March, April & May 2016

 

Spring has made our pilgrimage to Friendship Park prettier, even though the road is still flooded

 

IMG_5996 copy

Friendship Park has opened my eyes to the sad reality that many Latino families across the country face by being separated from their family. I have befriended some of the people visiting Friendship Park and I have heard their stories. They have also shared their concerns and honest emotions. They keep asking for their picture together, but they want their relatives to be seen clearly even though they are behind the fence, so I am trying to help with a little magic.IMG_5438 copy 2IMG_6046 copyIMG_6230-1I have already talked about this concern before, but it is something that constantly plagues me during my visits to the Park… As I watch the little kids and interact with them, I keep wondering how this situation and ritual is going to affect their lives: are they going to be familiarized with seeing their relatives through the Fence? Are they going to work in order to better the circumstances that their parents are living? Are they going to adapt, not be fazed by it, and do nothing? Are they going to respond positively to all the sacrifices and efforts made by their parents in order to for them to grow up with more opportunities?

 

IMG_5499 copy

Ecumenical service on both sides of the fence continues to be an important event on Sundays, also lawyers keep listening to the needs of the migrants and deportees, trying to help as much as they can.

:

Weekend after weekend we hear a new story, a number of years being separated, the different places they are coming from the US: Texas, Atlanta, Chicago, Arizona and mainly California; different towns they are traveling from Mexico, and I still can’t help but to be affected by each individual story and always feel tears fill my eyes. It is said that after living for a while with a situation, you get used to your feelings, that you become immune to sensation and your skin becomes thicker in order to feel less… I do not think that will ever happen with me. There was a situation two weekends ago that made me think about this… An intrigued couple visited the Park; they knew the border existed, but did not know about this Park or anything about it. She was from the US and he was from Colombia. They are world travelers. During their visit at the Park, they had the opportunity to see some of the families and talk to them. Once they left, he wrote to me telling me that it was one of the saddest places he has ever visited in the world.

Abuelos conociendo a su nuevo nieto copy

IMG_6145 copyEvents:

 

Advertisements

2015

 

Throughout 2015 there were events to remind us of the importance of having this Park as a place to share emotions and feelings on both sides of the fence. From Dia de Reyes, Dia del Niño, Fandango Fronterizo, Homenaje al Veterano Deportado, Dia de la Madre, Papalotes, the Posada, to the Ecumenical service every Sunday, the Park served as a place to bring people together during all of these holidays and special occasions.

 

Sometimes the families were allowed to go to the bi national garden to see their relatives without having the mesh between them, but there was still a large space dividing them.

 

We had the opportunity to see smiles, laughs, joy, tears, grief, and distress…

 

We had the opportunity to witness how families suffer trying to get to Friendship Park. For some of us, the route is our Sunday routine, a way to meditate, to make friends, to discuss actual events, to exercise but for some of the families the road means anguish, time lost instead of being with their relatives, a walk full of effort carrying little ones or pushing strollers through the flooded roads and trails.

 

We had the opportunity to greet our weekend-friends on the American side of the fence … and on the Mexican side of the fence, we touched the tip of their fingers and they touched our hearts with their stories and tribulation.

 

We had the opportunity to see the volunteer attorneys who once a month provided legal advice to deported and disadvantage people who were looking for some help in the Mexican side of the fence.

 

2016 is here and we wish Friendship Park could continue to be a sanctuary for divided families to see their loved ones.

Family Ties/Children


   

IMG_1424 copy

IMG_1704 copyIMG_1495 copy

 

IMG_1485

Weekend after weekend anxious families arrive to Friendship Park to visit their relatives. With respect, I ask them where they come from, and how long it has been since they have seen their family members that live on the Mexican side. For those that live in Mexico, I inquire what state of Mexico they are from… How long it took for them to arrive to the Park… Names, states and numbers fill my notebook. For them, those numbers and statistics mean pain, sadness, hope, and dreams. They encounter their loved ones and they talk, they laugh, they cry, and it is palpable how important family is for them. This place, aside from showing pain from separation, also shows the beauty of family ties.

IMG_1859 chica

IMG_1685 copyIMG_1455 copy

But there is something else that worries me when I am in the Park too… I frequently see a great number of little ones joining their parents on both sides of the fence. In their innocent eyes… how do they feel? What are their thoughts on this place? How does it feel to meet their grandparents for the first time… to talk to their deported father… to play with their cousins through that mesh where your pinky finger barely fits through? Do they think this is normal? Do they live this experience as a routine in their lives? Will this ritual become “el pan nuestro de cada dia” for them? Is this visit causing an impact? Will they do something to try to change what has become a routine trip for their parents and attempt to do something more once they grow up? Will there be another Sophie Cruz? Will they create a world where their children will not have to talk to their family through a fence?
IMG_3702 copy

IMG_1551 copyIMG_1835 copyIMG_1491 copy
IMG_2440 copy

8 2 2015

The signs placed on the closed gate towards the park were misleading because the road was not flooded this time around, it was actually dry. We still had to walk, though.

IMG_0020 copy IMG_0034 copy

Jorge Martinez, a good friend of Enrique Morones, and his family came to see his wife’s relatives. They had gone 20 years without seeing each other.  They preferred to be in the garden area because there were a lot of them and it was difficult to all see each other through the mesh. I was able to walk back to the parking lot talking to their kids, Abraham and Yadira. They felt the walk back shorter  since we were entertained by talking about their school activities and possible animals we could encounter on this road. We were very amused! Janet, the older sister, caught up with us and she shared her plans for the future and her dreams…  These really are beautiful and motivated young kids. It’s inspiring.

IMG_0055 copy

 

 

IMG_0051 copy IMG_0062 copy IMG_0060 copy 2

Enrique from Anaheim came with his kids to meet his mother.  They had gone 13 years without seeing each other.

 

IMG_0075 copyIMG_0088

Cynthia and her family came from LA to see her relatives who came up all the way from Durango… This family had not reunited in 25 years.

IMG_0241 copy

Carmen from San Diego arrived to the Park with her children for the first time to see her parents from Guadalajara. It had been 10 years since they had last seen each other.

IMG_0258 copy

 

IMG_0292 copy IMG_0282 copy

Cristina drove all the way from Perris, CA to see her son Juan Jose, her grandson, and her daughter in law who is expecting a little girl.

IMG_0341 copy

Felix and Cesar the lawyers stayed busy answering all of the questions and inquiries the deported migrants were asking them through the mesh.

IMG_0234 copy IMG_0243 copy

Friends on the Mexican side showed up with signs supporting the campaign #YES TO FRIENDSHIP #SI A LA AMISTAD.

IMG_0271 IMG_0267 IMG_0274 copy

Down on the beach members of the Border Angels began placing crosses on both sides, symbolizing and in remembrance of all of the migrants who have died/drowned trying to cross into another country through the ocean-river-channel. The crosses were small yet very noticeable because of their bright colors and beautiful quotes.

IMG_0110 copy

IMG_0166 copy IMG_0137 copy

John and Guillermo gave the service and John received help from Jason and Enrique.

IMG_0337 copy

I listen carefully, always with curiosity and great respect, to each individual story. They seem to be similar, in some senses, but they are not.  These families all come from different parts… the relatives on the Mexican side visit the park coming from different cities, they all have different backgrounds, they all have different dreams, but they all do share a common denominator: they ALL live with HOPE to one day, be reunited with their families.

2007 Installation Blvd Aeropuerto copy

 

 

 

 

 

7 26 2015

IMG_9774 copy

IMG_9777 copy

As it is obvious the gate continues to be closed because the road is still flooded and water is still draining into the area.

IMG_9778 copy IMG_9779 copyArriving to the park we encountered John. He was waiting at the entrance because there were some families still waiting to get in.Out of respect for them and the time they had been waiting he refused to go in so they would get their turn. The old sign, “Maximum occupancy 25”, has been put into effect more drastically during the last couple of weeks. It is so painful to see families that have driven hours from Las Vegas , Sacramento, Salt Lake City, arrive into the parking lot, walk mile and a half, and still have to wait before they are even able to enter into Friendship Park. They have to wait because there are already 25 other people inside. You also see the relatives on the Mexican side that come from different parts of the country anxiously await them too.

IMG_9781 copyAlfredo has become a regular visitor now. He comes from escondido to see Amelia, his beautiful wife who has been deported.

IMG_9814 copy

Jose and his girlfriend from Salt Lake City came to see his brothers. Saturday they had to wait outside. Sunday they made it a point to arrive earlier in order for them to get in. They expressed that they will return in 6 months. I hope they will not have to wait because we will have then been able to change the Maximum Occupancy rules.

IMG_9796 copyIMG_9829 copy

IMG_9799 copy

I said “hola” to Ana, who comes from sacramento to see her mother Carmen. Sometimes she has come with her own family, or with Naomi her sister who got engaged at the Park last September.

IMG_3683 copy 2

 

This time Ana brought another sister, Maria,DSC_0626 copy it was the first time in 5 years that Maria and her family were able to say “hi” to her mother. Maria wanted to introduce her grandchildren, the kids are the great grandchildren of Carmen.

IMG_9793 copy

I walked the last part of the road back with Ana and she expressed me how difficult it was for the kids to walk both days to the park… they drove all the way from sacramento and they needed to take advantage of the opportunity to see her mom, their grandmother.

IMG_9905 copy

Our good Sunday Friends were in the Mexican side, Robert, Hector rand Yolanda, who are always aware of the activities in the American side. John and Guillermo led the service and were, supportive of the families on both side of the border fence.

IMG_9871 copy IMG_9865 copy

How do you measure your pain from 1 to 10?

This is what they asked you when you visit the doctor. Well… How do we measure the pain of all these divided families? Some of them have suffered the crossing through the desert, the fear of living in the shadows, the deportation of a loved one, the lack of physical contact with their relatives for years, the hours of driving to Friendship Park in order to see members of the family who are visiting from Central Mexico, the walking with kids or pushing a stroller along 1.5 mile to reach the Park, the waiting at the gate for more than an hour because there is a sign Maximum Occupancy 25… Is there a way to measure the pain they are going through? I am foreign to this situation, but it breaks my heart every time I witness it. I could not have the slightest idea of measuring the pain they feel when I experience the encounters that happen in this special place… What is their level of pain?

But also, what is their level of joy?IMG_9888 copy IMG_9897 copy

7 19 205 The Wedding

Last Saturday, Dolores brought us some rain, and caused some flooding on the road to Friendship Park and the closure of the gate to get into Border Field State Park

 

IMG_9358 copy IMG_9369 copy

Untitled-1

Visitors had to walk, I was expecting it, but the family of Emma, the bride who was going to get married to Michael, an American veteran, did not know and for them to walk to Friendship Park caused much anxiety because they thought they were going to arrive late to the ceremony.

Boda de Ema&Michael

 

 

 

IMG_9413 copy 2

They Made it!

 

IMG_9466 copyJohn had the great idea of asking the agent of the Border patrol to go to the area where there is not mesh for the families to see each other more clearly. Families from both sides enjoyed the moment but always with the desire of touching each other.

IMG_9482  1copy

 

IMG_9479 copy

IMG_9508 IMG_9522 copy

 

 

IMG_9492 copy IMG_9535 copy

 

 

Taking advantage of this situation, John and Dermot gave letters to members of the family in order to support the campaign #yes to Friendship.

IMG_9513 copy 2

During the ceremony that took place in the Mexican side, it was obvious the pain of the mother and the sister of Emma, who were on the American side.

IMG_9541 copy

Dermot blessed the union of Emma and Michael and he commemorated a deported veteran who had died recently. Enrique helped John to serve communion.

IMG_9630 copy

IMG_9703 copy IMG_9709 copy

It was a beautiful event but whatever happiness was involved, it was another experience that shows vividly how sad and painful it is for these families to be separated from their loved ones.

IMG_9662 copy IMG_9638 copy

 

IMG_9653 copy

7 5 2015

It is great to see the gate open.

At the same time I saw that a new stand was built to show information.  There wasn’t any information but maybe this coming weekend it will have some.

IMG_4019 copy

It was a busy day at the Park:7 5 2015 FP

IMG_3679 copy

Ashley, the lawyer was there; she kept busy talking to the ones in need of information from the Mexican side.

There was a group of girls from Mesa Verde United Methodist Church who came from Costa Mesa, CA

IMG_3981 copy

In the Mexican side, Gilberto and Andy from la Casa del Migrante brought a group of young men who have been supporting the young American Dreamers.

The deported Veterans were honoring Jose Solorio a veteran who died recently; he has been given a humanitarian visa.  A great number of visitors attended the service led by Guillermo and John.

IMG_3868 copy IMG_3827 copy

Alfredo Mendez from Escondido, who recently discovered the Park, was there with his mother in law.  They were celebrating the birthday of his wife Amelia who has been deported.

IMG_3728 copy IMG_3702 copy IMG_3699 copy IMG_3685 copy IMG_3733 copy

There was a trio playing for them during one hour. They all were singing along with the musicians and Amelia did not take his eyes off him.

Another family from northern California arrived to the Park for the first time.

IMG_3752 copy IMG_3748

And what a surprise was to see the beautiful and enormous Madrid family.  They come from Oxnard, California. We have seen them coming to the Park for the last 3 years. It is hard to explain my feelings when I see Lizbeth; she was a little girl when she started coming to the Park and now she is a young pretty woman.  Sylvia is the mother, grandmother and great grandmother who leads the group helped by George.

IMG_3845 copy IMG_3904 copy IMG_3911 copy IMG_3901 copy  And it is amazing to see the number of relatives in the Mexican side.  They live in Tijuana but they brought Sylvia’s sister and brother who came from Mexico City.

Janet and her children keep visiting her mother every Sunday.

IMG_3814 copy IMG_3783 copy

All the families keep moving and taking advantage of both places, from the intimate encounter at the side of the mesh to the open space at the side of the garden. If you observe some of the images it looks like little by little we all keep pushing down the fence/wallIMG_3809 copy IMG_4009 copy