Rise and shine! Greeted with smiles, optimism, and a smörgusbord of breakfast food, the first morning in El Paso set the mood for the day. While eating my bowl of Captain Crunch and sipping my much-needed morning coffee, I braced myself for the day’s docket, which included : a tour of El Paso, a bilingual Lutheran service, and the exploration of a Mexican marketplace.
After preparing our group’s contribution to the potluck (fruit salad), all seven of us piled into the van to go downtown. The first stop was a city blocks worth of graffiti that El Paso artists used for expression. For the large LatinX population in El Paso I was surprised to be greeted with very few politically-driven art pieces. Trump being depicted as a pig was one of a very small handful of politically-driven pieces. The painting that resonated with me was the depiction of a phoenix on a neighboring building. I drew a symbolic connection of a phoenix and the rebirth of the human spirit as one crosses the border. The American Dream, as John* pointed out in the previous night’s storytime, is something he didn’t find or believe in until after crossing the border. A Struggle. An Opportunity. A Decision. A Rebirth. From my understanding of immigration as it stands now, the immigrant is like a phoenix. John’s* story has reminded me of the resiliency of the human spirit.
LatinX families pursuit of better education for their kids in the El Paso has reminded me of my immense privilege having been born in a country and living in a city that prioritized education. When I examine my privilege, I acknowledge that I am white, I am male, and I am cisgender; this trip has made me recognize that education is arguably as important as these listed identities, if not more.
Nervous. After a trip into El Paso, I prepared myself for my first bilingual Lutheran service. In fact, it was my first church service in several years. Pastora Rose Mary’s service spurred a lot of critical thinking about the temporary nature of my time on Earth, my purpose here, and my willingness to sacrifice for others. It is the things that aren't material that are eternal. The themes presented in the service reified thoughts I have had about my future. With aspirations of one day serving in the Peace Corps and doing international social justice work, this sermon sparked self-reflection on the path I have set forth for myself.
The market in Juarez is how we spent the bulk of the day. After crossing the border into Mexico, which was surprisingly easy, our group was able to explore and get a hands-on experience with Mexican culture. There were dancers; there were bartering vendors; and there was a cathedral. Wide-eyed, I tried to embrace the culture which was so seemingly similar to American marketplaces, but so clearly different. The state of facilities and infrastructure was the clearest difference that could be drawn. Furthermore, the militarization of the police force and the open-bartering for goods was met with a deal of surprise to many in the group. Having toured El Paso that morning, and after visiting Juarez it was interesting to see the unfiltered Mexican culture and to think about how that culture has shaped and influenced the El Paso (USA) region.
As a natural empath, in the future days I look forward to hearing the stories of individuals and the profound effects the border has had on them. I seek to understand their hardships, their resiliency, and their metaphorical rebirth in the States.