Cheers

Tuesday, January 15, 2019: This week began a new, and in my case final semester at UIndy. It’s hard to believe that only three days ago the Beyond Borders team was still in Texas, and four days ago we were still up to our eyeballs in dirt. We accomplished all of the goals we set for ourselves this season, and I am so grateful that we were able to experience so many different aspects that can define a migrant’s journey. We were able to visit the border wall at McAllen, a tangible symbol to those on the other side that says, “We don’t want you here”.  We were able to visit a respite center where families seeking asylum are able to shower, eat, and rest after being detained for some time. We participated in search and recovery exercises with Border Patrol and the Sherriff’s office with goals of finding migrants in distress before they succumbed to the effects of dehydration and exposure, or recovering the remains of those who we were too late to help in life, but maybe could provide answers to their families with their death. We repaired and filled the waterstations that save countless lives, and we searched the cemetery for migrant burials of those that had perished on their journey through Brooks county and had been buried unidentified. I wish everyone could experience just one of these, so maybe they would come to see that the migrant journey is not easy nor safe, that these people are fleeing to a country with many people screaming that they are unwanted, and that these people understand the risks but take the journey anyway because they often have no other choice.

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In the midst of the current government shutdown, American citizens are stressed about what the future holds, yet we still have hope that our government will come to an agreement that will bring back a sense of normalcy to the country. The migrants fleeing their homes from poverty, gang-violence, extortion, and corrupt governments do not have that hope. Seeking a better life often means fleeing the only home they’ve known, and taking a chance that a journey north will provide opportunities for a better life – not a great life mind you, just a decent one. Most migrants understand that the journey may very well end in death, but many migrants choose this option because staying in place almost guarantees it. How can we fault people doing what they can to survive? How can a country built by immigrants sentence so many to death?img_6469

To be declared an American citizen, most of us were simply born here. We did not have to travel thousands of miles, take a test, pay thousands of dollars to an immigration lawyer to argue on our behalf…we didn’t have to do anything special really. In essence, the biggest factor of whether or not most of us are U.S. citizens is LUCK. I would argue that all American citizens are privileged to live here, and it appears that a lot of people are blinded when confronted by the plights of others. We know people are hurting, we know people are dying, but for some reason these people become “other” in a sense that they do not seem close enough, real enough even, to affect us. The Beyond Borders and Operation Identification initiatives are unique in that they allow every participant to see and acknowledge the current migrant crisis, and actually do something about it. The work we did at the cemetery showed us how the number of deaths overwhelmed the county, creating a situation where these remains were buried wherever they could fit. The work we continue to do season after season brings a different perspective on the migrant crisis that is not often portrayed in the media today. It reminds us, and hopefully our readers, that migrants are real people, with real families. The work we do gives names and faces back to the dead, and keeps their memory alive. I would like to thank everyone for supporting the Beyond Borders team this season, and reading along as we blogged about our trip. I hope you all were able to take something away from this just as I have, and you are reminded that there is good in the world, you may just have to take a journey of your own to find it.

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At the end of every day, the Beyond Borders team would open up some Mexican Cokes and cheers to a job well done. I am so proud of everything we were able to accomplish this season, and as this the last season I will participate in as an official Beyond Borders member, I would like to send out this final cheers to my fellow team members. Thank you all for a great trip filled with memories of dirt, roots, tick bites, and tamales; I’ll never forget it.

“Don’t stop me now, yes I’m havin’ a good time, I don’t want to stop at all”

– Angela

 

South Texas Human Rights Center

Three Days

“I heard one of these lectures about an experiment where they give guys a pair of glasses that make them see the whole world upside down. But after three days, guess what? They see everything right side up. And then they take off their glasses, and they see everything upside down again. For three days. And then, eureka! Back to normal. Yes, it takes the brain three days to adapt.” — Bones, “The Doctor in the Photo”

Being in Falfurrias is like seeing upside down. After the third day, the work became our new normal. Our work at Sacred Heart consumed our thoughts, and everything we did was based in a humanitarian effort. We had purpose, a goal, and a plan to reach said goal.

We got used to seeing the same people every day. Deputy White, Dr. Spradley and her team, Eddie Canales. We ate the same lunch, cheers-ed the same drinks. We blogged and mapped and filled out photo logs. Day in and day out we worked towards our goal.

Angela, Arianna, and I raising a new flag at a water station
Angela, Arianna, and I raising a new flag at a water station

Then, we left. Our work ended abruptly. We packed, drove out of Falfurrias and flew home. We took the glasses off and the world flipped upside down again.

I slept all day on Sunday, filled to the brim with cold and flu medicine. I wasn’t able to fully process being home. Sleeping in my own bed, wearing clothes that weren’t field clothes, watching TV, etc.

Then, I woke up on Monday and dug out my heavy winter coat. I swept the six inches of snow off of my car, and drove to school. I had no real purpose, goal, or plan. I didn’t even have a notebook.

Everything I am doing is to make myself a better anthropologist, a better scientist, so that when I am able to return to the field, I will do better work than the time before. However, not being in the field, being active in my efforts seems like a waste.

It’s almost 48 hours into the 72 it should take me to readjust, but I have a feeling my right side up will continue to be in Falfurrias.


I want to use this space to express my gratitude.

Thank you to my team. Thank you for your support and for making this one of the best experiences of my life.

Thank you, Dr. Latham, for giving me this opportunity and being an amazing force of change.

Thank you, Arden, for bringing both an incredible perspective and humor to this work.

Thank you, Sammi, for making all of the maps and being a digging machine.

Thank you, Angela, for being a great field mentor and bucket carrier, and for giving me all your carbs.

The team at La Mota
The team at La Mota

Thank you, Dr. Spradley and the people of Texas State, for allowing us to join you.

Thank you, Deputy Don White, for keeping us safe and always laughing.

Thank you, Sheriff Benny Martinez, for believing in our mission.

Thank you Eddie, Arianna, and Selina for doing humanitarian work daily and allowing us to join you for part of it.

Thank you, Sister Pam, for radiating pure love more than any person I’ve ever met.

Thank you, Dr. Bird, for your support for our work.

Thank you to the Clarks for allowing us into your beautiful home.

Lotería painting showing Falfurrias Butter at La Mota
Lotería painting showing Falfurrias Butter at La Mota

Thank you, Falfurrias. I’ll be back.

~Sidney

From one side of the border

It is my first day back in Indiana. Physically, I am here. I slept in my own bed last night, I visited my family today, and now I am sitting in my apartment writing this blog.  But my mind is still in Texas. My thoughts and feelings are back in Falfurrias, with the migrant communities. I am a person who takes things to heart, and it is not easy foimg_9137r me to let things go. This is how I feel about the ongoing project in Texas and the situation as a whole, that is happening at the border. I can’t just ignore it now. Not that I have ever ignored it – but now I have seen it. Now I have been exposed, shoulders deep in the dirt, searching for unidentified migrants. Unidentified migrants who have families somewhere, looking for them. Looking for closure. Looking for any definitive answer about what has happened to them. Even receiving the worst news to a family member of an unidentified individual would be better than receiving no news. How can I throw myself into humanitarian work for a week and a half and allow that to be it? I could never allow this to be the end of what I can do to help.

This trip has added to the list of experiences in my life that have made me feel extremely lucky for what I have. I have a secure immigration status in the US. I have a permanent home. I do not have to fear deportation or being sent back to my home country on a whim. I do not have to worry about a wall separating me from my family. I do not have to worry about dangerous journeys to freedom. I am a middle class girl getting my Master’s degree. I am never hungry. I am never dehydrated. I never go without.

I wonder why. Why do I have all of these things and others do not. Because my parents had enough money and stability to comfortably raise two kids? Because of the color of my skin? Because I happened to be born in one place, a first world country, on the right side of an ocean or border instead of the wrong one.

img_9224What defines a human being? We are all the same species, no matter what race or nationality. It breaks my heart that some do not see it this way. Whether that be because of money or politics, in my opinion there should be no reason why one human life should be valued more than another. In the scope of human history, we have survived and thrived due to companionship and community. Wars and divides have only set us back. Why can’t there be the amount of compassion that we saw in the South Texas Human Rights Center or the Humanitarian Respite Center in every individual in this world? There would not be divides, there would not be boundaries and borders, but only love and compassion.

I want to emphasize that migrants are moving iimg_9376nto the United States to seek ASYLUM. Because where they happen to be in this earth is not safe for their families, their women cannot receive an education, they cannot go to work without fearing that they may not come home, they cannot afford to feed their families. If someone you loved were in this situation, and came to you asking for help, why would you not allow them into your home?

As a forensic science graduate and a human biology student, to me, humanitarian work is the best application of my skills. Using my knowledge of science, archaeology, and skeletal analysis to help people who are less fortunate and who need help that my skills could provide. This trip has enforced this drive in me. Whether it be in Texas or anywhere else in this world, I feel a calling and a need to do this work. To bring closure to families who are in this position is the best outcome I could imagine for my education and training.

I would like to thank the Beyond Borders team, the University of Indianapolis, everyone who donated to our cause, and Dr. Latham for granting me the opportunity to experience this. I have learned so muimg_9394ch practically in my field and socially, too. I feel as though I have more of a purpose than I did 13 days ago. Thank you to everyone who followed our blog along this journey – and I hope you continue to follow in future field seasons.

~Arden