Coming home each day, Juarez stretch out below me. I see the X over miles of streets and houses while walking around town; pass the signs saying Juarez, Mexico on the highway. I am aware, in a subconscious way, of the reality of the border, the separation and power dynamics that come with the ability to move from one side to the other and back. Crossing the bridge and entering the narrow roads where trucks squeeze themselves between buses and buildings the things that make my daily reality different from people on that side. Sitting down to breakfast with Douglas and Elsa, a common humanity was able to bridge the chasms between nations and borders and status. I found biases in my perception of the border as I asked if they planned to cross again after being deported. They explained the stability of their life in Juarez as compared to El Salvador or El Paso without status, the possibilities for their children to go to school in the US if they wanted to but their hopes to start a business there in Mexico.
Any attempts I make to separate the two cities, the two countries I see realities that are weaved through the fabric of both. Reaching the fence with new eyes, the proposal for a wall seems even more ridiculous than before. I stood touching the fifteen feet of steel rising out of the desert and watched a gnat fly from one side to another between the bars thinking of the futility and the insult of the bars. A jail for a whole nation. We climbed back in the van, warm now from the afternoon sun and drove the twisting streets back to the bridge. Crossing back, the bridge was empty. A ghost town of the movement that was there just six months ago. I thought back to the hours we spent waiting in August as we passed back over in minutes. Rugged streets turned smooth as we headed toward home and I’m still left with this border reality rattling around in my head, trying to understand the logic of ripping apart cities, families, psyches. Salsa and merengue from street bands swirl around stories and faces that know true fear and still live in joy. I continue to try to hold these distinct realities of celebration and mourning, the complex dance of the human experience, as I grow in understanding of this place.
By Emily Bowen, BSCer