(you can click on each of the  photos below to see larger images. check them out if you get a chance.  i’ll be posting a video soon.)

El Paso was hard for me. I drove the “border highway” with my host Rachel and we talked about what it means to live life on the the border. For me, my border identity has been composed of my own mestisaje/mayan/queer/femme/immigrant/norteamericana/adopted/transracial/transnational/welfaremama/academic selves. And yet, with all those borders in mind, I have never had the experience of literally, physically, living on the border. Rachel had. She shared with me some of her experience of being a teen in El Paso. How the undocumented workers, who moved back and forth over the border for so many years, impacted her communities economy and how her community relied on their work. She shared with me the direct impact that NAFTA had on her community and on the 10 % of its citizens, an estimated 30,000(mostly single mama head of households), that almost immediately lost their garment industry jobs, when it was put into place in 1994. Take a look at this interesting article about some of NAFTA’\s effects.

During our drive we talked about the newly constructed/upgraded wall that ran the course of the border now. We talked about how the militarization of the border was part of border life and about how many families were impacted by the increasing barriers & attacks on immigrants.

As an immigrant kid, a transnational/transracial adoptee who spent 8 years in my homeland Guatemala before moving to the U.S., my adoptive family and I would travel across the Mexico border frequently, with, as you can imagine, not so much difficulty. It hurt my heart to see the new 100/150 ft. fences up and know that communities who relied on being able to cross, and who had been giving their labor to the U.S. for so long now, were facing the new obstacles of trying to find adequate housing, employment and other necessities because of these walls. Their labor expendable and their identities exploitable, we have waged war on individuals instead of the systems and corporations that continue to dehumanize entire communities. Only now, we call it a war on terrorism and justify this as a means to keep us/US safe, when for years we relied on this form of labor and, honestly, we still do.

The idea of “living on the border” got real, real for me on this visit.  As I mentioned, I have my own internalized and lived experience of what it means to me to live on the border, my identity split between a home I haven’t returned to, a language I can only speak brokenly, a family and people’s I only vaguely remember and the constant reminder of what “other” feels like in the home-away-from-home that I currently live in. But, in reality, I DO NOT live on the actual border US/Mexico border and so I don’t have to witness the real, literal, material, man-made border-walls that separate communities, families, individuals and cultures every day.  It made me ill to see these man made structures, meant to enforce fictionalized realities of what/ who belongs where.  These walls are the same walls that are used to rationalize hate-legislation like Arizona’s new SB1070 and are man made walls that prevent first nation and indigenous people’s from being able to travel the lands that our people knew far before other groups of “immigrants” lay “ownership” over them.

Despite my emotional reaction to the borders, Rachel was an amazing host.  We discussed how important Gloria Anzaldua’s work was to us both, giving language to our experiences as border dwellers, in our own varying ways.

We visited La Mujer Obrera/Mercado Mayapan, an amazing space.  Here’s a description from their website: Mercado Mayapán is a unique community-operated festival marketplace and community empowerment center. This beautifully renovated 40,000 square foot warehouse in South-Central El Paso houses a wide range of businesses and community services, and serves as a cultural center and events venue for the neighborhood and all of El Paso.

I was completely floored by how beautiful the space was, by the Chicano Power Exhibit they had up and the Museo Mayachen. All of these were inspiring reminders of how important our histories are. How beautiful it is to build resistance through remembering! In these cases, these archives (and the entire space itself) spoke to the resistance of migrants workers, chicanos and the hispanic/latino community of El Paso. How diverse and powerful this community has been!

Since, as many of you know, I have been traveling and asking what a radical platform/ agenda looks like, I felt inspired by these histories/archives to begin to explore what (and possibly archive) what  intersectional radical his/herstories  look like. What can we remember about our collective pasts? How can we build stronger, healthier and more encompassing radical movements based on what we’ve experienced? How can we heal from some of the hurts that we’ve experienced as radical peoples? AND, how do we talk about the ways we’ve hurt ourselves… even alienating folks from stringent, single-issued radical movements?

SOOO many questions. I want to hear what y’all have to say about these questions: Please send me comments here or emails to truthandhealingproject@gmail.com.

Lastly, but by far not leastly, I wanted to share some of the work that Rachel has been working on in Austin (where she had been living for the last 8 or so years). In addition to doing work as a media activist Rachel was one of the members of La Semilla Childcare Collective, which provides free childcare to support radical mamaz and community caretakers. La Semilla Childcare Collective began in November of 2008, and was born from the need for childcare that Mamas of Color Rising expressed to the radical community. La Semilla is Austin’s only childcare collective provide childcare solidarity for radical community members of color.

While having created a close family with Mamas of Color, they are now providing childcare solidarity for other groups in Austin including Austin Immigrant Rights Coalition and Worker’s Defense Project. They are currently planning on attending USSF/AMC this summer and currently connecting and organizing nationally with other childcare collectives! They are really grounding their work in anti-oppression methodology and thinking about how to create a movement that includes children as important members! For more info you can contact them at:

childcareatx@riseup.net

Advertisements