Building Resilience on the Border
CAMINANDO ENTRE RECUERDOS
Today we hear all kinds of stories about what it is like to live in the Tijuana-San Diego border region and to be honest most of them are not very good. Now more during Trump’s term, the media have been in charge of projecting an image of a region where it seems that we are in a war zone between cartels and migrants; Although it is true that we have had dark moments in our history, but truth is that the we, the ones from here know that reality is different.
With all the obstacles and in the midst of our differences and challenges, we have managed to create our own identity, which is known as the “estilo de vida transfronterizo”. A way of life that illuminates the best of each country through talent, culture, business and people. For me, “cross-border” is someone who travels daily between the two countries (USA / MEX) as part of their routine and who seeks to take advantage of the best of both worlds.
Proud of embracing my Mexican culture and roots, I want to share a little of my life and the joy that I had to experience years ago, the cross-border lifestyle. I have been living in the USA for sixteen years and the truth is that I look at where my experience began and I see myself as an innocent young girl full of insecurities. But today I can say that this experience helped me uncover the strength that I had within me.
Each person is a different world, there is no doubt about that. Although it is true that the phrase sounds a bit “cliché”, we have all been children at some time, nobody is saved from that. And today as an adult woman I know that my childhood has marked what I am today, leaving traces that continue to be valid. Sharing my story has made me remember what that time in my life was like and that fills me with emotion and draws a smile in my heart.
My childhood was spent in an environment of tranquility and family security. I think that the tranquility and security that I enjoyed today contributed to the formation of my character. Today I am the sum of the attributes of my parents. I am a strong woman because I am the daughter of two hard working Mexicans. I am the daughter of a woman that decided to leave her dream job as [a] lawyer and stayed home to raise me with all her time and love. I am the daughter of a Mexican transfronterizo hard work[ing] man who raised me with his infinite patience and taught me that even in adversity and despite the inconveniences to never lose hope of overcoming problems, because we Mexicans, in our heads, see everything better.
Thanks to my parents, I had the opportunity to be born in a beautiful country which is the hope of many and means the opportunity to have a better life. Being born in the United States is part of the social dynamics of our border, it eventually makes it possible to have the opportunity to become a cross-border student. For many parents in Mexico [when] we, their children, are born on the other side of the border, means taking advantage of the asymmetry between the two neighboring countries. Taking us to be born on the other side of the border is to grant us dual citizenship, with endless opportunities to build bicultural skills and where to decide where to live and work in the future, in addition to that for those born in the United States, there are no restrictions to cross the border.
Tijuana, Baja California. 4:00 A.M. Sylvia, [an] American student who lives in Tijuana, accompanied by her mother and younger sister, still in the darkness of the morning, leave their home to begin their daily journey of at least 4 hours to cross the border and arrive on time to their schools. Dad is no longer at home at that time because he must leave home earlier to be able to cross and get to work on time as well.
Like them, dozens of other parents with their student children perform the same ritual on a daily basis. They wait, mingl[ing] in the long line of those who daily wait to cross at San Ysidro, one of the ports of entry where most people cross the border. Classes begin at 8 AM sharp and Sylvia’s mother hopes that the immigration officer will not delay in order to arrive on time and without any problems to the schools in the Chula Vista District.
Crossing the border daily to study is a complex process that implies a greater effort. Getting up earlier, forming long lines on foot or by car, the stress caused by being scrutinized by border agents, who are ordered to stop the constant flow of contraband (mainly drugs) and restrict the entry of undocumented or people with tourist visas who work undocumented. The militarized surveillance of the busiest border in the world turns it into a nervous space, one that no one can use and be comfortable without knowing that it is being observed and judged. At one point yes, you feel horrible, because this daily ritual robs you energy, time from your day and from your life. After several years, when we crossed, we were physically very tired and we were constantly depressed because time was not enough and we were always sleepy. It was difficult for me and my sister to pay attention in the classes, but although it was a stage of my life full of challenges and sacrifices, where tears and also anguish were not absent, I do not regret it!
I will never tire of saying that my childhood and adolescence have been the happiest times of my life, they were incredible moments, where I spent many hours, yes, sitting in the car, but in the company of my mother and little sister, talking, having breakfast, taking the most restful naps, having moments of laughter, moments where we were curious about the world around us. They were the first moments in which I felt the severity of a “punishment” for having done something “bad”. The first moments in which I understood that everything we do has an effect (on ourselves or on other people) and that many of these things we do are forgiven solely because we are children. Anyway, I think I have been tremendously lucky with a childhood and adolescence full of happy moments.
Yes, there were times when I felt overwhelmed by [the challenges of] transfronterizo life, but this lesson of life helped me build the ability to roll with the punches, help[ed] me build the strength needed to overcome the strong winds of stress and life challenges. [the] Cross-border student life made me strong enough and well equipped to deal with whatever comes my way. Thanks to all these years and experiences I learn[ed] that attitudes and thoughts directly affect how you experience and respond to stress. Thanks to this, my life changed and it helped me to grow a lot as a person, [and] now I have another philosophy of life and more discipline.
That is why I want to end my story in the form of a poem, because it is the only way I can find to describe who I am and where I am from, thanks to the place where I was born and the place where I grew up. I am who I am because …
Nací en un lugar bonito, un lugar de leyenda;
donde por las noches te arrulla el ruido de las olas del mar.
donde el cielo, la luna y las estrellas dan paz a quienes las miran.
Es un lugar que tiene encanto, tiene historia.
El lugar donde nací es uno de los más hermosos en San Diego.
Para llegar a él debes de pasar por el puente más importante de la ciudad de San Diego.
El lugar donde nací es la isla de Coronado.
Un lugar de tierra limpia, donde se respira aire que huele a mar.
Donde existen lindos paisajes naturales, llenos de colores mágicos, como los del arcoíris.
Estar allí es como sumergirte en otra época,
donde las prisas y preocupaciones parecen no existir.
Caminar por sus calles hace recordar cómo era la vida años atrás,
cuando todo parecía ser más sencillo.
Mi tierra natal es Estados unidos,
pero el lugar donde crecí es otro y,
ocupa una parte muy importante en mi corazón.
Es un lugar donde el sol brilla con intensidad,
y la luna se convierte en consejera del amor.
El lugar donde crecí tiene un hermoso y viejo árbol de higos,
sus ramas fuertes solían sostener mi columpio y hacían volar mi imaginación.
En este lugar el canto del gallo anuncia la salida del sol
y las gotas del rocío sobre las flores dan vida y esperanza.
El lugar donde crecí es un lugar de hombres sabios, con espíritu de guerreros,
donde el rugir de los truenos anuncian la caída de la lluvia
que como agua cristalina corre por el arroyo hacia el río hasta encontrarse con el mar.
En este lugar esta mi casa, cuatro paredes pintadas de color arena
donde los brazos de mama y papa me abrazaron fuertemente,
pero a veces me decían “pórtate bien y no seas caprichosa!”
En el lugar donde crecí los domingos son de ir a la iglesia,
a dar gracias a Dios por la vida.
En este lugar se comen tamales y carne asada en días festivos o porque se tienen ganas.
Soy de donde las fiestas terminan con mariachi.
Donde la comida y los platillos parecen obras de arte.
Finalmente, recuerdo aquellos momentos en los que jugaba con mis primos y hermana,
en ese lugar nos abrazábamos fuerte, y todo parecía perfecto.
Ese lugar es mi casa y está en Tijuana, México, la tierra donde crecí.
Soy de todos los lugares donde estuve y estoy,
Soy de aquí y de allá,
porque nunca los olvido,
mi corazón guarda el lugar donde nací y el lugar donde crecí
y a partir de ahí se conformó mi destino.
The Tijuana / San Diego border region is an example of how two countries can prosper and grow stronger by seeing themselves as one. By turning their differences into our best virtues, thus forging a future with great potential for both communities. In the not too distant future, I hope that more people, from both sides of the border, will decide to adopt this new way of living, as it transcends nations and geographies, as well as being an excellent way to align empathy with opportunities. I could write pages and pages that talk about this lifestyle, but in the end, you have to live it to understand it.