Thursday, November 5, 2009

On the Fence

From El Paso, Texas to the Gulf of Mexico, the Rio Grande runs (not-so-grandly) through deserts and mountains, forming the US-Mexico border. In El Paso, the river bends north and becomes the border between Texas and New Mexico instead. At that point, the US border continues to travel west across land all the way to the pacific.

If you want to go up to the fence, and see Mexico directly on the other side, you have to go to New Mexico where there is not a river at the border. Every year at the fence in New Mexico, a border mass is held in honor of the struggling migrant and of the deaths and injustices that have occurred on the border. This year, I took some pictures.

Above, you can see Mexico on the left of the fence, and the US on the right of the fence. You'll notice that on the Mexican side, the people are crammed against the fence, and on the US side, there is a significant gap between the fence and the people. Seeing this gap, one of the attendees called it, "fucking scandalous." Apparently, last year border patrol put a line a few feet away from the fence where people could not cross, except for during one part of the ceremony, the sign of peace, where you can go to the fence and embrace, with squeezed fingers through cracks, the people on the other side. It was told to me that after communion last year, the bishop from Juárez said on to the US side, "We are further apart than we have ever been, you would think we have a disease or something, I hope that next year we can be fully united once again." This year however, it was far more than a mere few feet of separation.
Some people blamed this gap on the Border Patrol that stood in between the fence and the US crowd. Based on the line that their bodies formed, it appeared the we were not allowed to pass to the fence. Curious, I went up and asked if we could pass and stand at the fence. With a little hesitation, he said yes. So I walked up and stood by the fence, feeling uncomfortable and as if I was neglecting some unspoken rule.
Many flags and balloons hung high on the Mexican side. After the ceremony, the sky became filled with white balloons floating up and up and up.
Above, friends—separated by the fence—take the time to catch up. Despite the umbrellas, it was not raining. It is a new phenomenon to me that in November umbrellas are widely used as sun protection.
When people say it was swarming with Border Patrol, they mean it. These agents are standing about ten feet from the fence, making sure that no one jumps over or climbs through a hole.
These kids seem more interested in the ceremony, than trying to hop the fence.

One interesting dynamic between the Border Patrol at the ceremony and the partakers and bishops of the mass, is that I bet both parties would claim that they were there for the purpose of justice. But justice with different definitions. Perhaps justice to Border Patrol is making sure that a person who commits a crime (such as crossing the fence) gets the punishment that is necessary. Perhaps to the bishops and the guests at the mass justice means creating fairness and equality for all people. The ambiguity of the word justice, considering it's implications, strikes me. One of the big jails in El Paso, where guests from our house have ended up, is located on the not coincidentally named "Justice Street." When seeing the reasons people have been sent there, and the time that they are to spend there, the word justice doesn't particularly come to mind.