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Post #2: We Have to Have Faith

12/17/2018 01:02:03 PM

Dec17

The borderlands are international territory.  Landing in the Tucson airport, prominent décor and shopping advertisements feature “native” and Mexican rugs, Spanish language, even carpeting the color and texture of the boundary-less desert.  The interstate leading to our home-base in Nogales, Arizona is flanked by road signs listing distances in kilometers.

The hotel bar in Nogales is a mixture of whites watching Sunday Night Football, Mexican men in stately rancher hats, and Spanish-language karaoke. 

We’ll learn later that the rancher hats have been worn in both northern Mexico and southern Arizona for over a century.

The US Nogales, in Arizona and the Mexican Nogales, in the province of Sonora, in fact used to be one Nogales.  The Gadsden Purchase in 1854 separated the city right down the middle.  But that doesn’t mean the relationship ended.  A large part of the economy of Nogales, Arizona depends on is based on Mexican agribusiness.  More than 60 percent of Nogales’ sales tax comes from the estimated 30,000 Mexican shoppers crossing the border daily.

Both culturally and economically, the concept of border here feels arbitrary.

Walking on foot into Mexico, to feed migrants at Kino's comedor, we come face to face with the desperation on that border.

***

The twenty-sixth book of Genesis describes Isaac’s path to becoming a successful cattleman.  But he is continually harassed by the locals, and is forced to move from location to location.  He finds peace in a Beersheva, a town that retains the same name, according to the Torah, to this day. 

At the right is a picture of Felix*.  He gave me permission to take his picture, after we served a meal in the Kino comedor.  I thought of Isaac when Felix told me his story.

Through an interpreter, he told me that up until arriving at Kino, he spent his whole life in agriculture in Mexico.  Starting out working in the tobacco fields, he worked up to planting watermelon, lugging enormous water containers to slake the fruit’s prodigious thirst.  Ultimately buying his own land in the Guerrero province of Mexico, Felix built a ranch of over 120 cattle.

Life was good in Guerrero.  Until it wasn’t.  Two competing crime cartels are now engaged in a turf war.  One of them stole Felix's cattle, and took away his ranch.  Even worse, they killed his son.

I asked Felix to tell me something about his dead son.  After working all day on the ranch, Felix said, he would go right to the church.  He served on numerous mission trips.

So Felix has come from Guerrero to Nogales.  1500 miles.  The distance from Boston to Tulsa.  All on foot.

All is in God’s hands, Felix reminds me.  We have to have faith.

As I talked to Felix, heart in my throat, I thought about Isaac.  Felix, a tireless man, a businessman, a man who raised religious sons devoted to God.

How is this man seen as a threat to the United States?  Are we a nation of strife and hatred, barely better than the Mexican mafia or Isaac's bandit adversaries?  Or can we be Beersheva, a paradise of justice in the midst of desert?

Who else if not Felix would Americans want living in our nation, tending the land and investing it with faith?

 

* a pseudonym

Thu, December 5 2019 7 Kislev 5780