The US-Mexico border is a place that I think I know fairly well. While I was only there for a little less than a year, I believe that I was able to see a wide variety of perspectives on what the border means to various people and how they view the actual border and the greater Borderlands area. Gloria Anzaldúa, a Chicana author, describes the border as ‘una herida abierta – an open wound – where the Third World grates against the First and bleeds. And before a scab forms, it hemorrhages again, the lifeblood of two countries merging to form a third country – a border culture’. For those who have experienced or lived in the Borderlands, this is a perfect descriptor. It is a place that is not fully American nor fully Mexican, but a mix that is both beautiful and broken, painful yet resilient to that pain. It is a unique area, and one that is incredibly hard to describe.
This past week, I was able to go back to Agua Prieta, Mexico, my home for a year, and experience life at the border once again. Though I had been there before, and experienced that life many times, it was still a powerful and impactful time for me. The journey we went on was the same as so many that I took last year, but I was not the same person. Last year I spent many of the times with the mentality of work, that this was my job and once I left my job I left the challenges and hurt at the workplace. I believe that was the way that I was able to cope and get past the many things I saw that went against my beliefs, both faith-based and political, and as a way to get through each day. Though I was still able to see the beauty of the people I lived with and the work I did, I knew that if I strayed too deeply into the pain of the area I may not be able to get out of it.
This week was different though. It was a time where I was not working (thought I sorta did by translating), and was able to more fully step into the experience of the border. I was able to really witness and be a part of what goes on in that world, and more fully see how I have caused some of that pain and suffering, and how the pain doesn’t stop there, but continues as you go farther into a country that relies on mass incarceration, deportation, and fear to create literal and metaphorical borders in our communities, churches, and homes. And I’m going to be honest with you, it was rough. It brought up a lot of feelings that I had suppressed, and caused me to critically look at my life, my faith, my work, and how I have using those things to create real change and peace for the Borderlands, wherever they may be. But it also gave me a lot of motivation to continue the fight alongside people in marginalized communities, people who are directly impacted by US immigration, by our border ‘security’ apparatus, and for those people who are impacted by the many borders we have in our towns and cities.
So I encourage you to look at the borders in our world, and see what they try to separate. It may be that you live next to a literal border, whether it is between two different countries, or two states, or even a highway or railroad track that tries to keep people apart. It may be that we have borders within ourselves that separate us from people who are different than us because they look different, worship differently, love differently, or simply think differently. I challenge you to look at those borders and think of ways to get around, under, over, or through them, to create a unified community that is about love and reconciliation and hope.
To end, I want to go back to Chance the Rapper. He’s been in my ears a lot recently, and his music has done so much to help me process, think, and heal during difficult times. ‘Blessings’ is top of the list. It’s a beautiful song, and has an amazing thing happen during it. He speaks of the wall of Jericho falling and obstacles in life. In the background you hear the literal sounds of a wall falling and it brings tears to my eye every time. And this is crucial to hear in our times. Please remember that every wall WILL come down. Sometimes it just needs our help.