Chester, Júan, Alma, and Júan Carlos—my new family as of Saturday, June 14. And quite a family they were. I learned so much about what everyday life in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, entails. This amazing family opened their arms and hearts to Rachel and me in every way possible, and they definitely embodied the phrase, “mi casa su casa.” And even though I am not nearly fluent in Spanish, the conversations we were able to have and the things we were able to learn from each other were incredible. Not only were they able to share some of their story with me, but I was able to also share mine with them. In this way, over the course of one week, we were able to actually build a relationship—something that can sometimes take years to develop.
Not only was I able to learn through conversation, I also learned quite a lot simply through experience. For instance, in the colonia, or colony, in which we were staying, running water is very rare. Therefore, many things are done differently, less frequently, or simply not at all. The climate in Nogales is also something that affects daily life. The extensive heat takes a great toll on the body, and, as air conditioning is also rare, less activity during the hottest hours of the day is a necessity. Living there, compared to life in the United States, almost feels like an entirely different world. A world, however, that thanks to a wonderful family, I also felt so welcome in.
Spending over three hours each day for a week sounds taxing in itself. Add in the great heat of Mexico and the fact that it was the first week of summer, and the energy level of the kids increases, while that of the “adults” decreases. I place adults in quotes, because that’s what we were to the kids—as Lucy put it, “fun adults.” But it sounds so funny for me to think about it in that way. After all, I don’t feel like an adult. In fact, sometimes I feel like those kids have a lot better grasp on reality than I do. Seeing the situations they live in and where they come from isn’t easy. The harsh reality that is every day life in Mexico makes any United Statesan (yes, we coined a new word…after all, we’re all American) look rich. And the thing is, the young kids have no idea; they’re happy with what they do have. The older kids are starting to get a sense of what living on the Mexican side of the border means. As I’m sure someone else will mention, some of the kids know that we’re from “the other side.”
But what does that mean? It means that we can come back. And I’ll be the first to admit that I missed my phone and computer during the ten-day stay in Mexico; I was happy to see all of my material things when we returned on Saturday. It means that after the week-long camp of singing, sports, and arts and crafts was over, we had to say goodbye. It breaks my heart to think just how many times those kids have had to say goodbye. Spend a week with a kid, and there’s so much potential for you both to fall in love. And then what? We come back. They stay there. They know this, and we know this. It doesn’t make it any easier. What if we could just bring them back with us? Ensure that they have the childhood we had. Would that make it easier? We’d like to think so. And for us, maybe it would. But for them, this is home. This is family. This is reality. And as they begin to see the stark difference on each side of the wall, who knows what will happen. This is the hardest part. Did we spend a week with future scholars, future workers, or future migrants? In the words of one Mexican camp leader, Jeanette, this week we planted a seed. And now that seed has hope. We can work and hope now for their future. After all, as the title of a poem / sermon by Oscar Romero states, we are “Prophets of a Future Not Our Own.”