Caritas Veritas: ‘Reflections On Borderlands”

October 4, 2016

By Lindsey Torphy

At this year’s Caritas Veritas Symposium, four Dominican students shared their thoughts and impressions on last May’s Borderlands Alternative Break trip.

Students reflect on their experiences in Tijuana in the session titled: Reflections on Borderlands.

The students, each at different points of their education, journeyed to the multi-dimensional city of Tijuana through the Borderlands Alternate Break Immersion trip coordinated by John DeCostanza.

The four student panelists included: junior David Ortega majoring in Economics and Spanish, junior Bianca Mena majoring in Sociology and part of the bridge program in social work, senior Atzimba Rodriguez majoring in Psychology and Criminology and senior Raunel Urquiza majoring in Political Science with a minor in Social Justice and Civic Engagement.

The presentation began with the panelists asking the audience “What is Tijuana to you?”

Some words and phrases shouted out in response included: tequila, crime, soccer, shopping, fun, medical procedures, impoverished, prostitution, gangs, drugs and not safe.

These responses shaped the direction of the open discussion between the panelists and the audience.

Ortega’s reasons for taking the trip mirrored those of the other panelists.

“I wanted to see Mexico, the borders, with my own eyes to develop my own experiences,” he said.

What Ortega saw was a hard-working, family-centered, collectivist society, very different from the individualist and privileged American society.

The students started in San Diego and then had their first experience on the border on the way to Tijuana.

Mena spoke about the incredible astounding feeling that she felt as she made her way into Mexico without lines and with only two soldiers for security in comparison to the long lines and heavily guarded border when entering into the US.

Urquiza and Rodriguez spoke about their experience at La Posada Esperanza, the community based enrichment center, where the students stayed during their visit. They both spoke about the hospitality and beauty of the people who worked there and fed them. They spoke lovingly about the way they were treated and the system that the organization withheld to teach families how to save money and build better futures for themselves, as well as take part in family based home building.

Mena spoke about Casa Del Migrante, a home and refuge for people fleeing the country or people in the process of deportation. She explained that the organization takes in 85 percent deportees and 15 percent of people planning to cross the border. Of that 15 percent, 10 percent will stay after staying at Casa Del Migrante because they feel pride and security in the Mexican community of hospitality and love.

Rodriguez experienced sense of pride and comfort in being Mexican as she verbalized the feeling of accepting the good life as the life you have.

“This trip was about identity to me, finding out and accepting who we are,” she said.

She then added, in Spanish, “no soy de aqui ni de alla” meaning I am not from here or there, in reference to the status of Mexican or American identity.