All posts by mowera

“Cheers” to day two and digging holes

Hello everyone! Thank you for following us so far into day two of our Beyond Borders day-2January 2019 field season. As your dedicated mapping apprentice, I can tell you that after 22 years of doing little to no intense physical exercise, I am sore from head to toe. We have been at the Sacred Heart Cemetery for a total of almost 20 hours and I reckon 17 of those hours were spent digging or doing some other form of physical activity, with the other 3 consisting of water breaks, lunch breaks, and mapping/strategizing. That may seem tough to the average person, yet we have all thoroughly enjoyed the time we have spent there so far. By the time we cheers with our Mexican Coca-Colas at the end of the day, I can’t believe the day is over and we have done so much work. Time flies.

Today we dug 3 ½ trenches, some of them almost 1 meter deep. At our briefing last night, we discussed that previously at this cemetery, remains have been found as far as 140cm deep. So as a team, we decided to dig and probe deep today in order to be confident that we were being as thorough as If we do not find remains in our area, at least we know that we have done all that we could have to be sure. Clearing a site is just as important as finding remains. If we clear our area and do not find any remains we can be confident in moving onto another area, and tick Area #24 off the list of possible burial sites.

I have never done an archaeological dig before, and I am learning so much so quickly. How to properly dig test pits, probe, take measurements, map, and various other methods and tasks. I am so fortunate to be learning mapping alongside Sammi. She is allowing me to help construct the map both in the field and when we get back to the hotel at night. She is mentoring me instead of instructing me which I really appreciate.

As you will read in Sammi’s blog tonight, the work that we are doing is impacting the community greatly. It is keeping our spirits up, knowing that the work that we do is not just meaningful and interesting to us and the families of the decedents, but also to those who have allowed us into their community.

All in all we have had a good couple of days in site. Lots of learning, lots of digging, and no lack in moral or motivation within the team. Again, thank you for following along; see you again tomorrow!



Questions, nerves, and excitement – all in one

It is currently Christmas Day, and as I am among family – laughing, eating, and opening presents – it is hard to believe that in a week and a day I will be in Texas to start this grand adventure. I still need to get some last-minute supplies before I go, and I am beginning to think more about what is to come. I am both nervous and excited. Dr. Latham has done all she can to prepare us before we leave but I am still thinking that there is an element of the unexpected which lies ahead. We have been told that there will be 10 -days of digging – but I have never had to endure something like that before. We have been told that the weather will be unpredictable – but how will we adapt? We have been told that what we see may be sad or emotional – but how will I cope? We have been told that this experience is life changing – but how will it change my life? These are things that we cannot truly prepare for – but I have always been a fan of the unexpected.

I think that a big theme of this trip for me, and something that I am prepared to learn more about, will be the immigration aspect of what we are doing and why we are doing it. I am an immigrant, having lived in the United States since I was 6 years old.passport My family and I still do not have US citizenship. We are currently here on green cards, which took my family 10 years of lawyers, travelling to US embassies in Canada, and upwards of $100,000 to obtain. Trying to become established in another country is not easy or cheap, especially the United States. When I think of our situation versus someone from South America seeking refuge in the United States, our situations are quite different. When we moved to the US, my dad already had a job waiting here for him. We had the money to afford the insane immigration and lawyers fees to do it legally. Obtaining Visa after Visa, until we became eligible to apply for green cards. We were not fleeing violence or corruption of our home country. We did not come here out of fear, but out of opportunity.

I am ready to see the other side of immigration in the United States. It is something that I am very passionate about, and it is something I have always wanted to get involved in. I really hope that we have a chance to visit the Humanitarian Respite Center, where Dr. Latham has said that hundreds of people filter through every day after arriving to the United States. I would love to help out as much as I can with that side of things, as well as with the forensic work that we will be doing while we are in Texas. I count myself lucky for the opportunities I have had since coming to the United States but I really want to understand that it can be so different and it can be so unfair.

Which is why I am so happy to have the opportunity to travel to Texas in the first place. This trip is special to me because I am going to get to learn more about what I love to do and what I want to make a career out of, and because I will have the opportunity to be more involved in an issue that I have always been passionate about. I am nervous as this is the first forensic archaeological field work that I will be doing. I want to do the best that I can in order to bring what little justice there is to the people who have not succeeded while crossing the border. I hope that they will all eventually be returned to their families and be laid to rest in peace. I am very excited to play a part in that.