In My Shoes: Pedro Gonzalez

February 16, 2009

Pedro's Shoes

MCC has published a 7-minute audio slideshow about Pedro Gonzalez, one of the 10 MCC participants in the 2007 Migrant Trail.  Pedro talks about his life experiences — growing up in Mexico, traveling to the United States in the early 1990s and struggling to get by, raising a family, and ultimately ending up with MCC in Houston.

It’s a really great story, and one that highlights the challenges (and identity issues) that many immigrant face when coming to the United States.

View the slideshow.


The U.S.-Mexican Border: A Changing Frontier (An NPR Series)

December 2, 2008
The U.S.-Mexico Border Wall in Nogales.

The U.S.-Mexico Border Wall in Nogales.

National Public Radio’s Morning Edition is broadcasting a 5-part series this week on conditions along the U.S.-Mexico border:

The border emphasizes how much the U.S. and Mexico rely on each other, and, like siblings, it also illustrates the tension between them. As the U.S. builds new fences and heightens patrols, a drug war on the Mexican side has killed thousands of people this year alone. Meanwhile, trade across the border continues to grow.

This morning’s story (part 2 of the series) was especially poignant for me because it concerns the border city of Nogales, which MCCers (myself included) visited before participating in the Migrant Trail last year.  I highly recommend listening to or reading the NPR story, and want to draw attention to the Migrant Trail resources that Valerie Ong (a former Washington Office staff member) and I put together before and after the walk:

  1. Washington Memo Blog entries related to the Migrant Trail (scroll down the page to the Migrant Trail 2008 section).  My journal entry on Sunday, May 25 is an account of what we saw and heard in Nogales.
  2. The MCC Washington Office’s Migrant Trail Website, which includes an overview of the Migrant Trail, as well as additional information about conditions on the border.

Migrant Trail Journal: Sunday, June 1

June 10, 2008

The Never Ending Journey

Maria led a blessing ceremony on the mountain ridge. This one was to welcome us home. It was very moving, as we remembered the families and friends who are unable to welcome their loved ones home.

About a dozen other folks joined us to walk the final stretch of more than six miles. The pace was slower because we had additional walkers, but they were great and we crossed the highway together, hand in hand, successfully.

Foot WashingWe arrived at Kennedy Park for a press conference and closing ceremony (folks shared their experiences, and we had a beautiful foot washing ceremony). We took turns to lay down the crosses we carried as we were greeted by friends and family.

People clapped. I felt a sense of accomplishment because I had walked the entire way. But, I also felt saddened that many migrants cannot be welcomed by their families and friends. I felt a huge burden as I was reminded yet again of the many privileges that are mine. I felt ashamed that I was being cheered on, knowing that I could have discontinued the walk if I felt the need to.

Laying down CrossesBut we rejoice in the honor to walk in solidarity with migrants who make the walk daily. We will share with our communities, friends, family and Congress, our experiences in the borderlands, and the many stories that are left untold.

The Migrant Trail 08 journey has ended. But we must continue the journey in advocating for just immigration and border policies.


Migrant Trail Journal: Saturday, May 31

June 9, 2008

We had our last full day of the walk today, and it was a packed day, both physically and spiritually.

I was able to make the whole 11+ mile walk, which I hadn’t expected to be able to do (Jessica, our medic/miracle worker did a great job of wrapping my foot and Greetergiving me the arch support I needed).

Halfway through the morning’s walk, a vehicle pulled over and flagged us down. A Native man and his two young daughters wanted to personally greet us all.

Later, about a mile from our campsite, one of the escort vehicles became stuck in sand and we were forced to stop for a half-hour. Two Native American walkers, Maria and Gabriel, used the time to talk about Native culture and spirituality.

Read the rest of this entry »


Migrant Trail Journal: Friday, May 30

June 8, 2008

Chasing the Sun

Sun ShadowsWe were shuttled from the camp grounds to a breakfast stop before beginning the day’s walk. We started around 7.30 am, and what Kat had been saying about “chasing the sun” became clear. A few hours makes a huge difference in temperature. And the hotter it is, the harder it is to take another step. We walked 12.5 miles today.

It sure felt like that at noon, and the church we were to be camping at was not in sight. It was finally visible – truly an oasis. My eyes had to readjust from the bright sunlight to what seemed like the dark interior of the church.

Arnjang, a Buddhist monk who walked with us part of the time graciously catered a Thai meal for us. It has been meaningful to have folks of different faiths walk together, with a common goal to raise awareness about the border deaths.Diversity


Migrant Trail Journal: Thursday, May 29

June 7, 2008

We’ve survived the longest day of the walk: 16 miles!

In order to avoid the heat, we began the day’s walk at 4 AM, having woken up an hour earlier. The only perk of being up so early (at least, to this night owl) is watching the sun rise.

Early Sunrise Middle Sun Late Sunrise

I’m sad to say I was unable to make the whole walk today: I pulled a muscle in the arch of my foot on Monday (as I took the first step of the Migrant Trail, jumping out of the vehicle at the church in Mexico), and have been trying not to put too much pressure on it all week. I walked about 11 miles today before the pain (and the limping) became too severe, and I wouldn’t have been able to keep up with the pace of the walk if I had tried to continue. I got in one of the escort vehicles and helped out with food at the remainder of the stops.

Read the rest of this entry »


Migrant Trail Journal: Wednesday, May 28

June 6, 2008

A Series of Unfortunate Events

Up again at 5 am. My efficiency in packing up a tent, sleeping bag and luggage has significantly increased! It is cold in the morning, so I wear long pants. However, I wear them over my shorts because in a couple of hours, the sun is up and beating down on me. We walk 10.6 miles and arrive at camp around noon.

Day PlaceMy face is so dry I wonder if it’s fallen off. We’ve got no mirrors, but I’m sure someone will tell me if it disappears! Physically, I’m doing fine. I have no blisters, just tired feet. But I’m struggling mentally. I find it hard to focus on reading or even writing this down. Apart from the heat, there are some 60 other peoples around me -all clumped together under a tarp that provides shade. It really isn’t that hot when I’m under the shade. There’s usually a cooling breeze. I’ve decreased my verbal “statements” of how uncomfortable I feel. It’s mind over matter, but right now, I only know that dirty and sweat are over me.

Several unfortunate things happened this afternoon. One participant left as she was having a very difficult time, emotionally. The organizers told us that she had not expected it to be so challenging, so she decided it was best she left. Another participant had a seizure and had to be taken to the ER. We later learned that she has a history of epilepsy, and was well aware that this might happen. The organizers told us that she was being taken care of and would be fine. While this was going on, Jodi started throwing up! I was rather surprised as she’s acclimated to the desert weather, and was clearly not dehydrated. We’re guessing that a virus is going around – probably from the lack of sanitization before handling food. Jodi left for home, but we’re hoping that she’ll be able to return in a few days. Later on, we discovered that three participants were “missing.” We had been told never to leave our campsite, and so some of the leaders were alarmed and went out to search for the three men. Thankfully, they were just taking a walk (some folks have more energy than others!), but needless to say, some folks were not pleased.

In response to that, Margo, an attorney who accompanied us on the walk gave a very insightful talk about safety in the desert. She mentioned that there are lots of other people in the desert with us. At first glance, that does not seem believable. It seemed like we were the only ones, but Margo reminded us that the desert is huge. Apart from migrants, border patrol officers and the occasional visitors of the Refuge, there were also the bajadores who steal and hurt migrants. Typically, they are armed and not in a right state of mind. About 500 bajadores cross the border each year. Margo did not want to scare us, because as a group, we were safe. I have no strong fear for my life here in the desert, on the Migrant Trail. However, Margo reminded me that the desert is real, and it can be very unforgiving. And while it feels lonely, as if there is no one else besides ourselves, it is not. It is vast, and many inhabit the land.


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