Category Archives: Snapshots

Random things about us

Muchas Emociones

How is it that humans can feel so many emotions all at once? This is my initial thought as I get ready for our trip down to Texas. I am overwhelmed with anxiety, excitement, compassion, frustration, sadness, the list goes on. This will be my second time going, I have been promoted from “Rookie” to “Field Expert” which means that my peers will look to me as I have a little bit more experience navigating the terrain. Still, it feels like I am going for the very first time because I know that it will not be the same – one of the biggest lessons I have learned while being a part of the Beyond Borders team is to always expect the unexpected! No matter how much we plan, how much we read, how many times we get to return to the Texas borderlands, nothing can really prepare us for the emotional and physical challenges that await the team during our time there. These challenges include long, working days that involve several miles of walking through thick, thorny brush that are homes to ticks and rattlesnakes. They involve days that are more emotionally tolling than others, ones that might include interacting with mothers in search of their missing son or finding personal belongings of migrants that walked the same paths we are. Some days we are left with more questions than answers, which is a reality that can be hard to deal with.

                (Example of the Texas brush)

Yet, these challenges serve as a reminder of the privilege I hold as they are only temporary for me. They last for a maximum of five days and then I get to go home, back to Indiana. Migrants making their way through the border might experience these same challenges for weeks, months, or years. Additionally, the turmoil experienced during our time in Texas are still not comparable because the team is equipped with so much gear (snake gaiters, bug spray, camel backs filled with water, salty snacks, etc.) that can deter the dangers living in the brush. This is not a reality for migrants; they can only hold so much before they are forced to leave items behind to make their load lighter. Acknowledging this privilege puts things in perspective, allowing for the shift of my own anxieties aside to be able to focus on the goal of the mission.


(Example of personal items left behind)

While it is not easy, there are many things to look forward to being a part of this opportunity. For instance, you get to meet individuals who are passionate about the advocacy of basic human rights and who work year-round to search and rescue migrants that are in distress or recover the missing. Individuals like Eddie Canales, founder of the South Texas Human Rights Center and Sheriff Deputy Don White, founder of Remote Wildlands Search and Recovery. Words cannot describe how excited I am to see and reconnect with them; they have devoted a big part of their lives to combat the ongoing crisis. It is truly inspiring to work alongside them and hear about their experiences and advice on being a part of such an effort. I am also looking forward to working with some of the peers I admire the most: Izzy, Alex, and Olivia! We all have different strengths that will make for such a solid team. The meals we get to have after long days in the field are so rewarding, everything that we eat is so good!

I am so grateful for the opportunity to do humanitarian work that highlights the ongoing crisis in the U.S./Mexico border. It has been the main motivator in pursuing the field of forensic anthropology all along. As a first-generation Latina whose parents crossed the border in search for a better life, this topic hits close to home. This effort is one that I truly care about and actively want to be involved in to help those that have not been as fortunate as my family. So, I am happy to be able to use the skills that I have acquired throughout my academic career, to help in a very small way.



Preparing for the road ahead…

A flood of mixed emotions and thoughts are circling around in my brain as the days begin to dwindle down before our trip to Falfurrias. My initial feelings are those of excitement and gratitude to have the opportunity to participate in such a life changing learning experience.  As an anthropologist and scientist, I’m eager to immerse myself in a new culture, connect with new people, and gain a more well-rounded understanding of humanitarian work. Likewise, I’m looking forward to soaking in some warm Texas weather and indulging in their world-famous local barbecue for the first time (Whataburger also sounds very tasty!).

On the other hand, I’m rather anxious about the physical, mental, and emotional hurdles that myself and our team will inevitably face during our trip. The major physical hurdles I anticipate include navigating the unforgiving desert terrain, coping with the punishing heat, and avoiding other dangerous hazards found on the ranch lands. Mentally, being aware of culture differences and avoiding any misunderstandings due to a potential language barrier or political views will be critical. Finally, I predict the most difficult aspect of our trip will be the interaction with the migrant families and hearing the many hardships they have endured, the sacrifices they have made, and the people they have lost during their trek across the US-Mexico Border.

While I feel confident in my anthropology and forensic skills, I recognize that no amount of training and education can truly prepare oneself for the raw sights and sounds that one will encounter out in the field. The key to adapting to this new environment and culture is understanding what behavior is and is not appropriate and making the necessary adjustments. Furthermore, observing others, being an active listener, and not being afraid to ask questions about local customs will also be significant. Each day I remind myself that it’s important to keep things in perspective, be prepared to make mistakes, and seek the support of team members when things get tough.

As I finalize everything on my field checklist, I have come to appreciate how fortunate I have been throughout my life.  The fact that I have access to all the necessary items to navigate the harsh desert conditions with the click of a button has made me realize how privileged I am in comparison to so many others around me. I can’t imagine the overwhelming stress, uncertainty, and doubt that migrants must feel when making the treacherous journey with just a few items on them, if any. Moving forward, I believe this experience will provide me with a new perspective of the daily struggles that countless people must deal with everyday to survive. Overall, humanitarian work is a challenging endeavor that often opens our eyes to the worst of humanity and nature. How we handle the dismay and turn it into a positive force for change will look different for each individual, each community, and each crisis. What is important is to build on our past experiences and to never lose sight of a better tomorrow.