Bonds Without Borders
by Lucy Rojas
“La Posada” is a tradition that has been celebrated in Mexico going back as far as 400 years, where people go from door to door asking for lodging and being denied, recreating the journey of Joseph and Mary. La Posada Sin Fronteras (sin fronteras means “without borders”) is held each year at Christmastime at Friendship Park along the San Ysidro/Tijuana border. Friendship Park is a unique place along the border where people can interact and even touch through the fence. La Posada Sin Fronteras is a Christmas service that brings people on both sides of the border fence together to share prayer, stories, and songs as well as to remember those who have died crossing the border.
This was my first time to attend La Posada Sin Fronteras. This event was a new experience where I questioned my identity, as a U.S. citizen, as a Mexican descendant, as a child of God. As a student and as an intern for PLNU’s Center for Justice and Reconciliation (CJR), this is my experience.
Saturday, December 8
I was filled with an overwhelming joy to see dozens and dozens of people gathering. Mothers, fathers, children, grandparents, teenagers, students—even dogs! They were all coming, with hope, with questions, with stories, and most importantly with a sense of unity and love. There were individuals from Los Angeles, Orange County, and all over San Diego who had gathered. It made all the difference to me to know that this many people cared to take a couple hours out of their weekend to just share with others who they had never met and who may not even speak the same language.
I was handed a program and a brown paper bag decorated with Christmas stamps, and upon it, the word “unknown” was written. This is a luminaria, a traditional Mexican lantern made by placing a candle in a paper bag. We use the luminarias to remember those who have passed away during their journey of migration; each bag has a name of someone’s loved one written on it, or in my case the name of “Unknown.” I felt sorrow for those who were lost, but I felt hope because they are still remembered.
Here stands the fence, wall, border with all its rusted bars and mesh, and for an inanimate object, it stirs so much emotion within me. There is a designated portion of the fence where we are allowed to approach. How frustrating it was to hear the sounds of abuelitas (grandmothers) playing their guitars and smell the sweet aroma of fresh made churros on the other side but not be able to reach over and taste it, to feel it around us. I was able to peek through a little opening, and I took a picture of this woman who sat and played and came here just as we had on this side. It was like peering through a keyhole into an entirely different world.
These little wooden crosses lay on the ground as the dripping wood glue dried to keep the planks together. Anxious children were given the mission to pass the crosses out to everyone. Watching them pursue this was a delight all its own. These young souls may not understand the complexities of this event, as many of us do not, but they still happily participated, which brought a whole new shade of joy.
Our CJR director, Dr. Jamie Gates, and associate director for international ministries, Melissa Tucker, spoke to the crowd about what it was we were doing and why. They asked how many people were here at the border for the first time, and this was the moment I captured: dozens of hands in the air proclaiming that they were here and had no clue what it would be like, a proclamation of humility. It felt as if a wave had washed over me; I was so happy for the path of questions and emotions on which these individuals were about to embark because the border is not just a two-hour experience. This is something we carry within ourselves and wrestle with after we have all driven back to our respective homes and crawled into our warm beds; it’s still there, La Frontera.
This place tastes bittersweet. I could feel a tearing in my heart for this situation in which we have found ourselves, building borders around ourselves. Is it good? Is it bad? What are the intentions here? What are the consequences? But as I looked around me, I watched a father and his son looking through the fence with wonder, and I heard my friends with smiles playing “Feliz Navidad” along with voices on the other side. It was such a sweet experience. I saw two peoples who are really one, singing, crying, and laughing together in harmony despite the wall between them; it was a sound I am sure God is most pleased with. How can I not return next year?
Lucy Rojas is a senior media communication major at PLNU.