El Otro Lado

Let us go across to the other side

Mark 4:35

In the Gospel of Mark there are a lot of times when Jesus and the disciples cross from Jewish land to Gentile land and vice versa. This gospel is read by the delegation groups in preparation for their trip to Agua Prieta/Douglas, and I too read and have been discussing with each group various verses from it.

It has had me thinking a lot about who is willing to cross and who is able to cross these borders. For example, there is a passage in which Jesus and the disciples cross into Gentile land. Jesus leaves the boat and begins healing gentiles, and in this passage, the longest in Mark, none of the disciples are mentioned at all. My boss pointed this out to me, and questioned if they stayed behind in the boat and let Jesus go to do his thing alone. Where they not willing to go across to the other side?

Though I have physically crossed the border, I question, in what ways have I stayed behind in the boat? Have I been fully present in the community of Agua Prieta? Am I fully present with each of the migrants?

And then there’s the HUGE question: who is able to cross?

All of the delegation groups will testify how surprisingly easy it is to cross into Mexico- no lines, no presentation of your papers. But with over a thousand migrants on the list to stay in CAME (the shelter for migrants), it is clear that the reality is not the same when crossing the opposite direction. Beneath blankets tied to the fence-style wall that borders the US, sleeping on mats laid on top of the concrete, are migrants that could testify how surprisingly (?) hard it is to cross into the United States.

My white skin and my “passport privilege” make this a reality I am blind to. And as I ride my bike past the 2 hour long line of cars waiting at the port of entry, I greet the migrants staying in la línea, I am able to “go across to the other side” with an ease they’ll never know.

Rosendo and I standing beneath the border wall, in an open flood gate. Over Rosendo’s shoulder is the US and behind me is Mexico.

There multiple realities here, regarding “the other side”, “el otro lado”.

  • There are many people who live on one side but work or go to school on the other. In both directions.
  • There are people who have migrated to Agua Prieta years ago, found good work in factories, and have built their family here on the southern side. (Some of which who refuse to apply for a visa, because they do not want to enter into a country where they do not feel welcome.)
  • There are delegation groups from the US that have come to learn the realities here. They come for a week, learn on both sides of the border, and head back home on the northern side.
  • There are adults who spent their whole lives living in the United States, but now live in Agua Prieta since they were deported years ago.
  • There are migrants in transit. They come from southern Mexico, Cuba, Venezuela and more. They are here in AP waiting to be welcomed on the other side so they can begin their process to seek asylum.

Here, there are two sides. And there are many different experiences for the people living along both sides.

I am really grateful to be here to take it all in. Both by sharing in the experience of living amongst a border, and by learning from those whose realities have to be different than mine due to which side we were born on.

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