A professor visits migrants at the border near Nogales, Mexico

border_immersion_morenoBy the time the two young women walked into the shelter, the other migrants were mostly finished with their meals. They stood out as two women among dozens of recently deported men enjoying a meal before continuing on their way. I did what I had been doing all that January morning: I served them each a glass of hot chocolate and a plate of food.

We were volunteering at the Kino Border Initiative (KBI) in Nogales, Mexico, as part of the Center for Social Concerns’ Border Immersion Faculty Seminar. For several years, Notre Dame students have participated in this seminar, but this was the first time it was being offered to faculty and staff as well. As a professor of U.S. Latino literature who studies and teaches about the border, this was an opportunity for me to experience the border in a different way.

Mas…A professor visits migrants at the border near Nogales, Mexico

It’s a long, hard road from Central America to El Norte

borderflyersEscaping criminal gangs in Central America and crossing Mexico to enter the U.S. without papers is only the first step in a long journey, a journey with an ending that remains unknown.

The Intercept tells the story:

A few nights ago, Ana crossed illegally into the United States from Guatemala. Her husband paid a coyote $4,000 to smuggle Ana and their son through the lowland jungles of southern Mexico, up the San Pedro river to the Texas border.

“A gang was after us,” Ana says in a daze, digging her knuckles into her cheeks to stay awake. She and her child were just released from a 48-hour stay at a detention center where it was too cold to sleep.

Mas…It’s a long, hard road from Central America to El Norte

Por los que no se rajan — for those that don’t crack

womanwithbaby(Antigua, Guatemala — December 2000) I glanced up from my plate of rice, beans and perfectly grilled chicken breast. I was nauseous and weak from days of vomiting. Third-world cuisine always leaves me thinner than when I arrive.

In hindsight, I’m not sure if it was the beautiful colors in the woman’s “huipil” or if it was the look of angst on her face that caught my eye. As I gazed out the window of the restaurant I sat in, all I could think about was my own discomfort and what my friends back in the U.S. were doing.

While I contemplated these trivial matters, my father jumped up from his chair. I watched as he grabbed my uneaten plate, bolted out the front door of the restaurant and caught up to the woman I had seen walk by.

Mas…Por los que no se rajan — for those that don’t crack

Uncle Sam’s migracorrido ‘La Bestia (The Death Train)’ (music, lyrics)

From Central America comes this ballad that’s fast rising the Latin American charts. It’s all about the dangerous Death Train that Central American drug war refugees ride on their way across Mexico enroute to El Norte. In Spanish they call the train The Beast — La Bestia.

And who is the man behind this music? It’s a name we all love, but who knew he could sing!? This track comes from Uncle Sam, who hired an ad agency to make a hit record.

Mas…Uncle Sam’s migracorrido ‘La Bestia (The Death Train)’ (music, lyrics)