As our second week begins, we are dropped off at our home stays in Nogales, Sonora, a border town just a few minutes from the line. The colonia—neighborhood—where we are staying surrounds La Casa de Misercordia, the Mexican counterpart of BorderLinks. “The House of Mercy” is a sort of community center with offices, dorms for visitors, a playground, basketball court and a kitchen where the neighborhood kids come to play and eat lunch on school days. The Casa is where we are holding the children’s day camp during the week. The neighborhood kids—about 100—ages five to fifteen, came to camp each morning to be a part of the excitement.
The day begins with singing led by Profesor Elias, and the group’s favorite would have to be “¡Basta!” a protest song that means “Enough!” Diversity was the camp’s theme as each day we focused on two or three countries and their cultures and all the stations aimed to reflect this theme. Manualidades (crafts), deportes (sports), música (music), cine (movie) and lotería (bingo) comprised the very busy day of activities. The week culminated in a ridiculously crazy water balloon fight that helped to cool everyone down in the 105 degree heat.
Running water is a rarity in the colonia and houses are made of a hodgepodge of materials. We stayed two to a house and enjoyed our nightly paleta runs. Paletas, the new group addiction, are a unique type of popsicle, filled with real fruit—coconut and mango were the biggest hits. Living in the barrio with the kids from camp was great as each night when we walked around the center we would see familiar faces and get to play with the kids on their own turf.
Tuesday and Thursday night we cooked and cleaned for four hours at a sort of soup kitchen for migrants called “Las Madres,” or “The Mothers.” The center is run by a few local nuns to feed and provide a rest stop for migrants who have been recently deported or are about to embark on the treacherous journey through the desert to El Otro Lado—the other side. The city of Nogales is the hot spot of migrant travels, as this is the drop off for those deported and also the town from which most migrants set off for the United States. Cooking dinner was a bit of a challenge as all of the food at Las Madres was donated in bulk, but none of the ingredients went together to form a cohesive recipe per say. We got to be pretty creative in feeding the fifty migrants that passed through each night.
The last night, Friday, we had a fiesta with our host families in the comedor—kitchen—of La Casa, where we had live music and more than enough food to go around. The following morning we head back to Tucson and even get to make a run for the paleta stand as we are waiting in line to cross the border.