¡Presente! We Will Not Forget.

Several times each year I help create an “immersion experience” on the U.S./Mexico border for high school and college students. Last week was a collaboration with the Sisters of Notre Dame in Douglas, Arizona, and The Academy of Holy Angels, a Catholic high school in New Jersey. Five senior students, two faculty, two sisters from Douglas, AZ, and I spent a day in the desert carrying water to known migrant trails. 

It was 100 degrees on a cloudless June day, and we chose a trail that was shady and tolerable for our hike to the abandoned Wilbur-Cruz ranch near Arivaca, AZ.  Kicking up clouds of butterflies as we walked along, we looked for any lost travelers. 

“Somos Samaritanos. Tenemos agua y comida.” 

“We are Samaritans. We have water and food.” 

There were no answers but the songs of the cicadas and a noisy Gila woodpecker. Arriving at the ruins of the historic ranch, there were ten or more empty water bottles beside a crumbling wall, an indication that the water had been used by thirsty people. Water is life in the desert. The students replaced the empties with bottles of fresh water.  They labeled the bottles with the date and a message of encouragement with black markers.

Vaya con Dios. Walk in safety. You are not alone.

We were sweating, panting, and breathless as we trudged along in our well-fitting shoes and backpacks filled with snacks and water. Our little caravan was over-equipped with all the essentials, and still we struggled. Samaritan Mark Sanders located on his phone GPS the spot where a traveler had died in 2017 within 100 yards of the ranch. We bushwhacked through a thicket, brushed aside clouds of tiny insects, and quietly stood at the spot where this person had taken his last steps. Looking up at the sky and around at the cottonwood and mesquite trees, we tried to get a sense of his last moments. There were no remnants of clothes or personal effects, but there was a strong sense of spirit on this piece of hallowed ground. Someone poured water on the spot, and we all called out in unison, “Presente!” 

We remember.  You were a human being who lived and died. Go in peace.

Presente!

Holy Angels students and volunteers at the Longhorn Grill in Amado, Arizona

~ by Peg Bowden on June 27, 2019.

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