A Traveler’s Treatise

Ravahn Samati, Community Intern
Friday, November 20, 2009

Travel is a necessary part of the human experience. I am prejudiced. The travel I refer to is not to beachside resorts in developing countries or posh Manahan bungalows or travel agency week-longs to Europe. I am interested in the marrow of a country’s identity. I want to hear her stories. The people are the crux of my experience.
In the stories of others you will find yourself. If you are in search as I am you will discover a larger humanity, able to identify injustices more readily, you will become more holistic and conscientious in your thinking. One’s gripes become petty. One’s privilege becomes obvious. One’s existence is humbled. It is necessary to re-remember over and over again these gifts of travel. Everything becomes contextualized.
With varying degrees of travel experience and Spanish proficiency, the Woolman Semester set out to La Frontera: the borderlands of Mexico and the United States. Our journey was a 1000 mile round-trip caravan across borders both inward and outward. Meanwhile, Latin Americans were crossing similar distances in search of sustainable wages at free-trade zone warehouses or across the border to the United States in search of greater reward and risk.
The borderlands is the journey of the migrant, the terrain, the two way current of culture and more recently the institution of immigration. The borderlands terrain revealed itself only after we exited Aqua Prieta in route to the wall to refill water tanks for passing migrants. Its monotony was formulaic in its beauty. Only the most well-adapted species of plants and animals were able to make homes in this arid climate. The terrain was inhospitable to the weary traveler. The black edifice loomed large in the distance. Zoe mentioned how the two sides were identical in their makeup and if not for the wall itself there would be no distinguishing the two countries.
“There is nothing new about migration, its been happening for as long as humans have been alive,” said Marc, our host from the Immigrant Resource Center. The newly created edifice is only two years old at Aqua Prieta. It’s under construction in other places along the border and currently covers only a third of the border. One irony of the wall’s construction: instead of keeping people out of the United States, it prevents illegal immigrants from ever going home.
Then we met the people. Most of us were able to bear witness at the Migrant Resource Center. The task was a simple one, ready food upon the arrival of migrants freshly deported from the United States. Unconcerned with where we were from, they accepted purposefully. One night we met with a band of 12 and another night a group of 10. They were hungry, thirsty, boots unlaced, most of them planned on returning to the desert to make the trek again soon. This was the cycle.
Thanks to all the people we met, who shared there stories of reflective pasts or their visions for the future, welcomed us into their homes and fed us: Angel, Moonchies, Jordan, Marc, Miriam, Larry, Doug, Lalou, the intentional quaker community, Café Justos, C.R.E.T.E., Immigration Resource Center, Comminidad Centro, DougPrieta. The gifts of travel will continue to reveal themselves thanks to you.

Author Type: