An older gentleman with difficulty walking due to diabetes comes down the stairs after a visit with a volunteer in the medical clinic. One of our team members stationed at the door comments that she sees that he got some new shoes. He says” Yes! and they are beautiful!”
Food Not Bombs volunteers create wonderful welcoming aromas in the kitchen next to the entry/exit for Al Otro Lado’s legal workshop. They serve meals four evenings a week. On Friday afternoon as our Peace Team members provide security near the clinic door, we ask "what's cooking? it smells wonderful!." They tell us it's lemon balm tincture and explain it's use in promoting calmness and easing stress.
A young mother sits in the hallway, rocking her infant daughter, looking a bit worried. A volunteer with beginner Spanish skills says “ah...bonita!” and gestures toward the two of them. The mother’s face lights up with a beautiful broad smile.
A childcare volunteer follows a toddler as she walks towards the stairway. The little girl hides her face behind the metal railing just cleaned by another Al Otro Lado volunteer…a game of peekaboo begins.
Mural at Al Otro Lado:
“The extreme clarity of the desert light is equaled by the extreme individuation of desert life forms. Love flowers best in openness and freedom.” - Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire
El Chaparral Port of Entry
As names are called, a young boy with his family stands behind the metal barriers. His eyes are intensely focused on the list manager, his hands are clasped together at his chin. Although one of the names in his family is called, and several move forward in hope, the list managers say there is only space for one person. The next day the boy and two family members are called. They leave other family members behind for another day.
A woman appearing to be near full-term in her pregnancy is called. A man steps forward with her and they line up behind the others who have been called. Within a minute the man leaves. He is not allowed to cross with her. She must go alone. Volunteers who know her say she is not well.
After hearing her name, a young woman moves into the line of those called. She stands against the barred fencing, looking outward to those who are watching and waiting for their day. A few moments later, as a man calls out to her, she turns away, burying her head between the bars, sobbing.
Two volunteers arrive with a cart containing a large pot of hot liquid, cups, a frying pan and a painted sign. They park the cart near people waiting in the line. The board is placed at the top of the cart. It says ”Avena Gratis.” As one volunteer holds the pan filled with cups, the other fills the cups with the hot beverage. The drinks are offered to all who are waiting.
After his family members names were not called, even though list organizers had promised the day before that they would be, a young Cameroonian man and his friend express deep disappointment. They tell a few white American human rights observers in the area that the system is not fair. They point to their skin and tell us the system is clearly racist and urge us to do something about it.