The Heavy Weight of Hospitality

Trip Start Aug 22, 2012
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Trip End Jul 24, 2013


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Flag of United States  , Arizona
Friday, February 8, 2013

Well Hello- Word of the Day!

Pancita (Spanish: pronounced-pan/seat/ah)

Stomach/Belly (English) 


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!". This generally comes from one of my first, second, or third graders as they pat my stomach like I'm a lucky Buddaah.
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.
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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. The US officials do a good job at maintaining the laws, keeping men hauling heavy bails of marijuana and work seeking families on "their side of the fence". Over the past few years the fence has gotten higher and more expensive. The 15 foot walls are not stopping the flow of migration, but they do serve as an ugly symbol of the line between two neighboring countries

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. A house without light appears cold and foreboding. The question was posed in my mind, should the US leave some lights on? Should they maybe even open the gate a little? Is it always harmful to welcome our neighbors in? 

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. He said that he was safely able to return to his friends and family in his home state. We came to the conclusion that maybe it was God's will that he was back with people who love him. The last thing he said was that if I were ever in his home state, that I had a place to stay with his family. Good hospitality, no?
  I just wish that I could say the same to him.

 

 




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Comments

Bob Schiffer on

Aaron, I love Tripe, that's what we call it. Grandmother & mom cooked this dish when I was growing up. Most people, including my sisters hate it.
Keep your mail coming.
Your dad & I fished the Redington Long pier last week.

Irene Flynn on

This is an excellent account of your trip! I am sharing it with everyone in the Florida-Bahamas Synod. Thanks for your continued updates. We feel a part of this trip!
--Irene Flynn, Editorial Board FBSynod

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