Friendship Park, at first, was a happy, hopeful place. You could see people holding hands across the border, attempting hugs. Families picnicking, children playing, soccer games. I haven’t been there in years.
For a long time, as border politics have become clouded and cartel effects dangerous I’ve had to protect myself from the hurt and sorrow I feel at losing the excitement and heart change from having to be a pretend only Anglo and being a Border Person. I was wary of even notions of being my core self. Mentions to myself of that life, US/Mexico border related news gradually became damaging to my psyche. Too core painful to hear radio accounts or to see/hear/read internet information, Twitter or TV visuals. Deep sadness, feelings of anger and ambiguous loss have been, and are still, just below the surface.
It’s been even longer since I felt I could safely cross back and forth across the border at San Ysidro/Tijuana or at Tecate or to go into Baja or anywhere farther south in Mexico.
I started to become fearful of driving across the border during a conversation the early 90’s with a couple who live in my community. They had just had their car stolen while gasing up in Rosarito. They helplessly watched their car screech out onto the highway. So, that, the internet and Tijuana’s Zeta newspaper stories and photos of cartel horrors kept me from being energized and supported by the roots of my lifelong cross-boundary life.
Hearing heart wrenching stories from my daughter working with asylum seeking migrants here, and my own experiences visiting detainees held in local jails took away my will to expose myself further to such pain, sadness.
Tiny rays of light keep me hopeful – border see-saw, news from friends who travel from Las Vegas to see their daughter who lives south of Tijuana and friends here who have family they cross to see weekly. Chapman University held an Border conference in 2019 that revived my border person self with the magnetic connection only a tribe can verbally and non-verbally infuse.
Policy by decree, by skin color, more militarized policing, desperate migrants; section by section, walls separating, disconnecting, disfiguring, alienating…cartels vying, atrocity by atrocity… murder by murder. My homeland disappeared into an ever widening no man’s land dividing families, tribes and borderland wildlife. The one place I am at ease is no longer a safe home for visiting friends and family on the other side, shopping, going to school, seeking medical support where it feels comfortable culturally and economically…and being bilingual is normal.
The US/Mexico borderland is overwhelmed; its historical role of buffering and mediating diminished and demeaned.
I’m holding out hope. In spite of it all, borderlanders are resilient, flexible and strong, ingenious and imaginative. The border see-saw, cross border conversations through the Border Tuner, art, drama, handcrafts through the fence all show how new life is being breathed into the Borderlands. Friendship Park was a place in time. It still inspires social creativity. Border ingenuity regenerates, stretches out …re-imagining connections on both sides of the 1954 mile line.