Monday, November 8, 2010


Since moving here to Tucson, people kept telling me about the "Day of the Dead" parade down fourth street. I kept hearing about what a great spectacle it has always been. And, it definitely lived up to all of that hype.
We had some friends join us before processing down the main street here in town, clad in black, covered in face paint, and carrying memories or photos of our loved ones.
The idea of celebrating and partying over death was, at times, a clash of culture in my mind. There were moments when I got so caught up in the costumes, drum beat, and walking that I failed to think about all of the people, stories, and loved ones lost who the parade was to honor.
I managed to spend the majority of my childhood and life until now without really having to face the death of someone close to me. Until recently, I was completely incapable of empathizing with someone mourning, because I'd never experienced it before; until February of last year. In a lot of ways, I feel like I've grappled with the various stages of grief- denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. But, no matter how many pictures I looked at, or silly stories about Chris I'd share with friends and family, I never really felt capable of doing it without grief and a heavy heart.
Until last night.
Until I saw it was possible to celebrate and share stories.
Until I stepped into the procession.
Until I celebrated.
Until I shared.

After the parade and the absolutely amazing fire dancing show, my roommates and I headed home to our altar (ofrenda) that we'd created in celebration of our friends and family who have passed away, and we sat together for sharing cervezas and stories. We told stories about grandpas playing practical jokes, babies in Ethiopia, friends sharing hilarious off-color jokes, midnight TP-ing, Rangers games, and other stories of those we love who have passed away. I've spent the last two months living with those people who shared last night, and never have I felt more proud to call them my family. Sharing this experience has brought us closer together than I imagined possible, and I'm really looking forward to what the rest of this YAV year together has in store for our little 1229 Family.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Gregorio's Story

Perhaps one of the most difficult parts of my work with BorderLinks is translating peoples' stories. Not because the words are difficult to change from Spanish to English, or because the speaker speaks too quickly, but because it is at these moments where the speaker is most emotionally raw, most emotionally wounded, most emotionally dead- just looking for someone to connect with.

In Nogales, Sonora, there is a program called the Kino Border Initiative. It is run by a few different Catholic organizations, and it serves as a feeding program for those who have been recently deported. I have gone twice now with different delegations- once a few weeks ago with a church from Pennsylvania, and one Wednesday, with the "Rural Chaplains Association." At precisely four o'clock, the place fills up with anywhere from 40-120 people, looking for a meal and a place to get away from being mistreated for a little while. They can find that at the KBI. The priests introduced themselves, and then I introduced the Chaplains. I told those about to dine, "we are here to hear your stories, so we can tell them to our communities."

After dinner was underway a bit, Gregorio approached me. He stands at about 4'10'', and looked around the area with very cautious eyes. I could tell he was glad to be somewhere safe, and where for the first time in a while he was taken care of without worrying about being taken advantage of. He took my hand, looked deep into my eyes, and said "quiero decirte mi cuento. Lo que me paso en el desierto."
"I want to tell you my story, what happened in the desert."
Here is Gregorio's Story:
"I began walking in the desert for three days with a coyote, and the coyote told me to sit under the tree and wait as he went to look for water. He told me he would return shortly. I waited. Three hours passed, and I waited some more. The night passed, and he never returned. For the next two days I continued wandering the desert, lost, looking for food, water, or anything. Those first two days on my own I didn't find any food or water. I was dying of thirst. I drank my own urine to stay alive. On the third day of traveling on my own, I found a water troff for some cattle. The water was green and had stuff floating in it, but I was thirsty. I didn't care. It hurt my stomach a lot, but I drank it. I drank the cattle's water. I continued for a few more days on my own, thinking to myself that I was going to die alone in the desert. After walking in the desert for five days on my own, I came to a road. I stopped a man driving a truck down the road. I said to him, 'I want to go home. I am about to die. Please call the Border Patrol and have them take me back.'
"The man called the Border Patrol. They came within thirty minutes. They treated me nicely. They handed me a big bottle of water and told me, 'drink this slowly so you don't upset your body too much. Take this food, and eat it slowly too.' At this point I could barely remember the last time I'd eaten or drank clean water. He told me that when I got to jail, I'd be able to receive some medical attention, and I'd have water and food there too. I had an accident on the way, though, and there was blood in my stool. So instead of going to jail, I was taken to a hospital. They put me on IVs, and told me I was lucky to be alive. I was deported finally after a few days in the Hospital in the US (he had all the track marks from the IV up his arms), and then spent another night in the hospital in Mexico when I got back.
"I'm not going to try that again. My life is worth more than the thought of whatever is waiting for me in the US. I'm going to try and return to my family in Veracruz. My family is important to me- nothing is worth that suffering. I'm really lucky to be alive."