OP-ED: A Call to Arms – Solidarity Has No Borders
Photos and essay by San Diego activist and photographer, Alejandro Martinez Junior:
November 24th, 2018.
I just came back from dropping off two Hondurans from the central American caravan at Benito Juarez Sports Complex after inviting them for mole enchiladas at our apartment in Tijuana. We ate, shared jokes, listened to music and danced to Honduran music in the kitchen. Friends listened to their stories from the caravan and their journeys across the Mexican landscape, their hurdles, their dreams and aspirations for the future. They talked to us about hopping on moving buses trying to get a ride, getting lost in the Mexico City subway system, and, for one, a desire to live in Paris someday.
Joseph, who celebrated his 18th birthday in October with the caravan, played music and showed us traditional Honduran dance: punta. It demanded that your hips become the smoothest, most fluid movement in the world. If you couldn’t feel the music, the rhythm, the beat, if you didn’t let yourself go, you weren’t dancing punta.
Maria, Rafa, and Evan, all members of the Arts Advisory Committee at Centro Cultural De La Raza in San Diego, danced punta in the kitchen under Joseph’s warm instruction. My roommate, Alexandra, sat on a chair and lovingly laughed at all of us. Brian, from Honduras and turning 21 on December 6th, stood next to Joseph, dancing, happy, smiling, laughing. They had befriended eachother in their journey to the United States/Mexico border. Now they were brothers - family. Love brought us all together here tonight.
This is the sharing of culture, the acceptance of migration, the condoning of it, the celebration of journeys and the human spirit. The opening of our doors to, not strangers, but friends. Hearing stories about travels from all of these individuals leaves anyone thinking, “and you are still here.” It must be understood these migrant caravaners are perhaps the finest examples of resilience, strength and courage. When studying the perseverance of humankind, we need not stray too far from studying this current 2018 central American exodus. I urge anyone reading this to cross this border and meet these people. Talk to them. Laugh with them. Listen. Find a friend who speaks Spanish and have conversations. Not every interaction requires a language, however.
I’ve often found playing sports with people who didn’t speak the same language as me to be the best method of communicating or bonding. I know most of the people who read this cross the border less than 5 times a year. I hope that one of those times is soon. I hope that it is now. If we want the world to change, we need to actively participate in this effort, everyday, and make change happen: individually and communally. All of us can contribute to this fight.
Currently, there are 4,500 central American migrants in Zona Norte Tijuana at the Benito Juarez Sports Complex. According to the Tijuana government, we are expecting approximately 4,000 - 5,000 more. Large buses arrive in the middle of the night within the week and drop off several hundred caraveners at Benito Juarez complex. Some travel in smaller groups and others, perhaps with less resources, hitch rides on semi-trucks and trailers, trying to get to the border.
November 20th, 2018 saw the tragic death of an underaged migrant caravener by the name of Oscar Baudiel Cruz Alcerro. Oscar was struck by an unidentified vehicle on the Mexicali-Tijuana highway on his way to Tijuana. A vigil was planned at the Benito complex the next day. We remember Oscar Baudiel Cruz Alcerro and his fight in the central American exodus.
Other shelters are also housing central American migrants. Joventud 2000 is housing predominantly women and children. Casa Madre Assunta and Enclave Caracol are other shelters opening their doors. Benito Juarez stadium complex continues being the largest shelter housing migrants. It is at the epicenter of this situation. The stadium complex, less than 100 feet from the border-wall, has turned into a surreal refugee camp where American helicopters, on the US side, fly in circles overhead. This is happening 15 minutes away from North Park’s Livewire. Anyone raised in the United States would think what they were experiencing was a movie. The sad fucking truth is that it’s not. The sad fucking truth is that this is a crisis the United States created, with roots as far as the 1890s in Honduras.
The US meddles in third world foreign governments, makes their money, economically enslaves a country using drugs and civil-war then leaves. You think scholars ain’t watching you do this shit? Fast forward 100+ years and you have nearly 10,000 people leaving their home which you destroyed. You are immoral to close your doors and disgusting to then point your guns outside of it at those seeking refuge from their oppressors aka YOU. The lack of empathy from this administration and anyone who spews anti-migrant caravan rhetoric appalls me.
The work being done by Pueblo Sin Fronteras must be recognized. Pueblo Sin Fronteras is an organization of volunteers in solidarity with migrants. They personally accompanied these migrants throughout their journey from central America to Mexico. They made sure migrants were treated fairly and were protected at all times. They worked to have migrants a place to stay in the cities they passed through. They facilitated bus rides and transportation. The work goes on and on. These volunteers are selfless individuals donating their lives for those who simply want to have one free of persecution and severe oppression. Their activism is our beacon of hope.
Border Angels, the largest human rights organization at the border, have spearheaded donation efforts. Immediately, they opened registries online at Walmart and Target. Otay Mesa Detention Resistance and Centro Cultural de la Raza became the first major donation drive drop off site in San Diego. The AJA Project in City Heights shortly after announced itself as a donation drop off site. Both centers are indefinitely taking in donations. Both centers need drivers to cross donations and distribute to shelters. Direct aid to the caravan is unfortunately an incredible opportunity to truly understand the disastrous effects of American intervention in third world countries.
Though within our circles we continue having conversations about our progressive, far-left ideals (really, what makes fucking sense) and call out our right-wing soul-less counterparts for their lack of humanity, we must as well look to see what more we can do for our fellow friends who less than 20 miles away are hanging on a thread of hope with their hearts strong and their strength unbreakable. We must not break also. We must not give in to apathy. These efforts must continue.
The militarization of the border has caused an uproar within the transborder community; those crossing 4-7 times a week. For the nearly 80,000 that cross daily by car, wait times have increased nearly 100-200+%. What was once a thirty minute wait time has turned into a 2+ hour wait time. We’re all having to constantly adapt to the arbitrariness of CBP border-lane closures. There is barbed wire surrounding all car lanes. One wonders the purpose the barbed wire holds in these locations where migrants are overwhelmingly unlikely to cross. When asking a CBP agent the purpose of the barbed wire, they answer by telling us it’s there “in case they come rushing the border.”
I wonder how many movies CBP saw before the caravan came to Tijuana. I urge you to come see what we are dealing with, please. Pictures and videos do not do any justice. We are waking up and sleeping in a warzone, living our lives with constant surveillance, riot shields, riot gear and militarization in our face everyday. I cannot imagine what is going on in the mind of a young transborder kid crossing the border everyday to go to school, much less a migrant child from the caravan living in Benito Juarez. What the United States is putting kids through is traumatic and will cause long term psychological harm. Mental health at the border is non-existent. We ask ourselves often living at the border: is this normal?
As we see family and enjoy this time of the year that is so beautiful let us not forget our folx south of the border wishing to live similar moments. All human beings deserve what we have. It’s our responsibility to make sure they have access to the same dreams we have. What is liberty if it stops at a border? If it is ceases at all? What is freedom when for some it doesn’t apply? No piece of paper, no boundary should negate this. If you believe in this then help us help them.
Below are ways you can do this.
Follow these Instagram accounts for live and updating coverage on the border and volunteer efforts in solidarity with the migrant caravan:
This coming Sunday, 25th, is International Day of Action organized by a large coalition in solidarity with migrants and refugees. Folxs are meeting up at Larson Field, in front of Las Americas Premium Outlets, at 9am. They will be marching towards the San Ysidro Point of Entry and those able to cross will be crossing the international border and continue their solidarity into Tijuana. We are expecting large numbers. Please help us achieve this. We will not be silenced. Enough is enough.
In permanent solidarity,
Alejandro Martinez Junior