And who is my neighbor?

7 November, 2010

Learning english, Tijuana, Mexico, 2010.

Learning english. Tijuana, Mexico. 2010.

Between downtown Tijuana and Las Playas on the pacific ocean lies a small colonia called Cañon Carretas. Hidden among the scrap wood and plastic dwellings sits a one-room building that serves as a youth center, school, and simple gathering place. On August 6 of this past summer, I visited this small Mexican community with Kathy Saracoff, a missionary with Latin American Mission. For a few hours that Friday morning I watched as she led a small group of kids in some gospel songs, and then spent time educating them in english.

Employment in the community used be a short hike over to an adjacent valley where fathers, mothers, and those old enough to work dug through an immense mountain of refuse in one of the Tijuana-area dumps. Eventually, land-fill activities ceased at the site and dump activity moved closer to Tecate. Since then, the members of the community have had to commute, any way they can, to the new dump site where they earn a meager living digging for recyclables hidden in the tons of refuse dumped there everyday.

The children who come to the one-room school are the children of this community. Many of these cannot go to the public school because they cannot afford to buy the uniforms needed to attend the state schools. They are essentially barred from free education due to a lack of funds to buy the mandated uniforms.

Mrs. Saracoff started a small, handcrafts enterprise where the children produce bracelets that are then sold to help fund the children’s need for school uniforms and supplies. For these children, there are few options. Their parents spend the entirety of the money they earn on the basic needs of life.

In nearby San Diego, there are those who could easily afford to buy the supplies and clothing needed by these children, and thus they could be allowed to enter the public schools. Unfortunately, these connections, between the children in this dusty valley and those who could supply their needs, are not made.

“And who is my neighbor?” Luke 10:29

The increasing violence has been an added pressure to their struggle for existence over the past few years. Not only is this an increase in the level of danger associated with living and working in Tijuana, but it is also restricting the river of help that once flowed south across the border with the many Christian groups that would come to help, build, teach, and love the people of Mexico.

During the writing of this post I learned that, just across town from this community, supposed members of the Mexican drug cartels murdered 13 people at a health clinic,. This horrific event was barely reported on the US side of the border. If the cultural filter of la linea can muffle such a human tragedy, how much more will it silence the voices of these children living in the shadow of this violence? The violence is deeper than the 28,000 murdered in these cartel wars, there is another violence in that we, seemingly, are now no longer listening.

Reference:
(1) http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-11617353
(2) http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/29/world/americas/29mexico.html?ref=americas

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