They tried to bury us, they didn’t know we were seeds

By Rodrigo Barraza García | July 12, 2019 | The Americas | Freedom from Violence & Exploitation

Editor’s note: This post is also available in Spanish.

Reflections on the Transnational Meeting “Flourish Here and There”

if we’re as far away as the horizon
and if over there were left the trees and the sky
if every night is always some sort of absence
and if every waking is a missed encounter

you might ask, why do we sing?

we sing because to shout is not enough
and the crying and the cursing is not enough
we sing because we believe in people
and because we will defeat failure

we sing because the sun recognizes us
and because the fields smell of spring
and because in this stalk in that fruit
every question has its answer

we sing because it rains over the furrows
and we are the militants of life
and because we neither want nor can
allow the song to be turned to ashes.

M. Benedetti

May 15, 2019. Stephanie, a 10-year-old Guatemalan girl, dies inside a detention center of the National Migration Institute, located in the Iztapalapa borough of Mexico City. Stephanie died in a Mexican facility; seven other children have died in US custody due to the inhumane conditions.

June 26, 2019. José Delgado, a 54-year-old Mexican migrant who lived in the United States for 35 years, dies only three months after being deported. Despite having knowledge of his chronic illness, the governments of Mexico and the United States repeatedly denied him the necessary medical attention to ensure a dignified return and save his life.

More and more every day, we hear stories like these. The daily horror. Death as spectacle. Injustice growing everywhere.

Our hearts hurt and our minds are filled with questions. Why is this still happening? Why does violence and hate always seem to be stronger? Why can’t we act like brothers and sisters? WHY? WHY? WHY?

In the face of so much pain, partners like Otros Dreams en Acción (ODA) always remind us to believe in hope. Not as a utopia, but as something that we should build every day. Together.

Women and children hold up a banner showing their vision for the future of Mexico. © Global Fund for Children

Located in Mexico City, ODA builds networks and opportunities for the mutual support and empowerment of deported youth in Mexico. This is an effort to create a community space where people can come together in the aftermath of deportation and trauma.

ODA has opened a safe space called Poch@ House, where migrant people can access the internet, meet with activists and lawyers, coordinate activities, find social support, and take part in creative artistic workshops. With its many events and activities, Poch@ House aims to appreciate, celebrate, and assert “a new hybrid and multifaceted culture in Mexico: that of Spanglish, exile, and claiming belonging aquí y alla (here and there).”

It is in this spirit of inclusion and solidarity that on July 6, ODA convened hundreds of organizations in 14 cities of Mexico, Central America, and the United States to dance, laugh, create, and protest around six shared proposals:

  1. Abolish migrant detention
  2. Stop family separation
  3. Respect diverse communities
  4. Ensure safety and inclusion of the migrant population
  5. Provide equal access to education and employment
  6. Know that people come before papers

The main event in this initiative, called “Flourish Here and There,” took place at the Zócalo, or main square, in Mexico City, where a seed mandala was created to remind migrants, refugees, and deportees that they are not alone and that, during this era of walls, we can still build bridges that bring us closer.

That violence is fought with solidarity. Fear with love.  Injustice with creativity and organization. And that even the driest deserts can flourish.

Holding hands in front of the seed mandala. © Global Fund for Children

Then the music started. From feminist hip hop, to bands that mixed Mexican music with American rock to claim their dual belonging.

From New York to San Pedro Sula, we all danced and sang to these lyrics: “I walk, the north is my destiny, among wagons and the moon, as the one who seeks salvation … Fire, I have a fire inside, I can’t turn it off, I don’t want to turn it off… Dreams, I have a dream inside, I can’t turn off, I don’t want to turn it off.”

Children and youth participated in different workshops, from creating masks to represent the migration experience, to drawing multiple paths to connect and create with others.

A child wears a mask at the Flourish Here and There event. Among other phrases, it says in Spanish: peace; you are not alone; discrimination is dehumanization. © Global Fund for Children

Organizations that defend migrants were able to share their strategies and needs with others. And ask for help. And they felt heard. It was so powerful!

I left there with a renewed spirit, with a full heart, and with the words of Jill Anderson, co-director of ODA, resounding throughout my body and my soul:

Flourish Here and There is our attempt to present a broader and more real story of what we often hear about migration and migrants.

We are many who seek to care for and dignify life, and for that reason, we want to walk together with our displaced brothers and sisters.

We are many who have our family divided into more than one country. With pasts and futures in more than one country. With professional and personal ties in more than one country. And there are many of us who have responded to this call to fight with dignity and humility. Those who demand that these systems of exploitation are no longer the horizon of our realities.

There are many of us who live in exile from our families and communities, those of us who have been persecuted, detained, and imprisoned.

Because of all that, Flourish Here and There is an invitation to grow together, although we know it is not always easy. Growing sounds nice, but it’s a painful process. Leaving a seed and sprouting hurts; it’s difficult, but it’s worth it.

We are here to recognize and denounce this fatal moment. But also, with the hope of building something new, knowing that life goes on, and that by dancing and singing we get strength to be born and reborn as translocal communities here and there. Connected across the same borders that try to divide us.

You are not alone in this dream. That is my only certainty in a sea of questions and doubts. And it is, after all, the only certainty I need to keep walking.

Please, dream with us.

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