About Kate Irick ‘13

Kate Irick '13 is the 2013-14 fellow at Casa de los Amigos. She writes about immigration, the environment, art and culture, and politics in Mexico City.

The End of an Era (But Not Really)

Fast forward 10 days. Mara left. I spent the last week and a half knocked flat by a merciless full-body cold that started with a crippling fever and is still hanging on by a few coughs. Some would say I had it coming. There are many expressions for this–I was burning the candle at both ends, spreading my butter too thin, or, as my dad would ask, “Am I trying to get mono again?” My first response was denial, going along with my daily work and activities, but the cold fought back. We put on an incredible multi-trueque, I made 50+ veggie hamburgers for Mara’s goodbye party. I went to school. But when I finally surrendered, I was forced to spend a couple of days watching the sun rise and set through the crack of my door on the rooftop. I had to forfeit my trip to Juarez and submit to three days of significant rest.

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A captivating Arab dance performance briefly brings the multi-trueque to a stand-still.

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Before the multi-trueque, participants of the introductory workshop on fair trade are asked to reflect upon the structures of violence, oppression and coercion created by money in global society.

This blip in time leaves me less than a week away from my symbolic return to the U.S. at the conclusion of my fellowship year (don’t worry, I’ll be back in Mexico City ten days later). I mean it’s my home, at least for the moment. I find this return so distinct from the one I faced six months ago. So many doors have opened, passions restored and talents awakened. The last few months have steadily marked change and growth on my part, a blossoming of sorts, to be sure. The landscape of Northern Virginia and those struggles now seem so distant, and the processes and opportunities and inspirations on this side of my life so infinite. My feet sprouted roots and I feel like I can’t take a step forward until I give myself the chance to keep reaching up. What I mean is I’m grounded here and I couldn’t feel better about my decision to not move on just yet.

Community supper

(Almost) the whole crew.

In the next few weeks, the Casa will welcome Siena Mann to its ranks as the 2014-2015 Haverford Post-Bac Fellow. As always, the Casa changes week-to-week, and it’s exactly that which makes it a miraculous place. People move on from it, but not really. And the Casa doesn’t move on either. It’s a many decades project, and a transcendent space which I encourage every single person in their lifetime to get a chance to know. The stories here are endless, hilarious and often tragic. It’s hard to imagine myself moving on any time soon for good, but for right now a little bit of geographical distance, a short break, and some family time sound too good to be true. Especially since its summer in Virginia and blueberry season.

Everything I’ve Got

Really? Just two weeks left of my Fellowship?

I’ve put everything I’ve got–heart, soul, body–into work the last couple of weeks. It’s been intense, but as always, so incredibly worth it. This week I dedicated a large chunk of my time to writing the Summer edition of the monthly Casa newsletter, which includes publicity about what’s going on in the Casa (its name in Spanish, “Lo Que Pasa en la Casa”), means exactly that. Here, for example, is the description for an event the Casa’s Economic Justice Committee will be holding in just two days, which we have pretty high expectations for. (If you recall the post from many months ago about the multi-trueque Mixhiuca, I’ve participated in multi-trueque once before. But the Casa is going to host one of its very own!):

Multi-Trueque Festival “La Paloma” (The Dove). The event is a practice in solidarity economics where we will use an alternative currency called the “Paloma” instead of the peso. The exchange will take place with many different elements-from seeds, to used books, to any other product you want to trade. There will be digital trueque (bring your USB and trade for music, books, or movies, from AutoGestival’s digital library). Small producers will also participate. The introductory workshop to multi-trueque lasts 20 minutes and starts at 12:30pm.

We are also going to host a series of workshops and special artistic performances. They are completely free, but you should bring something to exchange with those giving the workshops. We will have a Mexican “son” and traditional music concert by La Bruja y sus conjuros, an Arabic dance show (with a great dancer and friend from Iran), an awareness-raising workshop about the migrant and refugee community with our friends from Program Casa Refugiados, a Mazahua embroidery workshop with an indigenous Mazahua cooperative we work with, and a hip hop dance workshop with two of our volunteers from Haverford College. All are welcome to participate in this event. The introductory workshop to the multi-trueque begins at 12:30pm.

Program:
12:30 pm Multi-trueque workshop (mandatory for those participating in the multi-trueque)
1-6pm ¡Multi-trueque don y gratuidad!
1:30pm La bruja y sus conjuros (sones, Mexican and Latin American music)
2:30pm  Hip hop (dance) w/ Rafa y John (USA)
2:30pm Arab dance performance w/ Somayeh (Iran)
3:00pm Rhymes and rapping w/ Emilián (El Salvador)
3:30pm Awareness-raising workshop (about migrants, asylum seekers and refugees) w/ Program Casa Refugiados
4:30pm Embroidery workshop w/ “Flor de Mazahua”
6:00pm Closing

Sounds amazing, right? We’re all really jazzed about it, looking forward to seeing who turns out this Sunday for the event (we are competing with the World Cup Final :( ).

This coming week is also my last week we Mara, who arrived the same week I did last August to the Casa, and we have been attached at the hip ever since. I don’t really know what I’m going to do without her. My last two weeks at the Casa I’m also helping wrap-up a poster project for the cooperatives the Casa supports, doing a reflection piece about the Escuelita and planning/facilitating workshops in the Casa on themes of community building and psychosocial well-being, preparing for a trip to Juarez City to present a series of lino prints produced by the women’s printmaking collective, and, all the while immersed in a world of salsa dancing, art, Quakerism, migration, and the Escuelita.

So in summary, Casa life continues to be a whirlwind. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Four Days in Paradise (And How Work Followed Me There)

This past week Mara and I went to Mazunte, Oaxaca, for a short but replenishing visit to the beach. The landscape of this quiet town is rocky coast surrounding a small inlet with a few small restaurants and hostel type accommodations.

Within the first couple hours on the beach, just after ordering breakfast, I see a familiar-seeming face just a few beach chairs away from us. I turn to Mara, “No way. I think that’s my old boss.” Sure enough, after a few sneaky side-glances to corroborate my suspicions, I hear the bellowing laugh that I knew so well from 3 summers ago working for the Legal Aid Justice Center in Fairfax, Virginia. “Arnoldo?” I cry, and he responds, “Katy?” with a big laugh. We talk and catch each other up on the migrant issues on either side of the border, and plan to meet up in Mexico City the next week so I can accompany him to Tochan. Crazy, but not so crazy coincidences. Still, he’s one person I never expected to see on the semi-deserted Oaxacan coast that morning.

Here are some pictures from the trip:

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This was our favorite swimming spot. There were barely any people and the waves were perfect.

photo 1 We woke up every morning to a glorious panorama of the Pacific.

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We took hikes at sunset to the rocky point called Punto Cometa.image_2For breakfast, I ate homemade multigrain chocolate-plantain bread.

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Needless to say, we’re already aching for a chance to go back.

 

Re: [Grabadoras]

This last week I was obsessively working to finish a linocut to participate in the National Female Street Art and Graffiti Festival in Juárez next month. (Part of the rush was the fact that tomorrow I’m leaving for vacation on the Oaxacan coast.) I still don’t know if I’ll be going to Juárez or not, but I’m entering a piece with the Mujeres Grabando Resistencias collective, and have learned a lot about how this group works through that process. Here’s the piece! It says “One day we will walk fearlessly,” and the hashtag is a reference to the feminicides in Mexico. grabado_juárezThere are eleven of us participating including me, and the parameters as a collective were its size, that it would be vertical, that it had to demonstrate a positive as opposed to a victimizing message about gender violence, and all of our pieces will be unified with the hashtag #VivasNosQueremos. The pieces are going to be blown up to about 1 meter in height and then wheat-pasted as part of the festival. Later we will do a campaign here in Mexico City. The festival is called FEMINEM. Here’s an interview with one of the main organizers (in Spanish).

 

Block Prints, Block Heads and Artist’s Block

There have been a series of difficult and tense situations in the Casa in the last couple of weeks. Mike blamed goblins, but I think that explanation, unfortunately, dismisses the very human agency behind the violence and malice at play here. I can’t really get into details for reasons of security and confidentiality, but I’m impressed by how we’ve responded as a community in the face of adversity. (One of the incidents involved on of our refugee guests getting falsely arrested, beaten, and detained for approximately ten days on what appears to be nothing more than the basis of being a black African man. His treatment by police and other government officials is appalling. We’re now trying to see how to take action to seek justice for his case. This person is now rethinking whether Mexico is truly a viable option for him as a refugee fleeing violence. The reality is that racism is a real threat to vulnerable populations such as black refugees and greatly impacts their ability to live a safe, stable life here.)

For a daily dose of female empowerment, and to counterbalance the ills of society, I’ve been working tirelessly on a piece to submit with a women’s printmaking collective for an exhibition in Juárez in July. The deadline is fast-approaching, and I’m still in brainstorming and sketching mode. The piece is about gender violence, but must reflect a positive, as opposed to a victimizing message about women. Juárez is a symbolically important place for the festival/exhibition to take place, as it is scarred by the feminicides which reached a horrific rate in the early 2000′s. Although there are less murders now, the rates of violence against women remain devastating. Juárez is also located in the state of Chihuahua, and on the Mexico-U.S. border, which makes it a cross-roads for migrants going into Texas, as well as a city within a state with high levels of violence related to organized crime, corruption and impunity.

My linocut print is going to reflect a more local context, that of the neighborhood surrounding the Casa in Colonia Tabacalera; more specifically the few blocks of Puente de Alvarado between Metro Revolución and Metro Hidalgo. The idea behind the piece is that one day women will be able to walk in the street alone without being afraid of gender violence. The route I take home from the art collective requires walking along this strip which is territory of a prominent prostitution ring. Many of the women are transgender, and recently there was a story uncovered about the PRI party of Mexico City (which is located right along this same strip) and its employment of sex workers within their political party offices. So there’s a loaded discourse on this territory about the rights of sex workers, but also the question of how sex work falls into the domain of patriarchy, gender violence and the State. If anything so far, this project is an amazing experience in the collective process of making art with a message of social justice. Still, as always, it’s been difficult to pin down an idea and make it come to life with the message I want it to send. I’ve spent several hours over the last week staring at blank paper or spacing out thinking about how to best represent the image in words, and vice versa. (One of the requirements is the print must contain a phrase.) I’ve never participated in something like this before so it’s REALLY exciting but also slightly nerve-wracking (hence the creative paralysis) but the greatest part is to be working in the company of women who are helping one another through the process.

 

June Brings Rainstorms and New Volunteers

It’s been hard to keep up with everything going on around here. As always, the Casa is full of an eclectic mix of people (Below: Guest Bill Gosnell teaching juggling in the reception). Volunteers are coming and going,  and it’s like overnight I’ve been converted into a veteran member of the team.

We have guests from all around the world, as well as several migrants and refugees staying with us through the Casa’s Solidarity Lodging program. The couple that I have been accompanying for the last month just found a new apartment, which will double as their restaurant. I’m planning a mini documentary project to record their progress in renovating the space and getting the restaurant up and running. They’ve been working tirelessly for weeks now, but it looks like they will be able to open within the next month.

Will Gosnell, traveling juggler educator and friend/guest at the Casa, does an impromptu juggling lesson in the reception.

Will Gosnell, traveling juggler educator and friend/guest at the Casa, does an impromptu juggling lesson in the reception.

The Haverford CPGC summer volunteers, John Kouakam ’17, Jake Lichtenbaum ’16, and Rafael Moreno ’17 got here just last week. John and Rafa had stayed at the Casa previously, during the Haverford-Casa Migration Field Study which is coordinated by the Casa and is an intensive learning tour of migration on the Arizona border and in Mexico City.  They will both be volunteering at Tochan, the migrant shelter the Casa helps coordinate. Jake will be working at Barrio Activo, a community and cultural center in a neighborhood in northern Mexico City which offers a summer program for youth vulnerable to delinquency and violence.

And my outlook on the Casa shifted drastically last week. Literally; I moved up to the fourth floor where my neighbors are Bertha and Mara, along with several cacti, jade and aloe plants. In the morning I wake up, stretch, and say hello to the Monument to the Revolution, now in plain sight from just outside my door.

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The weather is changing too. Lately the rain comes daily. Whether in the form of  an afternoon torrential downpour, light mist from the morning onward, evening thunderstorms, and the occasional threat of hail, water has been a more constant presence in the last weeks. Weekend before last, some compañeros(as) from the Escuelita dressed themselves as mutant GMO corn people and made an appearance at the Festival del Maíz. Then, an unbelievable rainstorm hit and they came to seek refuge in the Casa.

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School and work and convivencia haven’t left me time for much else lately, but I’m looking forward to a mid-June beach vacation in Oaxaca. I’m also working on finishing up and printing Casa t-shirts, posters for the cooperatives we support, systematizing Casa donations policies, attending a workshop tomorrow on migrant detentions in Mexico, and I just completed the first evaluation for the Escuelita, which concludes the first of three sections of the school.  We also just started a planning meeting for a trueque to happen in the Casa in July. Our very first trueque in the Casa with an alternative currency of our own, and various workshops, musical performances and talented artesan producers.

Time is Running Out

It’s hard to believe, but I have barely two months of my fellowship left. If I haven’t expressed it enough, the last months have been joyous. If I haven’t qualified this joy enough, it hasn’t been met without its challenges. Processes like Casa decision-making and community-living, finding work-life balance (there’s often not even a clear line between the two) have made my experience one that constantly forces me to reaffirm my priorities, my values and at times, to make difficult choices, take difficult stances. The challenges are what have helped me grow and find light in myself and in others. The process of community building at the Casa is on-going and constantly requires thought, reflection, intentionality and commitment.

With long-term staff and volunteer team members leaving in this week and next, some of our work in the Casa has been put on hold to give sufficient thanks, appreciation and celebration of all that these individuals have given to the Casa over the last year (or years). The Casa has a special “closing” for each volunteer who leaves, where we gather together in silence and speak directly to the person who is leaving. Once each person has spoken, the person leaves the group and the rest of us discuss how the community will compensate for the loss of that person–as much in regard to their professional talents and abilities as to the personal loss of a unique community member. It’s an important moment of reflection and recognition in the process of saying goodbye to someone who up until that moment, made up an integral part of the team. It’s sad to see people go, but each time a person leaves, there is an understanding that the moment has arrived for them to continue along their path in life.

Joy comes from simple things. A long bike ride or walk, a big supper made for and by the a member of the Casa family. Just a couple of weeks ago the Casa had its annual picnic in Chapultepec Park. We took a group photo outside the Casa and then rode bikes/walked/publicly transported ourselves to a little bit of green space in a big park to share food, play Frisbee and soccer and hang out. I had the honor of giving Maru her first bike riding lesson on a tandem bike borrowed by a Casa friend. I’d never ridden a tandem bike before either– it’s harder than it looks!

foto anualThe shape of life lately has been triangular. I’ve been working on a perfect trifecta of life in Mexico City: Casa-Escuelita-las Mártires Art School. It’s hard knowing I’m putting so much of myself into communities that I may not be part of for much longer. It’s crazy how fast time goes by, but I now know that these processes will never stop being a part of me.

In the Escuelita, a couple of the last sessions have been Right to Water and Right to Non-Discrimination. Both of these sessions had a huge impact on me, but for opposite reasons. Right to Water for my ignorance about the incredible impact water shortages and poor water quality has on communities in D.F. and in the State of Mexico, and Right to Non-Discrimination because of direct impact on our work in the Casa–we have recently been directly engaged in a conflict with the Government-run shelters who have systematically excluded migrants from their services.

Water services, as it should not be surprising, correlate to extreme inequality throughout the city. In some parts of Mexico City water is virtually potable, it comes out of the tap crystal clear and without a trace of ill. In other parts of the city, the scarcity is made worse by poor quality and political corruption. Services are over-priced and do not meet even adequate standards. One political and environmental question is, how much water is there to go around? The next is, who is water made available to? Due to corruption, poor infrastructure and marginalization of poor populations in Mexico City, there are many communities that do not get water, period. There are still others that intermittently receive water services, but the water that comes out of the faucet is murky and causes rashes, allergies and chronic illnesses. In the State of Mexico, many people are charged exorbitant prices for a water service that barely reaches them, and the water they are provided can barely be used for anything.

We then looked at the gender-dimension of the right to water. In many of the marginalized communities where water accessibility is unacceptable, women, because of the division of labor are left responsible to acquire water for domestic uses. Women are unequally effected by lack of accessibility and quality of water because they often are the ones to have to stand in lines for water, to wake up in the middle of the night to fill water tanks, and who seldom have the mobility to consume water in other parts of the city where it is of better quality.  In the spirit of popular education, we formulated a map of water problems in Mexico City and Mexico State through the personal experiences of each one of us. One compa’ in the Escuelita shared water problems characteristic of a community near the border between Ecatepec and the State of Mexico. Neighbors will call in the middle of the night to let families know the water has been turned on–and probably will only be on for a short while–so that they know to collect water. Of course Mexico City’s Center–where wealth is vastly concentrated–has the least of the problems. If you are living in the Center the shortages might barely reach you. And although there might still be shortages, we talked about how shortages are not necessarily correlated to availability of water. For example, in Iztapalapa, one of the poorest borroughs in Mexico City, water accessibility is political. Services are highly privatized and water services are denied to populations with little political sway.

The Non-Discrimination workshop was particularly visceral because of recent struggles for migrant rights in D.F. Attending a migrant in the reception this past week, I called the shelter we have traditionally sent migrants to, and was interrogated about who this person was, why the person was on the street, and where his family was. When it finally came out that he was a migrant, I was informed that “he doesn’t fit the profile” of someone they could attend. I was angry; it wasn’t just. But at the same time I didn’t feel empowered to react in any productive way. File a complaint? With whom? Send the migrant anyway, hoping they might not check his identification when he got there? Tell him where a quiet, safe street where he may safely pass the night without robbery or violence? None of the options were particularly constructive. (The irony is that many people say sleeping in the street is better than going to that shelter, where drug-addicts and people with psychological illnesses create a hostile and dangerous environment. And yet the migrants have been blamed for “causing trouble,” and for that reason are no longer taken.)

The Escuelita session, even if it didn’t directly answer my questions about what to do in this situation, made us do a lot of critical thinking about language, interactions and prejudices about marginalized, stigmatized groups of people, and opened up a dialogue about discrimination which later can serve as a basis for how to approach these issues. Here’s a picture of us working in small groups about three topics: prejudice, stereotypes, stigmatization and discrimination.

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We also played soccer after last class. Apart from being stared at because of our… unconventional technique, we had a blast.

Tune in next time for updates about the arrival of the Haverford interns, my big move, and more art-in-progress!

 

I Was Going to Post About Water, But…

Instead I wanted to share my newest print. It’s a portrait of the block of Puente de Alvarado right in front of Metro Revolution facing northward. There are many elements here, the most prominent being the fliers of missing girls pegged up to the street post. It is an everyday moment in Mexico City, filled with movement, commerce, poverty, inequality, objectification and above all, a survival-driven force of life.

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re: The Spiritual Side of Human Dignity

I went to Querétaro this week for a forum on migration hosted by the University of Querétaro (UAQ). It was a unique experience given that 1) it happened during the Migrant Viacrucis Caravan, and 2) I was tagging along with a student group from the University of Chapingo. On the first day of the Conference, the perspectives of migration came from religious/spiritual leaders of the migrant rights movement. The panelists were Padre Solalinde of “Hermanos en el Camino” in Ixtepec, Padre Pedro Pantoja of Casa del Migrante “Frontera con Justicia” in Saltillo, Fray Tomás Castillo of Casa del Migrante “La 72″ in Tenosique, and Martín Martínez of Estancia González y Martínez in Tequiquipan, Querétaro.

All Catholic, these religious figures are of the most prominent in offering aid to and demanding human rights for Central American migrants in transit across Mexico. This is because the migrant shelter network in Mexico is largely operated by the Catholic diocese. The implications of the involvement of the Catholic Church are political, social and economic. While the church has struggled with lack of transparency, social conservatism, and corruption, it has also offered an unwavering hand to migrant “brother and sisters.” Although the diocese has replaced Catholic organizations such as Catholic Relief Services as the principle authority behind migrant aid projects, a smattering of non-Catholic religious organizations (e.g. the Jesuits, Quakers) and NGOs also contribute to migrant aid, and one change taking place is that the priests in charge of the Catholic-diocese-run shelters have more independence now than ever.

Of the panelists, Padre Solalinde is the most well-known. Characterized by his pristine white robes and the simple cross around his neck, his human rights work and management of the shelter in Ixtepec is known all over the country. He is of the most prominent symbols of the struggle for human rights in Mexico. (He has been at attendance at almost every major event related to migration I’ve attended in D.F., including CAFEMIN during the Viacrucis.) As an outspoken critic of cartel abuse and violence against migrants in Mexico, he puts his life at risk.  And, as with the other panelists, his work is rooted in his Catholic faith. In commenting about the context of Mexican Catholicism, he said “Conservatives tend to separate the heavens from the earth, religion from faith,” abandoning the work of God in their daily lives. He also decried the current state of violence against migrants, calling attention to the recent Migrant Viacrucis and the urgency of humanitarian aid for Central Americans fleeing violence.

Pedro Pantoja, after sharing a presentation about the massacre of 72 migrants in Tamaulipas in 2010, shared his perspective about migrants, “a new social subject,” who comprise a constantly shifting “ciudad itinerante,” or “itinerant city” of people who, due to conditions of violence or poverty are not able to survive in their place of origin. These populations are transversing this part of the globe more than any other. The spiritual implication is a moral responsibility to aid in the protection of these “itinerant” populations. Where a political border does not imply a lack of responsibility in protecting other human beings. And the recognition that political boundaries do not determine the dignity or worth of those living on one side or the other.

Fray Tomás had the most overtly radical stance of the speakers, and his radicalism made him the speaker with the biggest impact on me. He called for revolution, revolution in the way we conceive of transnational borders and calling for a restructuring of the inequalities and violence that are forcing people to migrate. In Fray Tomás’ vision, “love is the only act of violence,” and is what is needed to transform the slavery-like conditions of the modern migrant workforce. He compared the current Catholic work in migrant shelters to the religious order of the 16th century, which sustained slavery by keeping people alive simply in order to work in exploitative conditions. The aid that is provided to migrants, just as was given to slaves, is followed by brutal acts of violence and systematic poverty. “We are talking about people who work from “el gallo to el grillo,” from sun-up to sun-down (literally: “from the rooster to the cricket”), pointing out that migrants aided are often killed in further along in the migrant route. (“La 72,” is named after those killed in the Tamaulipas massacre, many of whom had stayed in “La 72″ just days before. This name reflects a consciousness about failure of migrant shelters to truly protect or help their vulnerable, invisible migrant populations in the long run. The aid they provide is immediate, and thus the needs met are only immediate.) And it’s not just the migrants who are on the train tracks, he said, it’s all of us. More and more of us are finding ourselves on the wrong side of political, socioeconomic, cultural, religious borders. Finally, he insisted that “believing isn’t enough, you have to act.”

In most contexts in Mexico, religion and spirituality lay the basis for hospitality and relief provided to migrants. It’s true of the Casa as well. Although it might seem impossible to have faith in the face of mass extortions, killings and corruption, the closer one gets to the frontline of migrant activism, the closer you will find yourself to God, even if only vicariously. Close proximity to this commitment to faith offers light amidst ever-present acts of irreverence for human life.

The Caravan “Migrant Viacrucis”

This week the notorious cargo train that carries migrants symbolically rerouted itself right into Mexico City’s center–and the national spotlight. Over a thousand hungry, exhausted (mostly) Hondurans in need of international aid (and with a list of human rights demands) arrived at Mexico’s political doorstep, and knocked hard. Then they kept moving. Because their needs weren’t going to be met if they weren’t met in that moment. The purpose of the caravan being not solely to visibilize their realities, but to survive. The Migrant Viacrucis Caravan’s stop in Mexico City was not just a demand for justice; it was part of a longer, need-driven journey for a better life. The message being at once political and humanitarian.

Venturing down to the march from Los Pinos late on Wednesday afternoon, Arturo and I didn’t really know what we were getting into. Later I realized that I hadn’t been ready for what we found. By the time we reached the march, most participants had stopped and were resting–looking weary. They hadn’t eaten since early that morning. The invisibility of this population which passes daily from Central America and across Mexico had never been made so visible in Mexico City, the center of Mexican government, international institutions and a general Mexican population who rarely have contact with Central American migrants in transit.

There at the march, Arturo and I met up with several Casa Refugiados volunteers, who made it clear that more help would be needed later to assist in the reception of this massive caravan at CAFEMIN, the largest (but not big enough) of the migrant shelters in Mexico City. So with a renewed sense of urgency and purpose, we headed back to the Casa to collect clothes and food donations and then went directly to the shelter.

I don’t think any of us were prepared for what we experienced next.

Arriving to CAFEMIN with a taxi full of donations, we piled out and got ready to help in any way possible. The caravan had arrived just before us, in need of food, water, medical attention, bathrooms, clothes/shoes and rest. This was a huge task for a shelter that is used to accommodating less than 50 migrants/refugees/asylum seekers (and receiving even less) at a time.

Stepping into CAFEMIN, this is what we saw.

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At this point, almost all of the migrants had been able to eat and rest. Next we volunteered ourselves in the clothing donations room, sorting clothes while an interminable line of migrants peered through the windows as they waited for a change of clothes and maybe socks if they were lucky. The people waiting to be let in were shut out, watching as donations dwindled and as time passed we had to rush people through to get everyone back on the buses on time. The men would not be sleeping at CAFEMIN, space and resources were too scarce. The Mexico City government would transport them to a gymnasium nearby for everyone to sleep. Later, a truck of mattress pads and blankets would arrive for the women and children who stayed behind. There were even children that appeared to be unaccompanied by any adult. Before closing for the night, everyone made a line and registered themselves in a roll-call type procedure. Below, the frenzy brought upon for a change of clothes.

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Every once in a while, a transcendent collision with humanity knocks us off our feet. We are left with a primordial sense of coexistence, codependence, with the billions of other human beings who inhabit this earth. Most often when this happens it occurs suddenly; in a rapid manifestation of kindness or appreciation, a lightning bolt of unexpected love or affection. Although these manifestations are available to us constantly, they tend to go unnoticed, and so when for whatever reason we are hit with the reality of our collective existence, it is felt all the more intensely.

In this case, it took the forced displacement of people, in the form of massive migration–to unite the many realities into one of great need, and great suffering. This transnational crisis forces us to bare witness to the vulnerability of others on this earth, and though it may be an impossible challenge, we have to attempt to process it.