Some additional walkers will join us for the first day. Many have purchased this year’s bright yellow Migrant Trail Walk T-shirt . On the back it reads:
The precarious reality of our borderlands calls us to walk. We are a spiritually diverse, multi-cultural group who walk together on a journey of peace to remember people, friends and family who have died, others who have crossed, and people who continue to come. We bear witness to the tragedy of death and of the inhumanity in our midst. Lastly, we walk as a community, in defiance of the borders that attempt to divide us, committed to working together for the human dignity of all peoples.
We also wore our name badges for our identification and on the back of it there is the following statement: To Whom It May Concern: I am a participant of the Migrant Trail, a peaceful event by citizens and immigrants in support of justice on our borders. I wish to exercise my right to remain silent. I will not speak to anyone, answer questions, respond to accusations, waive any of my legal rights, or consent to any search of my person, papers, or property until I have first obtained the advice of an attorney. If I am detained, I wish to contact the following person in order to obtain legal advice: Margo Cowan: 520-850-0058.
We have introductions and some logistical announcements in a circle in the Fellowship Hall of the church after the three trailers are loaded. I’m on the logistics team and our gear trailer carries the tents, sleeping bags and pads, camp chairs, and duffle bags or backpacks of those who will walk all week. We also carry an additional three 5-gallon water jugs on our trailer; it is packed tight! The food trailer is self-explanatory. The third trailer is hauling our water for our rest stops, eco-toilets [in a separate “unsanitary” area], our medical supplies, and our “pop-up canopies” we will use for shade when we finish each day.
Today is the only scheduled day when we walk in the afternoon. We drive about 1 ½ hours to the US/Mexico border at Sasabe, walk across the border and then are shuttled to a local Catholic church in this small Mexican border town. The road is unpaved, with deep potholes, and the driver has to avoid the occasional cow “grazing” in the middle of the main street or along the shoulder.
The women of the church have prepared a meal of rice, refried beans, tamales, and salad. We eat with some of the local residents under a canopy/tent that provides shade for about half of us. Others try to sit alongside the church building where there is little shade. Afterwards we enter the church for a brief service before we process, walking with three coffins the 1 ½ miles back to the border. We past a group of predominately young men, about 30 in all who wait in the shade and we are told will try to cross the border later in the day.
At the border, we gather in a circle for a moving ceremony remembering the migrants who take the costly risks in crossing nearby. Maria talks about the indigenous peoples of this area and calls us to pray for all involved in this on-going tragedy. She burns sage and “smudges” each of us before we cross over to the US side.
As we cross the border to re-enter the US, each of the walkers hands their passport or other ID to one of the walk organizers. We will travel as “undocumented” for the rest of the week in solidarity with our migrant brothers and sisters. It is only a symbolic gesture; we are such people of privilege, knowing that we travel with our own attorney this week.
It is a hot, dusty trek today. We walked single-file along highway 286 for close to 3 miles before we turn off into the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge (BANWR). We walk a little more than 6 miles and don’t arrive at the campsite until 6:15 PM. Supper wasn’t ready until about 7:30 and we are scheduled for quiet time from 8PM until 5AM. It gets dark quickly and I will sleep in one of the vehicles tonight hoping it will feel better on my back.
A packet of 3 burritos and a slice of watermelon is our supper. It is getting close to sunset and I’m tired enough not to want to read before I sleep. The moon rises over Baboquivari, the distinct mountain peak to our west that dominates the landscape. We’ve had her in our sight all day. My friend, John Heid, told me a little of the story of this sacred mountain as we walked today. I’itoi, the Creator/God of the Tohono O’odham Nation dwells on this mountain. It is this people’s Garden of Eden/Creation story myth. There is a cave in the mountain where native people leave gifts or sacred objects for I’itoi. Some people say the mountain is shaped like a breast to nourish the people in this parched land. Others say the people complained to I’itoi that they wanted more cultivatable land but God split the mountain (thus the sharp face on one side) and the rocks from that face fell into the area coveted by the people. God felt the people were being too greedy in desiring more land and so made some of it uncultivatable. Whichever story is correct, the mountain and the surrounding area remain a sacred site for the indigenous people on both sides of the border between nations because the native people historically lie on both sides of the US/Mexico divide.