I’m currently sitting at Shalom Mennonite Church in Tucson waiting for the service to begin in about a half hour. We’ve already had a fairly busy morning so far, having taken a brief practice walk in the desert.
Yesterday was an event-filled day: we spent the majority of the day in Mexico, on a pre-Migrant Trail learning tour (just for the MCC delegation).
Our first stop was the border wall in Nogales. It runs right through the city, which exists on both sides of the border. There was artwork on the wall – graffiti, paintings & sculptures – that displayed the myriad emotions felt by people are are intimately affected by the border. The artwork showed anger for the Border Patrol, for the United States in general, and for the “coyotes” who guide migrants across the border for a hefty fee. It also revealed a feeling of sadness for the plight of migrants, especially those who have died in the desert.
When we were done at the wall, we drove to Mercy House, where a MCC SALT worker is currently volunteering for the year. She showed us around the compound, then took us to her host mom’s house for lunch.
Both the compound and the house were on the side of a hill/mountain, and while both buildings were fairly nice, they were surrounded by shacks and concrete hovels as far as the eye could see. The disparity of wealth was even more apparent when we visited a Mexican supermarket. The store itself was huge – much bigger (and cleaner) than the Safeway nearest to the MCC unit house in DC! Yet outside the supermarket was no pristine suburban landscape, but shacks in every direction. I’m sure there are extravagant homes in Nogales, but we didn’t see any.
We also visited the maquiladora (factory/sweatshop) complex, where many multinational corporations have built clean (on the outside, at least) factories. These factories are one of the largest sources of Mexican economic production, especially in the wake of NAFTA, which pushed many farmers off their land and altered the makeup of the Mexican economy.
Seeing this part of Mexico revealed just how privileged my life is. Being born a U.S. citizen is by itself a huge privilege, which was made clear by the economic disparity of the U.S. and Mexican portions of Nogales. Being a U.S. citizen (and especially a white one) opened up life options, wealth and the opportunity at a better future that many Mexicans could only dream of. It is eminently understandable why many people risk their very lives to come to the United States.