscapes of these southern states gave me a little bit of insight into what some of these migrants go through, but I know I will not be able to fully understand everything they have to go through. It will be quite the learning experience to get some perspective from the people we’ll be interviewing over the next couple of weeks.

Tomorrow we’ll already be traveling across the border to take a look around Nogales, Mexico and see where we’ll be going around during this trip, and will already be conducting our first interview. I’m more than excited to begin this learning experience, and can’t wait to do it with all the people I’ve gained as friends the past week.

Positive(ly) Privilege(d)

Today was, by far, the most draining day of bootcamp.

It could be that it is day five of our intense training into the documentary world. It could be that I procrastinated on packing. It could be that we participated in an emotional  discussion with alumni of the program. It could be that we discussed heavy topics, such as the guilt that comes with privilege. It could be that we watched a documentary about teenagers who only have the option to join a gang or migrate. More than likely, it is a combination of all of these reasons.

After an exhausting day, I was excited to go home, relax and get some sleep. Well… It is 1:58a.m. and I am laying in bed next to a duffle with a broken zipper and a grocery bag full of Gushers.

I am nervous I didn’t pack the right things. I am mad because I smudged my freshly painted nails. I am cranky that I have to be up in four hours.

Aren’t I annoying? After all I’ve watched and learned this week about the struggles that Mexicans and Latin Americans endure just to enter my country, my biggest problem is that I can’t fit my flip-flops in my bag.

In class, John brought up the point about how easy it is to forget one’s privilege when one is surrounded by people with the same privilege. This documentary is meant to give a voice to the voiceless and make those who are are deaf to the issue hear. He also discussed how their was a John before Africa and a John after Africa

I hope that listening to and telling these stories will increase my awareness of my privilege and put my “problems” into perspective. I hope that I can turn my guilt into inspiration. I hope that I can find the Natalie after Noglaes.

Please pray for safe travel.

Creighton Backpack Journalism crew
The group on our last day of bootcamp.

 

More to come,

Natalie

 

 

10:30 p.m.

Overwhelmed.

Exhausted.

Anxious.

Insecure.

It has been three days since the start of Backpack Journalism 2016. I am physically and emotionally drained. Even now, as I am writing this blog at 10:30 p.m. I can barely keep my eyes open. I am reaching for the special k bars that my mom sent me back with in order to keep me awake.

This has been a tough week. I’ve had moments where I’ve thought about giving up and moment where I’ve had break-throughs.

Coming in to this program, I knew little to no information on cameras and how to use them. My biggest fear (and still to some extent) is how to use the camera. But, luckily I’ve had some really great and patient teachers who have allowed me to fail and to triumph these past few days.

When I go to bed (hopefully soon) I know that my head is going to be running in circles about aperture, shutter speed, ios and white balance. I am not confident in my abilities with the camera right now, which is making it very hard. I am constantly questioning myself and what I think is the right or wrong way to do something. Hopefully my head shuts up soon so I can take a step back and let my head and hands to connect.

Today, after a pretty long and successful day, a group of us went shopping to get some “adventure pants.” Look for a picture soon! It was nice to be able to talk about our current feelings and reservations thus far. I left feeling better and a little more secure and confident in my abilities.

After shopping we went to the Holy Family Shrine a place I have never been to but have seen incessantly on fellow backpacker Maria Watson’s Instagram.

The Holy Spirit is a presence that calls us to create an environment where God can express his love to us through miracles and everyday actions.  The inspiration for the shrine  came from the idea that the place was intended for travelers. To help them seek out the intervention of Holy Spirit, to be at peace, to heal, to be comforted, to pray and to discover or re-discover the power of Jesus. It is a place of peace and rest and solitude for people of ALL faiths and allows the Holy Spirit to have free access to their soul.

What a better way to end my day then to go to a place meant for travelers to recharge and reconnect with themselves and God. I hope to feel the presence of the Holy Spirit during the journey to Nogales. I already can see his presence in my friends and fellow backpackers. I plan to keep the image of the shrine in my head as I begin this journey in Mexico and Arizona.

Snapchat-6902529110084603025
A very tired Maria and Maria watching the sunset in the middle of nowhere at the Holy Family Shrine. Notice Maria’s hat. It’s new and very soft. If you ever meet her, touch the hat, you won’t regret it

Going to the shrine allowed me to recharge my brain and to gear up for another long and fun day in Hitchcok 205.

11:05 p.m. Time for bed and one more special k bar

Cool Trip, Cooler Department, Coolest School

Love this place, love this department #JMCAwesome
Love this place, love this department #JMCAwesome

Hello to anyone reading this blog! My name is Catherine Morehouse, I’m a rising junior here at Creighton, and I’m double majoring in Journalism, News Track and International Relations.

I’m so, so excited for the opportunity to go on this incredible trip! The first time I ever heard about the journalism backpacking program was when I was actually a first semester freshman at Boston University. I was pretty sure I wanted to transfer and pretty sure Creighton was the school I wanted to transfer to. It had originally been my first choice school, but a variety of factors had led me away from that direction and towards the east coast instead.

The main factor that had led me to BU was the strength of their journalism program, and my biggest fear was that I wouldn’t have good opportunities to pursue journalism if I decided to switch to a school that wasn’t necessarily known for its journalism program. However, after looking into the backpacking program, as well as other aspects of Creighton’s journalism department, I realized Creighton had plenty of opportunity for me to get involved and do really cool things as a journalism student. The backpacking trip really intrigued me though, and was something I was really hoping to have the opportunity to get involved with.

Flash forward 1.5 years later and here I am at the best department at the best school on earth! I’m so happy to be here and to have this incredible opportunity. I feel like I have so much learning ahead of me in the next few weeks and I am beyond excited to see where we get at the end of it all!