The Heavy Weight of Hospitality
Trip Start Aug 22, 2012
18Trip End Jul 24, 2013
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Pancita (Spanish: pronounced-pan/seat/ah)
I am lucky enough to hear this word nearly everyday. I hear it in two contexts:
The first one being: "Do you like pancita, Aaron?" Pancita is cow stomach, served in a red broth soup. My answer is "no", and it will probably stay that way.
The second way I hear this word is: "Teacher, your pancita is growing!"
Admittedly, my "pancita" has become a bit of a "panzon" (big stomach) over the past seven months. You see, my motto on hospitality here in Mexico is to accept it, without question. There never passes a day when someone doesn't invite me to have a meal with them, or a chocolate covered marshmallow is handed my way. I just don't feel right saying no. I also truly enjoy Mexican food, but that's besides the point.
YAGM Boarder Immersion Trip 2013
In the middle of February the MexYAGMs were fortunate enough to visit a place that you would probably deem as less than hospitable. We left our friendly homes in Morelos, Mexico and headed off to the Arizona/Mexico boarder. During the week we were able to see both sides of the fence, literally and figuratively.
The Sonoran Desert: "A Lethal Deterrent"
The fences along the boarder are high, and those that guard it are swift and efficient
We walked through seemingly desolate stretches of desert in Agua Prieta, Mexico. We quickly found that the formidable landscape was not desolate as we came across strewn trails of water bottles, deteriorating backpacks, and a mountain of other personal affects. It's hard to tell how long the things had been there because the harsh elements of the desert quickly make skeletons out of anything foreign to its soil.
The half hour drives we took into the mountainous terrain were not chosen at random. The routes are marked by large blue tanks of water. After a three day walk through that landscape, those water tanks may be the only chance of not becoming one of hundreds of skeletons already resting in the desert, sand blown and sun bleached. Unfortunately people do die in the desert. They die and they become bones. Bones become statistics. Statistics are not as convincing as a face to face conversation
I had the pleasure of eating dinner with some men who had been dropped off by US boarder patrol directly on the line between the US and Mexico . Though these young men had hardly eaten or slept over the past three days in detainment, they were gracious enough to chat with some of the YAGM. After a bit of conversation, one man asked me why I looked so sad. In my broken Spanish I told him that the whole situation was bad. What I wanted to say was how much it bugged me that he had to worry about drinking the placed water in the desert because malicious people often taint it with poisons. I wanted to say that it upset me to know that he was just trying to return to his home of 18 years in California. I wanted to say that I hope he does make it back in five years, when he is allowed to apply for a visa again. I also wanted to voice my doubts that the government would make his return home very feasible. But, I didn't say any of those things. I only that said the whole situation was bad.
The Heavy Weight of Hospitality
A fellow YAGM here in Mexico compared US/Mexican boarder issues to a house without its lights on
The reality is complex, and the US is not simply a house that can welcome or deny visitors. I was able to experience both sides of the story, the pushing and pulling forces. I saw a boarder factory that paid workers less than $70 USD per week. I saw why people would be driven to cross a deadly stretch of sand and stone to find a dream that may or may not exist.
The heavy weight of hospitality remains with us as we try and figure out how to be good neighbors. Nearly everyone we spoke with, whether they were US boarder patrol, ICE Agents (aptly named), or state attorneys, made reference to the fact that the system of trying to halt immigration is not working. People are still dying in the desert. Long term US residences with families and places in the community are still being deported. Men and women are still coming to work in the United States for below minimum wage jobs, so that US citizens can continue to consume while not having to worry about paying higher prices.
Should the US leave some lights on and show a little hospitality? Can it afford not to?
After leaving the boarder trip I was able to get into touch with one of the young men I had dinner with at the migrant shelter
I just wish that I could say the same to him.