For Christmas I got to test this theory first hand by real live Mexicans. No, I didn't go to Taco Bell. (I knew I forgot one thing while home this year.) No, this time we made a trek to the real Mexico. That's right, south of the border for Xmas.
The idea for this came from my parent's ward. Some ward in Tucson (about an hour or so from Phoenix) has been giving stuff to a poor Mexican village for years. The daughter of the guy who started it married a guy in my home ward, so our ward chipped in. My parents are old and don't really have much to do when their shows are on reruns, so they volunteered to take a minivan full of goods. I was home with no job, so I came along for the ride.
As I promised in a previous blog, we did give them back the left over cans of lima beans in our cupboards that were likely grown, picked and canned by them in the first place. To my surprise, it was much more, though. We had a whole relief effort. Our entourage met together in Mesa and the convoy was doubled in Tucson. Then our caravan made it across the border. It only takes about half a second to know that you have crossed the border.
Yo Quero Taco Bell. Other than that I have never understood a sign in Spanish. I wonder how much money the government spent on this high quality sign.
Had it not been for the signs and dirty atmosphere we wouldn't have known we had crossed. The border is so loosely enforced it is mind numbing. I was not too surprised to see how the border into Mexico is loosely guarded. What harm does it for them to let American money make into their country? The thing that concerns me is what about people walking "In the out" so to speak? I bet it would be all too easy.
We drove around in Nogales for some time. It got more and more dirty and poor looking as we got further away from the border and the main streets. In no time we were driving down dirt roads in neighborhoods that Nelson Mandella decry as an armpit of society and Oscar DelaHoya would be afraid to walk down at night. My mom half jokingly said, "I don't know why I volunteered. I thought it would be a nice thing, but then I remembered how much I hated this place and the attitude of these people." By the attitude she meant the stereotypical illegal Mexican immigrants that we perceive as a nuisance in my home town. The whole time my mom kept making sure the doors were locked. She was worried every minute or two that we'd be mugged and left for dead in a heart beat.
We finally made it to our chosen destination. It only took about 30 seconds for the word to spread before we were mauled by people with arms out and dirt covered smiles. I don't know how news travels so quickly in a place where no one has a phone. Most of the homes only had electricity if it was an illegal hacked wire running in.
In the midst is Brady, they guy who brought this tradition to my home ward
When it became clear that we had too many people pushing and shoving for our stack of beans, rice and blankets we decided to move to new locations throughout the area. We had to yell "Vaminos!" to tell them to move and to manage to get our doors shut and move on. We drove a short distance down the road and got stuck in a line of our own group sitting on train tracks. Thank goodness the trains are as efficient as everything else in Mexico or we would have been killed.
This is not the edge but the center of this village
When we crossed we realized that we were not crossing on to the wrong side of the tracks, the whole place is the wrong side. This is not one of those "grass is always greener on the other side" things. This is the case, however, if you are looking toward the American border. It does help remind me as to why they all want to come over.
At first I was skeptical about coming to this Mexico for this. In Arizona and, well, all of the bordering states, Mexicans in general have a bad image. We often regard them a vermin or pest. They are viewed as lazy, dirty and uneducated. Perhaps there are quite a few that are and help to perpetuate this stereotype. Whether compulsory or not, these people were mostly dirty and likely uneducated. I still don't like the fact that we have many here illegally. I don't like that they take our government's money but won't contribute. I don't like that they often won't learn English and expect us to put all signs and instructions in their language. But this trip did re-enforce the knowledge in my mind that they are people too. Maybe a few took more than they needed. Maybe a few would not need our charity if they had more drive and determination. Perhaps it is self inflicted for many. But I could see the look of thankfulness in the eyes of many. Those who did not have a choice about their circumstances were the children. I can't speak for all, but I can say after looking at this last snapshot, it makes me glad to be part of something that if for no other reason, made this Christmas a good one for at least one little girl.