The Desert and Immigration

Desert Sanctuary

What a great week for education. In the last few days we were treated to learning of all kinds. From the outdoor exhibition that is the Sonora Desert Museum, to the intimate and important stories of a few brave Latin American immigrants through our partnership with a local immigration organization, our group has emerged smarter, wiser, and more informed on the country’s most pertinent issues.

We first traded the shine of White Sands for the hearty dust of southern Arizona, and were greeted by our extraordinarily gracious host, Dana. A professional fundraising consultant for non-profits, Dana would prove to have a serious knack for both hosting and off-the-cuff guided PowerPoint presentations. The man is chock-full of information on rattlesnakes, dog adoption, and the intricacies of raising money for important causes. Needless to say, Dana set a new standard for all future hosts on this trip and beyond.

The Sonora Desert Museum was our first dose of proper education this week, and to our amazement was more than just a parking lot with easily accessible Saguaro cactuses. While the 45-foot tall cactuses were beyond interesting in their practical uses as building materials, as well as houses for a plethora of desert critters, the museum also boasted a variety of Sonora natives. Be it burrowing desert mice, the elusive Gila monster, or even a brief trip into the billion years old minerals of the area, we were treated a mine of information. For many the Museum was also a bittersweet reminder of the sadness that comes with seeing animals in captivity. The lethargic pair of Mexican Grey wolves brought back memories of our time at the wolf sanctuary. Except this time, the enclosure was more of a fifty-foot walk than a 5-acre playpen.

Our experience surrounding immigration started strong on Tuesday with our first connection, Josh. He played the role of icebreaker, program breaker-downer, and jump-started our thoughts to prepare for the coming days. What is popular education? What do we know about immigration, the border, and the lives of those who dare to cross it?

It would do no justice to the bravery and trauma that our partners endured to attempt to outline every detail of their immigration experience. One blog post could not cover the years of xenophobia, prejudice, and injustice that Eddy, Manuel, Karolina, and thousands of others endured. However, the oftentimes harrowing stories we were privileged to hear opened our minds to new questions and perspectives on a persistent issue that often times seems planets away.

Why do people risk their lives and freedom to come to America by any means possible? What role does the U.S. have in that, and for how long? How do issues of xenophobia, homophobia, and transphobia compound on each other, and what kind of effect could that have on a human being? This week we were granted a small peek into the answers to these questions but also given just enough information to spark a million more. The reality is that this topic is just as relevant as ever, and lends itself to our full commitment now and in the future.

To more weeks of snow flurries, desert beetles, and continuous education.