Things That Matter

Watch the U.S./Mexico Border Wall Disappear

Artist Erases U.S.-Mexico BorderAn artist is erasing the border fence between the U.S. and Mexico.

How?

Posted by AJ+ on Thursday, October 15, 2015

Credit: AJ+ / Facebook

Artist Erases U.S. / Mexico Border

Can you imagine a world without borders? Well, Ana Teresa Fernández, a Mexican artist working in Nogales, México, wants you to stop imagining so she is “erasing” the U.S.- Mexico border.

By “erasing” the wall along the U.S. / Mexico border she wants to give the illusion that “we’re all one humanity under one sky”. If only we all shared the same thought.

“We [painted] it specifically in this space because there’s a street that starts in Mexico and continues in the United States, but there is this barrier that prevents movement across it, ” Fernández says in an interview for AJ+. “So we intend to create the illusion like there is only sky.”

Watch the video above to see the border wall vanish.

Fernández painting next to her sister and Luis, a migrant worker deported after having lived and worked in the U.S. for more than 20 years.

Portrait of Luis.

Luis painting alongside border patrol.

Where the border “ends.”

Erasing the Border : Nogales Sonora #sonoraborder #erasingtheborder #borrandolafrontera ##AZresidency #artandactivism #anateresafernandez

A post shared by Ana Teresa Fernández (@anateresafernandez) on

Manuel helps with the hard to reach places.

Just blue skies.

A Latina Author In New Mexico Is Delivering Books To Asylum Seekers On The Border To Brighten Their Spirits

Culture

A Latina Author In New Mexico Is Delivering Books To Asylum Seekers On The Border To Brighten Their Spirits

booksellersofamerica / Instagram

It was a normal day at her New Mexico bookstore when author Denise Chávez was approached by a customer who needed help finding Spanish-English dictionaries. As is common in life, asking questions is what generates the most change, and the customer’s answer to her question of “Why?” sparked an idea. The customer wanted to help out the migrants who were passing through and finding refuge at the Peace Lutheran Church respite center. Understanding language as the vital life source to forming social bonds, communities, and basic navigation in society, Chávez decided to go a step further. In May 2019, Chávez started bringing bilingual storybooks to the Peace Lutheran Church shelter. Soon, word got around and she began to expand the project, initiating a soul-nourishing project called “Libros Para El Viaje” or books for the journey.

Chávez’s book drive has been promoted and supported by various bookstores across the country, including national nonprofit, the American Booksellers Association (ABA). Since then, Chávez has hand-delivered thousands of books to migrants on both sides of the border, offering the gift of exploring unknown worlds from the unacceptable confines of a tent, detention center or hiding.

Meet Denise Chávez.

CREDIT: @BOOKSELLERSOFAMERICA / INSTAGRAM

Chávez grew up in the border community of Las Cruces, New Mexico, the daughter of a teacher and a lawyer. “I was just inculcated from the very beginning with books, books, books,” Chávez shared her story on social media. “Growing up as a Chicana close to the Mexican border, my stories came to me in many languages, including Spanish, Spanglish, border language… I was filled with the beauty of spoken words. And I’ve always loved books,” she shared on Booksellers of America’s featured bookseller post.
“Bookselling means more to me every day,” Chávez shared on her experience of owning Casa Camino Real Bookstore, which serves as a community center and art gallery honoring border culture. “The stories of connecting, the people who come in—booksellers attract all sorts of people. To sell a book or to give a book away is a profound experience,” she added.

Chávez sees proof every week that giving a migrant a book is “a major healing experience.”

CREDIT: @RIVERDOGBOOKCO / INSTAGRAM

Libros Para El Viaje’s success is, in large part, thanks to Chávez’s presentation at an ABA conference that garnered national attention from booksellers. ABA has promoted her project, which has spurred many other community projects to help fund Libros Para El Viaje. For example, Minneapolis booksellers Red Balloon Book and Wild Rumpus created “Books for Border Kids” to host a two-month book drive. Those two independent booksellers alone sent over 3,000 book donations to Chávez in Las Cruces, according to The Salt Lake Tribune

“Every week, I distribute books in Spanish to families and children,” Chávez shared on social media. “So my work has deepened because we’re reaching out to people who arrive with nothing. To get a book means something. It’s a major healing experience. So when I see a tiny, little woman—and I wish people in the United States could see the people that stand in front of me with those ankle bracelets; they’re small people, they wouldn’t hurt anybody—I try to remember her face. She is on a journey. She’s going on a bus. She’s going on a plane. And she’s taking a book for the journey. I mean, wow! Right?”

“Books can heal us,” Chávez believes.

CREDIT: DENISE CHÁVEZ / FACEBOOK

Whether it’s a Guatemalan teenager looking for a Stephen King novel or seeing the beauty in a mother “hugging three Isabel Allende books,” Chávez has found healing in her project. Whether “somebody is picking up a Spanish language version of H.G. Wells’ A WAR OF THE WORLDS. Or to give a dictionary to an older man who’s learning English. It’s exciting. This is truly being connected with what a book does, which is to inform, empower, enlighten,” she testified in a social media post.
“My reason to be a writer is because I have been healed by books, and I do believe that books can heal us. It is a challenge to be a bookstore, but I continue because I know the power of a book,” Chávez attests.

You can support Casa Camino Real Bookstore‘s Libros Para El Viaje by purchasing any of these recommended bilingual books and mailing them to:

Casa Camino Real Bookstore
314 South Tornillo Street
Las Cruces, New Mexico 88001

READ: Lil Libros Finally Adds Musician Ritchie Valens To The List Of Icons Highlighted In Bilingual Children’s Books

A Cuban Doctor Was Stuck In Mexico Awaiting For Asylum So He Became The Border Camp’s Only Doctor

Things That Matter

A Cuban Doctor Was Stuck In Mexico Awaiting For Asylum So He Became The Border Camp’s Only Doctor

Iliana Panich-Linsman

Most stories coming from the US-Mexico border involve tragedy. Whether it be the separation of families by the Trump Administration, the drowning of migrants trying to cross the Rio Grande, or the tens of thousands of asylum seekers missing appointments because of cruel Border Patrol agents, we’re all too often inundated with tragedy.

One man, a migrant, himself is working hard along the border to help those just like him – while he himself is facing an uncertain future.

Twenty-eight-year-old Dairon Elisondo Rojas has been treating patients who live in the same teeming migrant camp that he calls home.

Dr Elisondo is a native of Cuba and he has become the only full-time doctor in a sprawling tent city that has grown at the base of a bridge that connects the Mexican city of Matamoros to the United States. More than 2,500 migrants call the camp home as they wait for their asylum cases to wind their way through immigration court in Brownsville, Texas.

In a story by the New York Times, he noted that he often treats children with diarrhea, colds and asthma, among other ailments. Some he examined, treated and sent on their way with cough or cold medicine. For those who required special care, like a boy with a broken leg, Dr Elisondo arranged a transfer to the local Mexican hospital.

He works every day and holds office hours from 10am to 4pm but is often on-call as the tent city’s only medical official. For his services, he earns about $30 USD per day. He told the New York Times:

“This is perfect, perfect,” Dr Elisondo said in Spanish about the arrangement. “It’s what I know. It’s what I do best.”

So perfect he has not taken a day off since starting work in late October.

Just like the hundreds of migrants he treats, Dr. Elisondo himself is a resident at the tent city as he awaits his asylum case in the United States.

Like the migrants under his care, the doctor is stranded in Mexico by the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy, under which asylum-seekers who show up at the border are only allowed to enter the United States for court appearances. He could be stuck in Matamoros for several more months, waiting for an answer on his immigration case.

Dr Elisondo, who has a speciality in critical care, has experience working in challenging environments thanks to Cuba’s medical-training program, which dispatches newly minted doctors on missions to impoverished allied countries.

After medical school, Dr Elisondo was posted for nearly three years to a government clinic in Venezuela. With that country’s economy reeling, he witnessed close-up the suffering wrought by a shortage of medicine and food. He was recalled home after he became a vocal critic of the government of Nicolás Maduro.

“The government brought me back to Cuba, and that had consequences,” he said.

In his home country, he said, he was barred from practicing medicine and harassed by police. Feeling persecuted and endangered, he and his girlfriend scrounged up enough money to pay for travel to the United States to request asylum. They journeyed more than a month by plane, boat and bus until they reached the southwestern border in mid-August.

For decades, Cuban refugees had special access to the US asylum system but that all changed under the Obama Administration.

While Cubans for decades were allowed under a special policy to remain in the United States if they were able to make it there by land or sea, that welcome ended in the final days of the Obama administration. Cubans, who once may have travelled to Florida, now are subject to the same stringent immigration policies applied to other asylum-seekers on the southwestern border.

Being stuck in Mexico and needing income, Dr Elisondo sought work.

He had already found work in a plant that manufactures cosmetics cases but one day, as he passed the ever-growing migrant camp near the international bridge, he spotted a big banner tied to a fence inscribed with the words “Medical” and “Médico.” Several migrants were talking to a person with a stethoscope dangling from her neck. It was a pop-up clinic opened in October by Global Response Management, an international nonprofit organization whose volunteer doctors, nurses and medics have been deployed to places such as Iraq, Yemen and Syria.

On a typical day, Dr Elisondo and a rotating roster of US volunteer health workers see about 50 patients.

Credit: Iliana Panich-Linsman

In addition to the camp’s residents, they serve another 1,000 migrants living elsewhere in Matamoros.

Exposure to the elements, overcrowding and lack of sanitation — there are few showers and the portable latrines are foul — have created conditions for illness to spread in the sprawling camp. Yet many migrants fear venturing far outside the camp, even to seek medical care, because so many people have been victims of crime.

Dr Elisondo has stabilised people who had epileptic seizures, appendicitis and heart attacks. But patients with upper-respiratory-tract infections, pneumonia and skin conditions such as scabies represent the largest share of his caseload.