Today was our team’s last day in the field. Despite sore legs and wandering minds, we were eager to get it started. Our schedule for the day consisted of working on water stations in the morning with Eddie followed by searching a new ranch site in the afternoon with Don. At around 8am, we pulled up to the South Texas Human Rights Center (STHRC) where we were greeted by the sweet aroma of Eddie cooking up some of his world-famous menudo for breakfast. For those who don’t know, menudo is a traditional Mexican soup made with cow’s stomach lining (panza) and oxtail in a savory broth and red chili pepper base. According to Eddie, menudo is the best hangover cure! It was my first-time trying the dish and I was slightly hesitant but to my own surprise I really enjoyed it. If anyone is interested in his recipe, feel free to contact me (just kidding, it’s a secret!)
Before leaving the STHRC, we had an early birthday celebration for Eddie who will be turning 74 tomorrow (well technically today since the post is on 1/12). Please send Eddie your birthday wishes! He also wanted me pass along that he is currently in market for a new truck. On to water station duty…
I had the honor of riding with Eddie as we headed to work on water stations. During our drive, I got a comprehensive introduction into the layout of South Texas and the different landmarks migrants will regularly follow during their trek across them. One interesting tidbit he mentioned was how the expansion of power and gas lines at these ranches have been a valuable guide for migrants in the past few years. In addition, a recently developed water tank (tangue) on this ranch has greatly increased migrant traffic. Overall, our team refilled a total of eight water stations today along with the construction of a brand new one. While refilling water stations was a simple task, it was humbling and gratifying feeling to know that this could potentially help save someone’s life.
The UIndy Beyond Borders team refilling a water station; typically, each water station holds between 6 – 8 jugs at a time; The design of the water station has been modified over the years.
At around noon, we unfortunately had to say our final farewell to Eddie. Over the course of just a few days, I have learned so much from him. In particular, making changes in immigration policy requires knowing your community and engaging with it regularly. Furthermore, pushing with a smile is a valuable part of humanitarian work. I hope to be given the opportunity over the summer to further develop our relationship.
Following water stations, we reconnected with Don and began our final search efforts. The ranch site we were searching today was one in which a migrant was left in the brush in November. GPS coordinates of the individual’s last location were called in, which gave us a starting point for where to begin. A big positive as we began our search was that the weather was finally sunny unlike the previous days. However, the ranch environment was much different requiring our team to navigate through some undulated terrain with very thick grass and prickly bushes going up to our shoulders (Tip: Avoid pencil cactus at all cost!). The harsh conditions resulted in some moderate scratches and maybe a fall or two (we won’t mention names) but fortunately everyone was okay. Over the course of the next several hours, we found numerous signs of migrant activity including shoe treads, backpacks, and clothes. Don pointed out to us that the shoe footprints were quite new (possibly from last night). In the end, we didn’t find anything more than that. A major takeaway from this experience was that even with exact coordinates of a migrant’s location, there are many internal and external factors that can influence a successful search and recovery. The unpredictability that is associated with this process is a very sobering realization.
After a long week of searching, we enjoyed some glass bottle Coca Cola and Topo Chico to quench are thirst. Overall, my time in Texas was one filled with lots of learning, laughs, heartfelt moments, and new friendships. The idea that we are leaving Falfurrias tomorrow leaves a bittersweet taste in my mouth. It went by too fast, and I feel like there is so much more I can learn and help with.
Author Note: The blog post title is related to our favorite field song of the day. We would like to shout out Brooks County Sheriff Don White for putting up with us in the field. Thank you for all that you do! Your awesome sauce!
PS – Just because we are leaving doesn’t mean the blog is done! Stay tuned for the next week for more posts!