Saturday, June 14, 2008

Week 1 - Jose

DukeEngage “Encuentros de la Frontera” has been an excellent experience where everyone in our group has personally been able to see issues on immigration. Being from Laredo, Texas, a border town community with Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, I see many of these issues on a day to day basis, but this experience has enabled me to gain a deeper understanding of immigration. Having the opportunity to talk to migrants who have either been recently deported or are planning to cross to the US has allowed me to learn about the many problems that migrants confront not only when they cross the border but when they travel or arrive in Mexico. More importantly, I got the chance to analyze our current material culture and likewise recognize that there are people who are aware of our societal problems who have decided to contribute to their community in one way or another.

When we arrived in Tucson, Arizona, I was amazed at how similar it was to Laredo, Texas. But it was not until I visited many of the places I will be working in 2 weeks that I realized there is much more to the issue of immigration than what appears on the surface. One place our group visited was Casa María, a soup kitchen. Arriving, I saw many men standing outside the front yard. It was a really hot day but everyone was hanging outside, unlike our DukeEngage group who had just recently arrived to Tucson and was not used to the dry, hot weather - we wanted to just stay in the van with the cool air conditioning. The Borderlinks staff introduced us to Brian, one of the coordinators of Casa Maria. He talked to us about his personal endeavors that included serving food to these migrants, helping them get a job, and fighting to maintain the current bus price (an increase in bus fare would affect all these men that take the city bus since they could not afford to buy a car). Our group realized that Brian, a white man with a college degree was living with $10 a week. After college graduation he had decided to live at an impoverished house, next to the migrant shelter. It was interesting to listen to his life being transformed by the injustices he saw daily and the personal realization that the impoverished were being marginalized even more. It was even more eye opening that such an educated man could leave everything to help others in greater need.

Brian later gave us a tour of the place. When we went into the house, we found Maria and other volunteers making sandwiches for the men. She also lived at a nearby, humble house. It was interesting to know that all the food they had received was food that had not been expired yet but that local grocery stores could not sell to the public, anymore. While this food seemed profitless for the local stores, it had become very essential to the people in Casa Maria because dozens of hungry men were being fed daily. The loaves of bread and ham would nourish these men during lunch while they would try to find a job during the morning and afternoon, hoping that they were lucky enough to land a one or two day job.

Brian also showed us the showers that the men that were extremely poor or homeless would use for free. There were three volunteers that would organize the schedule for the showers. They would work without getting paid 363 days of the year (i.e. already excluding Thanksgiving and New Years Eve). They would go to nearby stores and collect clothes that could not be sold because of a manufacturer’s defect.

Everything that I saw at Casa Maria made me think on the importance of being frugal and consuming only what is necessary. It made me reevaluate the extent of how much people in the United States over-consume and leave to waste. This surplus food and clothes (as well as other material goods) should be distributed more equally. It does not even have to travel far to reach hungry people; goods can be given to the needy people like those in Casa Maria who unbelievably go through hunger every day even though they live in the United States. Additionally, Casa Maria showed me that there are still many people who volunteer and give their hearts to the community - there are still “Samaritans” who do a good deed without asking for anything in return.

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