For someone who grew up in the borderlands, a fifteen minute drive from the frontera, it is so strange to reflect on my connection to el otro la’o. I still live in the same region, but dislocated from what was once a home-away-from-home.
Just a few weeks ago, what was shocking to me at first to realize, my teen nephews experienced Mexico for the first time. To them, it’s a new country and new territory and they had only heard what they’ve read about in the news. War-infested news and the violence that I have never witnessed.
How is this possible? 15 years in la frontera and never crossing that puente? How has fear created this wall for us?
It might be Mexico, but I’d hardly refer to Las Flores as a true experience of el otro la’o. It’s too much of a “touristy” town, everything in the stores and restaurants marked in U.S. dollars. Most vendors speaking English and dentists accepting American insurances.
My sobrinos had lots of questions. It started right after walking towards the bridge, listening to the shouts from the migrant camps below the puente. Why were they living there? How long would they be there? How could they handle the heat? How far had they travelled? Did they speak English?
My 12-year-old nephew, Fabiano Italiano, ran to ask his mom if a little girl about 6-years-old was lost because she was selling gum by herself, and where were her parents? It was an eye-opening experience for him, for all of them, to see not every child is as privileged as they are.
When my brother told them they could each pick out $6 worth of snacks at the store, they laughed. What could they get with $6? A bag of Takis, handful of Gansitos, bags of spicy peanuts, a box of galletas surtidas, a Joya de manzana, and a few other goodies later, they were thrilled with their finds. All items we can easily find back at home, just not at that low price.
Lunch was a platica reminiscing about our relatives in Reynosa. Our almost daily trips to visit or go shopping. Reminiscing about life in our frontera in the 90’s.