Last Thursday I visited Prescott College for a presentation called Bringing Home The Borderlands. It was a student project combining dance, spoken word, video, photography and testimonials to paint a grim picture of the relationship between the U.S and Mexican border. Living in Arizona for only 7 weeks I’m just starting to understand. I knew about the violence in Mexico, the drug cartels and corrupt government. But there’s so much more than that. Starting with American apathy. It seems we’ve been lied to, folks. Again.
Optimism coupled with a good dose of idealism always makes my day. I’m a student at heart who believes that activism is a duty rather than a calling. The students that put this project together spent time right on the border collecting stories from people who have been deported, confined and abused by our system. Just when you thought miles of red tape couldn’t get any longer you find the knots that are almost impossible to untangle. People seeking asylum from Mexico to this country can’t do so because they’re from Mexico. Instead they become stuck in a system of bureaucracy which is another word for not getting shit done.
Going through the process of obtaining a Green card is long and tedious. It is also very difficult to actually be a candidate. Someone can get very far into the process of applying for Permanent Residency till suddenly the US asks for something and they realize they are no longer eligible. For example, someone might have their birth certificate, the I-134 all filled out, and proof of no criminal record, but when they turn in their bank statement they’re turned down because they don’t have enough money in the bank. From The Way To Immigration Zine by Lucy Sperr.
The most moving part of the presentation was a piece of paper taped under our seats. Each piece had a name on it. Each name had an age next to it. Mine read Rebeca Contrereras, 23. Rebeca was 23 years old when she was murdered in Juarez. In 10 years (from 1993-2003) 370 women and girls have been murdered in Ciudad Juarez. That may not seem like a large number when you consider the violence perpetrated by the drug cartels. It seems, from our media sources, that 370 people are being murdered every week. But feminicide, like human trafficking, has numbers too big to count. 370 is merely a sample of a bigger picture. How many of those deaths go unreported? How many of those women have never been found? When you consider those statistics the bigger picture painted is a bleak one. Bleaker still is the treatment of these missing girls. Many are dismissed as poor prostitutes who are out at night well past their bedtimes. They should be more careful and stay out of trouble. Sound familiar? Listening to this presentation I couldn’t help but think of the similarities between human trafficking in the U.S and feminicide in Mexico. Both nations seem to exhibit ignorance and an inability to tackle the violence and exploitation of women head-on. Many trafficking victims come from Mexico and are dealt with by being deported rather than helped.
Mexico has become a mirror which reflects the U.S’s own pitfalls. Trying to keep refugees out only justifies the intolerance within. Our indifference is our acceptance. By not knowing, these problems keep growing. By not caring, we put off future relations and build a bigger bridge towards hostility rather than peace. The problem in Mexico won’t go away just because we ignore it. You can’t put a lid on the ocean and expect not to overflow. Leaks spring and turn to rivers. It’s time to reeducate ourselves. I applaud the ladies of this presentation for opening my eyes. You’ve inspired me to start my own small movement and get involved. Everyone deserves a shot of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The borderlands are in our own backyard.