Migration & Culture/Koptiuch
Nogales Fieldtrip Reports

Henrik Johansson

Nogales, Mexico, was an amazing experience. This was my first encounter to a world where people endure difficult endeavors such as earning money and getting food. The six-hour journey our class traveled, was merely a glimpse of the lifetime of hardships encountered by the thousands of migrants in Nogales.  This trip has opened my eyes to see how unfortunate some people are.

Our day began in Tucson, Arizona, where we meet with the coordinators from the organization Borderlinks. The staff briefed us shortly about some very important issues, such as hygiene and how to act with Mexican customs. After only about a two-hour drive, we arrived. My initial thought upon entering Nogales consisted of how filthy my surroundings were and how the locals had complete disregard for their traffic laws. Mexicans had no concerns to stop signs, red lights, speed limits, or anything of that matter. Everything seemed chaotic to a certain extent.

Our first stop was at a government organization called Groupo Beta, which assists migrants with various issues. They expressed that two of their major issues were stopping migrants from trying to cross the US/ Mexican border illegally and to help migrants return to their hometowns. Naturally, Groupo Beta’s major concern is to protect migrants from harms way. What grabbed my attention was how the organization had been restructured. Due to past corrupt bribes and illegal activities, the organization was now under strict supervision with the law. They seemed to be a very well organized group in the center of a muffled society. I really felt the sincerity the workers possessed as they expressed spirit and joy in helping others.

Thereafter, our journey continued to an astounding neighborhood called, Colonia Colosio, where we had lunch.  Migrants from all over Mexico and South America settle here prior to making their attempts to cross the border into the promised lands of the United States. The living conditions were the most alarming thing I have ever seen in my life. Houses were built out of thin cardboard boxes and random pieces of wood that the people could gather. Silverio, a student in our class, told me that some of the men get paid by building material so they can improve their houses. The women do best with what little they have to provide security for their young. Children run around on the streets with no shoes on their tiny feet. The way these people live is frightening. I cannot perceive the disparity on how one world can actually seem like two. What really concerns me, is how hard it must be for the children in these towns to get somewhere in life. It seems like some people are born with tickets to life and some really have to fight for it.

The final part of our trip was to make a "market basket survey," which is a survey to compare the prices in Mexico with those of a normal grocer in the U.S. Estimated of course, most of the prices were not too different from those back home. The thing that struck me was how locals could afford these prices when their average salary ranges from only $40 to $80 per week.  Thereafter, we met with Mrs. Socorro, a Mexican nun who is the coordinator at Borderlinks, at the church where we all discussed some of thoughts that we encountered during the day. This entire day opened our eyes to intrigue several questions.

In conclusion, this journey was one in which I consider, life altering. I will always remember the things I saw. Some of which are frightening and some that were really nice. It amazes me that during this day and age, people live in such dramatic poverty.  But the happy faces of the families, who so happily greeted us into their homes to share what little they had, was wonderful. It reminded me that material goods are not the means to happiness. However, the purpose of this trip was to educate us on how people survive on nearly anything at all. It proved to me that people can make a difference by learning about migration and about the people it affects. We can change people’s futures with the smallest contributions, even though if it is donating clothing or just donating your time and smiles.

Return to Report Index

Return to Borderlinks 2001 home