Stories at the Shelter

On our second day in Nogales, we went to Nazareth House, the shelter run by KBI where women and children in particularly vulnerable situations stay. After playing with the kids—watching them bang at a piñata, eat pizza and blow bubbles on the patio—we listened to the stories of the women currently in residence at the shelter. A grandma who’d been detained and deported while her daughter and grandkids were allowed to wait out the asylum process in Tucson. A soft-spoken Honduran woman who was seeking asylum in the US with her son. I spoke to C., a Mexican schoolteacher from Oaxaca who’d been deported trying to cross more than a year ago. She and her husband decided to migrate after they’d both realized that they had no future in Mexico, despite their education and professional formation. C. had resided at the shelter until she could get on her feet. She and her husband now live in Nogales, Sonora, as they work at the maquilas to raise money to pay their debts to the coyote and plan for their future. We spoke about the hope she has found in the Kino community and the questions about her future: to cross or not to cross. The stories, sad and touching, blended together as we took in so much information. It made me wonder what about these women’s lives and their stories made them more vulnerable than the people we met the day before at the comedor. I got my answer after we left the shelter as I walked back to the border with our guide, Katie. We talked about our experiences at the shelter and I asked about the Honduran woman, J.. Katie said matter-of-factly that J. was pregnant. How strange, I said, she never mentioned that. “I think it’s hard for her to talk about.” “How far along is she?” “Two months.” Katie then told me what she knew of how J. ended up in Nogales. She said that J.’s cousin had started getting involved with local gangs. J., worried for his safety, warned her cousin’s parents. This simple act of familial care got back to the gangs who began threatening J. and her son. Fearful for her life and her son’s, she decided to leave Honduras and settle in Mexico where she figured she’d be safe. Her destination: Tapachula, Mexico, just over the Guatemalan border. Katie told me that J. arrived in Tapachula convinced she would stay there. However, the gangs found her. “That was two months ago.” Katie stopped speaking and my heart sank. “So the gangs found her and raped her? They sent someone to rape her?” Katie’s response, her calm—“I don’t know the details. I just know the timeline”—showed me how common stories like this are. And yet, each story is unique. We happened to meet J. at a time when she is still processing this deep trauma. And she chose not to share it with us. Instead, the way the story came to me, the ways it unfolded, taught me about her trauma, her process and the deep scars this journey to “safety” inflicts along the way.

Thread women at Nazareth House use to make bracelets. Sister Alicia who runs the shelter told us that weaving the bracelets helps women begin to weave the threads of their stories together.
Sister Alicia getting one of the kids ready to hit the piñata

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