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Work 4 Peace,Hold All Life Sacred,Eliminate Violence! I am on my mobile version of the door-to-door, going town-to-town holding readings/gatherings/discussions of my book "But What Can I Do?" This is my often neglected blog mostly about my travels since 9/11 as I engage in dialogue and actions. It is froth with my opinions, insights, analyses toward that end of holding all life sacred, dismantling the empire and eliminating violence while creating the society we want all to thrive in

Saturday, December 22, 2018

My first full day across the border


I’m sooooo lucky to have hooked up with a new dear womon friend and brilliant lawyer who also has a room she is willing to share with me so, at least for a couple of days, I don’t have to worry about housing, which frees me to roll up my sleeves and jump in.

After dropping Luisa off at her lawyering-duty place, I head over to Enclave Caracol – at least I attempt to head over there. It is supposedly very close, like half a mile maybe but it takes me several false turns, more than 45 minutes and through crowded city streets bustling with dozens of street vendors, entertainers, and just ordinary city folks going about their daily business.

And I regret dropping Luisa off first instead of having her with me helping me get the lay of the land before I deposited her at another locale.

The smells and sites and sounds and colors remind me so much of the New York City of my youth – but without the honking of horns and the  rear-end slamming into cars stopped at lights. It’s so very exciting yet sobering as I see tons of evidence of vulnerable humans, although I can’t tell if they are refugees from the current migration or refugees from poverty and oppression.

Finally I find the caracol and I’m disappointed to see that it is closed until 10 today. As I hang out on the steps waiting to be told where to take the donations that are loading down the truck, I am able to talk with several refugees.

I remember my grandmother telling me that when they arrived on these shores, my grandfather couldn’t find a job – no one but Jewish businesses – was hiring Jews except for Macy’s. She said he had to work in the changing room with dozens of other Jewish men. They would get 50cents for every dropped hanger they were able to dive for, snatch up and return to the desk.

She also told me that he didn’t talk for 9 months. His illusions of the promised land must have been shattered.

I see that desperation that I imagine shut my grandfather’s mouth, shoved his words right back down his throat, for the time it takes to give life, grow bring a baby into our world. I see it in the young men – maybe unaccompanied minors – who are wanting work, anything, anything at all, just a way to make some money. Just to be able to provide for themselves. Maybe for their families also.

Oh my god, but the womxxn – their eyes hold the historical trauma embedded deep, so deep in their tiny bodies, their troubled dark skin, in the curve of their shoulders but their eyes holding so many conflicting emotions in a huge tormented reservoir: pain, curiosity, hope, distrust, despair, disappointment, and incredible courage.

A mother, seeming at least a foot shorter than I, wrapped in layers of thick clothes and colorful worn shawls, tries unsuccessfully to comfort her maybe 6 year old boy who has to go to the bathroom. But the caracol is closed and what business is going to let her or him in? As in the u.s., people guard their fuckin toilets.

Where are 18,000 people supposed to go to the bathroom, especially the children? Did you think about that when you thought about the refugees stuck at the border? I didn’t.

The little boy swells up with rage that spills into tears of reproach and accusation when a lawyer approaching Enclave speaks briefly to her and then opens the door for her son to proceed. This child stomps in, yelling at his mom something over his shoulder I can’t understand as she swiftly turns her back on him.

Chris, the FNB (food not bombs) guy I was supposed to connect with has already left for the u.s. I also learn that, although FNB (a part of Enclave Caracol) was cooking and serving 5 or more meals a day when Benito Juarez was operating as a shelter for the first massive wave of refugees, now that the majority of refugees have been relocated 25 miles away, they are only cooking Tuesday thru Friday.

I find out they probably don’t need/can’t take the donations I have on the truck but someone will figure out where they should go. While I’m waiting, I meet another volunteer Sofia, a Spanish-speaking womon who translates my Spanish into Spanish for others – and into english for me. I’m glad. Sofia is here from L.A. and is going to go to Costco to pick up $800 worth of supplies. She wants to carpool to the border with me.

Finally, a young man who has some information tells me he’s with a revolutionary support group or organization based in Mexico City that provides services for refugees. I hadn’t thought about Mexicans coming from other parts of Mexico to work here, yet now that I’ve been here a couple of hours, I’ve met Mexican volunteers from almost every part of Mexico, including Tijuana!

 Carlos tells me that the ‘new’ shelter location is over 45 minutes away, that’s where these donations are desperately needed, but it is too dangerous for me to go to by myself.

Furthermore, I’m told, I cannot deliver directly to the camp because the Mexican government that is running the camp will either confiscate or refuse delivery of the donations. But there are several other smaller shelters that feed and provide for refugees where I can leave things.

During the time I’m waiting for Sofia to return from Costco, three young men approach Carlos with a small sheet of paper and a list of items needed for El Baratel camp. I have some of those things, but not most. I want to take a picture so I can pass on to you, generous reader, in case you’re moved to provide necessities to these vulnerable humans.

The three young men are extremely skinny, clothes hanging more loosely than on an outdoor clothes line, with contrasting mod hip haircuts that belie their current condition. They want to ride back with me to Baratel but I tell them I’m waiting for Sofia.

Another womon, Sara approaches me and asks me if I feel comfortable with a couple of guys riding out with me to show me where to go and who to contribute to. Of course I say. Sara looks doubtful so I tell her I will just push them out the truck if they try anything. They guys overhear me and laugh deep belly laughs. I’m supposed to be afraid of them?

Sofia can’t make it back so I motion to the guys to load up into the front seat and we head out. All three of us peer at the electronic directions, trying to figure out the right way to go. At least we are not in danger of crossing over the border. I forgot to ask their ages, as we’ve been instructed not to EVER give a ride to unaccompanied minors. I’m putting their ages to the back of my mind for now.

We finally get to El Barretal and our first stop. I walk across the uneven pale rust dirt ground thru the colorful crooked door hanging open by a thread and the first thing that hits me is the delicious smell of something cooking over the fire.

Womxxn are of course cooking, and the men appear is if conjured up with the smoke to help unload the truck. Other people are sitting around a table, looking intently focused on the papers and pencil in front of them.

The guys swiftly take over and decide how much and which things to distribute here. Everything happens so fast, no one - not even the slightest, youngest one - stumbles under 100 pound bags of rice or 50 pound boxes of beans.

I’m so glad there are also coats and sweat shirts as it is supposed to rain again in the next few days plus the nights are chilly.

We leave there and proceed to the Echo Village folks who are here doing ground support. I don’t have time to ask them if they’re going to do a village with refugees here in Tijuana before we are off again, this time with two different passengers.

We return to Tijuana and to another refugee shelter also called Benito Juarez like the original one but this is much smaller and happier, as there’s music playing and people dancing.

All day many people approach me re:the message on my shirt: “Make Amerikkka Mexico Again”, expressing their love and laughter as well as positive support. It has enabled me to talk with Tijuana folks, some refugees, and many tourists as well as volunteers.

Finally the truck is empty and I get a text from Luisa to come pick her up. Cross fingers I can make it without getting caught in border traffic.

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