This article originally appeared on Medium.
I’ve spent the last few weeks wrestling with the realities of America’s current policies and attitudes towards immigrants. In my first article, La Frontera: Real Stories from the US/Mexico Border, I provided a glimpse into my experiences volunteering in Agua Prieta, Sonora with families and individuals attempting to legally seek asylum in the US. Most importantly, I spoke of the lasting power of the stories I heard, the conversations I had, and the people I met. All of this continues to swirl around inside my head, making it difficult to fall asleep some nights.
Although I was only there for two weeks, the circumstances created an ideal environment in which to establish deep connections within a short amount of time. I’m still in contact with a few families whom send me occasional updates on their progress towards crossing the border. It’s difficult to explain, but I feel the need to make sure they reach the end of their journey safely; a deep desire to make sure they understand that I want them in the United States. The fact is that some families will encounter few barriers in our complicated immigration system, however, the majority with face seemingly insurmountable challenges.
It is a well known fact that I love coffee, and am always looking for a good excuse to try out new coffee spots and cafes, and there is no better excuse than moving to a new city! Consider this post your ultimate guide to staying caffeinated, finding a great place to get some work done, or to discovering your new favorite afternoon break scene.
I've divided the map into three price categories:
$$$ - expect to pay prices similar to what you are used to at home.
$$ - a little expensive for Mexican standards, but won't break the bank.
$ - my kind of price!
Remember to keep coming back to this post. I will continue to update it as I also discover new places, and will make sure to always highlight a few of my favorites.
So where am I loving right now?
Boicot Café: Still one of my absolute favorites! You can't go wrong with lots of table space, great wifi, delicious food, and some of the best cold brew in town.
Cicatriz: Cafe by day, and bar by night, Cicatriz has become one of my new go tos. The space can fill up around lunch time, but during any other time of day, you can spend hours here without feeling guilty. Huge bonus? Every table gets a wine bottle of water, so no need to lug your heavy water bottle with you.
Otro Cafe Anzures: Anzures is a smaller residential neighborhood wedged between Polanco and Cuauhatemoc, which you could easily miss. However, I would recommend a trip for a relaxed lunch or snack at Otro Cafe, which isn't too far from parts of Chapultepec Park. The coffee is reasonably prices, and there is a full food menu.
After 6 months of living in Mexico, we finally made it to the famous pyramids of Teotihuacan, one of the country's most iconic pre-hispanic sites. Situated less than an hour from CDMX (that is without traffic), this is a must-do for anyone visiting. The scope and expanse of the ancient city is breathtaking, and provides a glimpse into the advances of these cultures. While you can easily visit the site on your own, we opted for a group tour that also included the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which is one of the most important pilgrimage sites for Roman Catholics in the world. I had few expectations for the basilica, but was blown away by its size and mid-century modern architecture.
What: Teotihuacan and the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe
Where: Teotihuacan (here), Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe (here)
Closest metro station(s): Teotihuacan is only accessible by car or bus, but the basilica is only a few blocks from the La Villa-Basilica metro stop.
When: Teotihuacan (9-5 every day), Basilica ( 6am - 9pm every day, museum closed on Mondays)
How much: Teotihuacan ($70 MXN), Basilica (free)
I left Agua Prieta at 7:00 this morning, and am now sitting in the Phoenix airport waiting for my flight home; sorting through everything I’ve experienced over the last two weeks. As I was speaking with some of the other volunteers over dinner last night about my mixed emotions, the only analogy I could come up with is that leaving CAME after 13 days of working feels just like leaving summer camp. For two weeks I have known nothing except what is inside the bubble of volunteer work, I’ve made deep connections with people in a short amount of time, and I’m returning home completely exhausted, yet oddly reinvigorated. It will takes weeks, if not months to completely unpack everything, especially since I am bringing home more questions than answers. I will continue to think about the families I met; wondering how they are adjusting to their new lives, and praying that they are granted asylum.
Yesterday’s chain of events unfolded into a complete picture of the challenges legal migrants face, and the importance of organizations like CAME and Frontera de Cristo. Mary and I walked into arts & crafts with a plan, but quickly realized we would need to correct course as the number of children at the shelter had doubled overnight. Halfway through a group of 12 Cubans, mostly young men, arrived at the shelter. They had been waiting in a nearby town for months as their names inched up the waiting list, and had finally been called back to continue their asylum process. So there we were; 2 volunteers, 12 Cubans, and about 15 children under the age of 10 crammed into a small room.
Later that afternoon we started our shift at the resource center, and were greeted by yet another large group of Cuban migrants who had just arrived into town after waiting for 3 months in Ciudad Juarez without any progress. They were devastated to learn that there is a wait in Agua Prieta as well, and concerned for their safety due to a recent interaction with a taxi driver. You see, in recent weeks migrants in Agua Prieta have become more frequent targets of cartel threats and violence. In fact, many hotels and taxi drivers will no longer accept business from migrants out of fear for their own safety. It is heartbreaking to send people back into the street because the shelter is full, knowing that their lives are a risk.
Luckily, the day ended on a slightly better note. One of the young men in the tent (La Cueva) turned 28 yesterday, something we were made aware of the day before. He is traveling alone, ahead of his wife and child, and told us he was not looking forward to his birthday. One of the most important jobs of volunteers along the border is providing moments of hope and normalcy, so we sprung into action with cake, candles and beer for everyone in the tent during their afternoon break in the center. As we were walking them back, he pulled me aside to express his sincere gratitude, and in his broken English told me that being able to celebrate his birthday brought back happiness, which he had been missing for weeks. By the way, this young man wants to join the US Army.
I’m returning home with so many stories; some good, some not. I’m still waiting to hear from new friends who crossed into the US a few days ago to make sure they are safe. They are currently in a detention center while their initial paperwork is processed, and will not have access to their phones until they are released to their sponsors. But I also know that a family who crossed last week is already safely in New York.
In a perfect world no one would have to seek asylum, but we’re far from that world. It’s not the fault of Mexicans that their government can’t solve cartel violence. It’s not the fault of Venezuelan’s that their country is in a civil war. It’s not the fault of Cubans that they continue to live under an oppressive regime, so while we continue to figure out how to best improve those places, we also must remember that they are people, just like us, who will suffer extreme consequences if they stay. It is unfortunate that the topics of immigration, migration, and asylum have become so tense and divided in our country. While I do not expect everyone to agree on solutions, I do expect us to hold ourselves to a higher standard of empathy and acceptance.
What is often missing from even the best written news on immigration are stories, because if there is one thing I’m walking away with it’s that no one story is the same, yet they are all powerful and real. Over the last week and a half, sometimes with the help of Google Translate, I’ve listened to many stories. Much of what I’ve been told are pieces of much bigger journeys and motivations, but I believe it’s important to share even the smallest tidbits. Below you will find pieces of people and families whom will remain with me.
For me, it is impossible to separate these stories from the immigration policies. Our current system isn’t working because we have decided that immigration policies should be “easy”, but the fact is that none of this is easy or simple. These families do not want to leave their countries, but they have been left with little choice. They have waited as long as they can to see if things get better for them and their families. So many of them have told me that they hope to return to their communities soon, but for now, their safety and futures are more important.
Walking enthusiast, and kitchen experimenter currently living out my dream in Mexico City, Mexico.
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