December 19, 2008

La Posada at the border

After 15 years, possibly the last

By Mariana Martínez

Amongst the choppy sea and the subtle rain, a group of umbrella clad people are singing, their song rising above the old rusty border wall.

“In the name of heaven, I ask you for shelter…”

The Posada without Borders is celebrated for the 15th year in a row, in border field park in the US side, and the old lighthouse plaza in Tijuana.

Emi Sam, 19, laughs as she sings Christmas songs with Manuel Ocano Rodriguez, 27, at the U.S.-Mexico border fence during a Christmas posada held in honor of migrants. About 150 people showed up in spite of rain. Photo - David Maung

On both sides, about a hundred people stand divided only by the metal wall, to remember the true spirit of Christmas, in what could be the last of the posadas, due to the eminent construction of the second border wall which would stop all contact in this area.

But today, there’s no space for sadness, protected from the rain, people gather to listen to Art Cribbs, pastor from San Merino United Church of Christ, who was publicly apologizing to immigrants.

“I wish I had the authority to give a former apology to all those affected by our policies, to all of those who have not been allowed to fulfill their dream of a better life, as it is their human right” Cribbs said.

About a hundred yards from there, a pair of Minutemen where waving US flags and screaming, “Stop coming here, obey the law.”

Between them and the crowd, a few Border Patrol agents.

The local activist Enrique Morones, read a moving Christmas letter from fellow activist and founder of the Border Posada, Roberto Martinez, who is currently ill and undergoing dialysis.

Amongst the crowd enjoying the posada, were the organizers from the Immigrant Defense Coalition, churches from various denominations and non-profits, as well as members from the Tijuana Diocese and the National Human Rights Commission.

But Rosy Cruz was also there.

Cruz is a 30 year old woman who has been living in Monterrey, California for the past eight years, until she found out her mother was dying in her native Oaxaca.

She decided to go back to Mexico to see her for the last time, and to have her meet her 19 month old baby.

But now, she is staying at the Immigrant House in Tijuana and has been unsuccesfull in her attempts to go back to her husband, in California.

“I´ve been here for 20 days and I haven’t been able to cross,” she laments,”I managed to cross my baby, and he is now safe with his dad.”

Cruz is five months pregnant, so people smugglers or “coyotes” will not risk crossing her by the mountains, so she has tried to cross in border crossings.

“Because of my pregnancy I can’t take risks” Cruz says, “I’m going to stay here in Mexico until I find a way to see my family again, maybe I can try again, because “migras” [immigration officials] are stopping you with one hand, and letting us trough with the other hand.”

After a few prayers and Christmas songs, the event got surreal as people from both sides of the border started throwing candy bags into the air that landed on the other side.

People then shared tamales and the traditional corn drink “champurrado.”

Pedro Ríos, American Friends Service Committee director for San Diego, regrets the imminent construction of the second fence, that would restrict public access to the park, if completed.

“The construction of the second fence is making fast progress, they are about 500 feet from the part” Rios explains, “but while we can, we will keep coming here to remember the divine immigration story in this sacred place, where people gather with their families, in a symbolic communion, hoping to reunite for real.

Various democrat representatives have sent a letter to president elect Barak Obama, sent by the office of senator Susan Davis. The letter asks for the halt of the border fence construction, at least in the area of the park.

Father Luis Kendzierski, Tijuana Immigrant Shelter director is not very optimistic that the new presidency will change the conditions for immigrants in the US.

“Obama can bring cosmetic changes or public relation stunts” he says, “but the restrictive policies against immigrants is not going to change unless two things happen: the Latino vote becomes an organized block vote, or there is a great need for more field and service workers”.

About the survival of the Posada without Borders, Kendzierski is confident.

“We will always find ways of sharing peace, despite the construction of walls, so we the organizers are already looking into alternative places to hold the Posada” said the priest.

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