Today was our first full day in El Paso! We went to two different colonias, which are plots of land that many undocumented immigrants live on. The storyteller for the first one talked about her experiences living in the United States for the past 23 years. She struggled with family tensions, legal inquiries, and unfair treatment. Many of her family members live in Mexico, and this has caused her to struggle mentally and medically. She is struggling to pay for a surgery that she needs, and was very brave for sharing her story with us. She recently was able to get running water, a septic tank, and electricity, which many people still lack.
Between our first and second colonias, we had a quick stop to a local market. Many of us got sweet bread, among other pastries. We compared our own culture to that of El Paso’s. It was interesting to see how much El Paso has been influenced by Mexican culture. We stood in the parking lot, while eating our treats, and thought about how disappointed our parents would be if they saw us eating that much sugar.
Our second storyteller was a mother of three kids, two of which are undocumented and the other is a US citizen. They have had many struggles, but the biggest was when their father was deported and separated from his family for two-and-a-half years. The household dynamic shifted dramatically, and there were many instances when they could’ve lost hope. Finally, they were reunited, and she told a heartbreaking story about how desperate she felt while her husband was gone. We were able to ask questions to her and her daughter, who translated for us. It was interesting to see how differently they viewed the same story. One thing that really resonated with us was the idea that many immigrants come here to live, not to survive.
After the stories, we drove back to Cristo Rey church where we had a small break and were able to visit the nearby park. We played on the playground, the basketball court, and the field, as well as running and working out. We created strong bonds during this fun and exciting day.
Later in the evening, we took a short drive to an outlook viewpoint over El Paso and Ciudad Juarez. We could actually see the border line, the Rio Grande, and an immigration checkpoint, which was marked with a big red “X”. We took many pictures (as you can see) and watched the sun set over El Paso. We came back, talked through our day, and are ready for an early morning tomorrow!
Abby, Ana, and Claire