Saturday, May 31, 2014

Visiting South of the US/Mexico Border Fence in Nogales, Mexico

I headed down to Southern Arizona to immerse myself in the migration issues in the border communities in both the US and Mexico.  Since 9/11, efforts have been made to close the border and it is affecting life on both sides.  Before this time there were many border towns that that functioned jointly on both the Mexico and US sides with people working, living and going to school together. When the US decided to put up a wall, families were split, workers were on the opposite sides as their jobs, students were on the opposite side from their schools.  Unfortunately this border fence has sucked the vibrancy out of many communities. One example I explored was Nogales, Arizona, US and Nogales, Sonora, Mexico where many efforts are being made to keep both sides vibrant.

I took a tour with the Border Community Alliance and Fundaci√≥n del Empresariado Sonorense A.C. (FESAC) to learn about the efforts to make sure Nogales, Mexico continues to be a vibrant, healthy community with economic activity and a civic life and doesn’t suffer the fate of cities like Juarez and Tijuana that have been torn apart by the drug war. Unlike other parts of Mexico, the border towns face different challenges. 

People travel there from all over the country for jobs, and don’t have the family roots and the support network they are used to, so great efforts are being made to build a cohesive community and help help people make connections. 

My favorite organization helping to build connections and economic activity was a place where they were teaching women to sew.  As men find themselves settling in Nogales, often because they are deported out of the US there or migrating up for jobs at the factories n Nogales, they send for their wives and kids to come join them in the community.  These wives need to find ways to make money.  Sewing is a skill they can use at home bringing in tailor work from their neighborhood while being able to have a flexible schedule to look after their kids.  FESAC hired a sewing teacher and invited the

women in to learn sewing while they waited for their kids who were at school across the way.

On the tour we explored the community and drove around to see some of the factories lining the Mexico-US border.  Nogales is growing by leaps and bounds and the Mexican government is trying to keep up by building houses and creating city services.

Since the border fence has been erected though, there has been a large drop in travelers from the US to Mexico and tours like this also show a safe charming community in effort to encourage travel again.  Many Arizonans told me, prior to the fence they went to shop and eat in Nogales all the time.  Interestingly one cross-border temptation still attracts US citizens to Mexico.  Medical care…  The streets right next to the pedestrian border crossing are lined with dentists, orthodontists, eye doctors and pharmacies. 

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