Agua Prieta, Mexico
He had taken the train.
Photos c/o CPT Borderlands Delegation, 2007
His name has faded in my memory. I remember his name as Jesus, like so many of the others. But maybe it wasn’t.
He had taken the train. Like many of the others that people call “Mexican,” he was from Guatemala. Like the others, he had grown corn, until the bottom of the market fell out, until it cost more to grow than he could make selling.
Like the others, he needed money to live. Money to send home.
Like the others, he couldn’t afford the bus ticket north. So he took the train.
Exposure, they call it.
Photo c/o CPT Borderlands Delegation, 2007
It seems like a diagnosis from a hundred years ago. A word on an autopsy from the ancient world, like tuberculosis or leprosy.
They take only what they can carry on their backs, the Mexican shelter workers tell us. A backpack with a sweater, some electrolyte drinks, water. Then, when the coyote tells them they’re close to the border, they drop it all and run. They don’t want to be weighed down.
The plaza in Altar seems like a scene from a film.
All photos c/o CPT Borderlands Delegation 2007
A beautiful Mexican church rises up beside a concrete plaza filled with migrants on the last step of their journey before they cross. The atmosphere seems to combine the edgy feeling of a border town with the excitement and commercialism of an amusement park.
Vendors sell tacos, backpacks, walking shoes, bandanas, hats, electrolyte drink. Long-distance buses from Chiapas and Oaxaca arrive on a side street, and their passengers, mostly men but with a surprising amount of women, unload their belongings and stand to stretch their legs after the nearly twenty-four hour bus trip.
Black crows fly through the air and land on the roof of the church, in startling contrast to the blue sky.
Outside Sasabe, Arizona
We read the Bible in the desert whenever we can.
One of the pastors in our group volunteers to lead the last meditation, which we time to line up with our visit to a Humane Borders water tank in the desert. She speaks about the Samaritan woman at the well and her conversation with Jesus.
We’ve crossed over the border again, back into the United States, and are in the region where migrants most frequently travel: the west desert around Tucson.
The water station is simple and unassuming. In other locations, these stations have been torn apart and vandalized by angry residents who resent the migrant traffic that comes through the area. But this one is intact: a simple tank with a spigot of clean water that people can fill their bottles with before traveling on.
“For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat.” -Matthew 25:35
Photo c/o CPT Borderlands Delegation 2007
Benjamin Hill, Mexico
“I watched a man the other day at the feeding program,” said Father Quiniones as our group sits in a restaurant in Benjamin Hill, Sonora. “How many tortillas do you think he ate?”
We had only met Father Quiniones a few minutes before, but we could already tell that he was a storyteller. We had already learned from Rick, our leader, that Father Quiniones had two great passions apart from the church: loving the stranger and telling a good yarn. “This many,” he said. He held up one palm, then turned it over for each multiple of five. Five, ten, fifteen, twenty. And then an outstretched pointer finger: twenty-one.
“Twenty-one tortillas!” he said.