The Caravan Against Fear traveled for three weeks in April from Sacramento, CA all the way down the state, and through the U.S. Mexico border region, passing lastly through El Paso, TX before journeying back to California. Through all the stops in cities and towns in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, we met many organizations, community leaders and families who had something to share with us. Through the border region, which is the piece I was largely a part of, we were received with sustaining love, nourishing meals and with a willingness to connect on behalf of those we met and engaged with.
These are times of increased and resurging fear filled with direct and targeted attacks against many of us. The presidential promise of strict federal immigration law enforcement has only added to our anxieties. Despite the many foreseeable obstacles and challenges, these times are also filled with possibilities. One of these opportunities is the space to hold onto and deepen our faith, our trust and our commitment to ourselves, each other and our communities across the nation and the world. It is a time to call on ourselves, each other and our communities to act and transform. It is time to continue and strengthen our fight back against the targeted attacks on us and work towards the world of our vision.
During my time with the caravan, I was able to see the contrasted reality of the border region. On one hand, I saw the vast beauty of the land and its ecosystems. On the other, I was faced with the harsh realities that border residents live with.
I witnessed the uniqueness of desert plant communities with cacti, trees, shrubs and flowering blooms. But I also heard countless stories of migrant deaths and disappearances on their journey crossing the terrain of the border region, be it any of the four border states.
The fact that people don’t migrate and seek out the U.S. “just because” was reinforced through the stories we heard along the way. As one of my professors at San Diego State University shared, “we came here because you went there”, those of us who migrate here do so out of a historical legacy of displacement, lack of opportunities, concentration of resources and unequal distribution of wealth.
I also bared witness to community resilience in spite of the daily obstacles they face. Community joys in spite of the pain and sorrow felt throughout. Community celebrations guided by the reality that life is hard and any time we have the opportunity to gather and celebrate our lives in this moment, we must take.
There is so much happening in the world that I feel we cannot, or rather should not, always be immersed 100% in the struggle and in the pain. It’s important through these times (and beyond) to enjoy our lives as much as possible. It’s necessary to share our testimonies but it's also necessary to live lightly, laugh and share our joy.
From the caravan participants, I witnessed people having to sit and be with each other, standing in solidarity with one another, building community across identities, holding each other accountable, and voicing concerns within the caravan space and beyond.
In the end, to me it is clear that in the face of fear, anxiety, pain and suffering, we must continue to survive and work towards a world where we can thrive. It is clear that we must continue being involved across movements, organizing as communities, and be in service to ushering in a global shift.
Jesus Daniel Mendez Carbajal is a DACA recipient and a human rights organizer with Alliance San Diego, a community empowerment organization. Alliance San Diego is a member of the Southern Border Communities Coalition. You can reach him at Jesus@alliancesd.org