This piece of normalized recklessness and profiteering jumped out at me recently. A July pictorial in The National Geographic about Trump's border wall captured the essence of why guardian spirits like La Corua and ancient gifts from I'itoi (O'odham Elder Brother) are meaningless to those who "take no responsibility".
Beautifully written by Douglas Main with powerful imagery by photographer Ash Ponder, I share snippets that speak to the heart of the Living Being that is the Sonoran Desert and the decimation of both land and culture that its guardian people, the O'odham, now face. I hope you will follow the link to view and read the whole thing... It speaks to a critical tipping point for an area that exists nowhere else in the world. When it's gone, it's gone. And for what? To make a few white men rich and feed an emperor's vanity.
A classic, wretched old story...
White Man's ignorance is a dead-end road. We are already there.
But we are a stubborn bunch. As long as there is mud in the pond, we will continue to scrape.
"On Each side the people hold it together, to share M Himadag, O'odham"
There's a fabulous little treasure of a book to learn about the O'odham Children's Shrine, their sacred mountain--home to I'itoi, Their legends and creation stories, the Yaquis (Yoeme), Native Christianities, La Corua, and other rich stuff:
Beliefs and Holy Places - A Spiritual Geography of the Pimeria Alta,
by James S. ("Big Jim" ) Griffith
Fear and victim-blaming has been a wildly successful political weapon throughout history, especially in Arizona--and each generation to breeds new sets of eager, vulnerable ears. Enter the Trump brand of nativism and by 2019, it's a whole new ballgame. This Christmas, I didn't need to reinvent the wheel-- just add some ammunition and realities we'd rather not think about. I DO want to remember that the Nativity is really about the Human Spirit. Regimes come and go and although the human spirit is ephemeral, it finds a way. Always.
- Linda Magdalena Victoria
I must say here that this brutal saga of America's asylum seekers really struck a nerve. When stories started coming out about what "Zero-Tolerance" was doing to families, children, even babies, I absolutely could not stand it.
I was still recovering from surgery but was determined to DO SOMETHING... ANYTHING. When the plumbing collapsed at the old Benedictine Monastery (Tucson's primary migrant shelter), a dozen porta-johns were brought in and volunteers built outdoor showers from pallets, tarps, and PVC pipes. Plumber's daughter that I am, I and another lovely Catholic lady cleaned all of them daily, and continued to do so until the Casa Alitas Program relocated to their new location farther south. The asylum seekers were conscientious, and always offering to help me. The physical duresses they suffered were evident in what I cleaned and it was heart-wrenching. No innocent people, especially children and babies should be treated like this by the United States of America. These refugees, and the countless migrants before them are the ones who have cleaned OUR toilets and worse, in the shadows, for generations for Christ's sake. What is God's name is wrong with us? There were days it was so overwhelming I'd dissolve in my car before I could leave.
When that job went away, there were plenty of volunteers and I felt compelled to do something to lift up the humanity of these remarkable "throw-away" people who had suffered so much and come so far. That need gave birth to this series of artworks.
Via the photographer:
"Flor Garcia, 19, of Honduras, holding her one-year-old daughter, Flor Fernandez turned themselves over to CBP after crossing the Rio Grande from Mexico near McAllen, Texas, on Thursday, July 3, 2014."
Photo: Rodolfo Gonzalez/AP
Darlyn Cristabel Cordova-Valle, Age 10
Of El Salvador
Died Sept. 29, 2018 of heart complications,
HHS spokesperson Mark Weber told CNN Darlyn had surgery complications that left her in a comatose state. She was transported to a nursing facility in Phoenix and later to Children's Hospital in Omaha, Nebraska, where she died on September 29, due to fever and respiratory distress.
Darlyn was traveling to the US to find her mom, who had migrated from El Salvador to work and provide for her three daughters nine years earlier. She hoped to be reunited with her mother in Nebraska. Her mother asked that Darlyn be released to her care. The government refused.
Her body was returned to El Salvador.
Darlyn's story HERE.
of San Juan Ostuncalco, Guatemala
Shot by BP agent, May 24, 2018
Rio Bravo, TX
Gomez-Gonzalez's shooting drew international attention after a bystander posted video of the aftermath on Facebook Live, showing her lying on the ground, bleeding. Authorities changed their initial account of the shooting two days later, adding to the controversy at a time when the White House has cracked down on undocumented immigrants.
The deadly encounter ended the journey Gomez-Gonzalez started nearly three weeks before in an indigenous community in San Juan Ostuncalco, Guatemala.
The details around the death of this young Guatemalan woman remain unresolved, as the majority of migrant deaths are. And like many others, a wrongful death suit against CBP on her behalf was filed, a year after her death.
Claudia's story HERE.
of El Salvador
Died June 1, 2019
Johana known to friends as "Joa," died at the Del Sol Medical Center in El Paso, Texas, after being detained by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement for seven weeks. Medina had been a certified nurse in El Salvador but sought asylum in the U.S. because she couldn't work as an open trans woman in the nursing profession in her home country. From April 11 to about May 23, her health deteriorated and she tested positive for HIV. She begged for medical attention that never came.
In mid-May, she had passed her "credible fear" interview, which determined she would be persecuted if she returned to El Salvador, but Leon wasn't paroled until she began complaining of chest pains and was taken to Del Sol Medical Center. She passed away four days later.
Johana's story HERE.
Died April 30, 2019
Juan was apprehended by U.S. Border Patrol near El Paso after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. He was transferred to a local hospital after a doctor at a government shelter noticed he was sick. He was released and hospitalized again a day later. Juan was 16 years old when he died of a brain infection.
His family had no money--not even to take the bus to Guatemala City where an airplane carrying his body would arrive.
More of Juan's story HERE.
Died May 20, 2019,
Hernandez succumbed to the flu, complicated by pneumonia and sepsis, on or near the toilet of his South Texas Border Patrol cell. His body was returned to Guatemala.
More of Carlos' story HERE.
ProPublica, Sept. 17, 2021
ProPublica, Dec. 5, 2019
Died May 14, 2019, Texas
Wilmer's story HERE.
Died May 30, 2018, New Mexico
Hernandez was one of roughly 25 transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals who joined the annual caravan of Central American migrants heading to the US border. She crossed at the San Ysidro Port of Entry near San Diego and was later transferred to a CPB facility in NM for transgender detainees. She succumbed to symptoms of pneumonia, severe dehydration, and complications associated with HIV and later died from cardiac arrest.
Roxsana's story HERE.
Angie Valeria, 23 mos.
both of El Salvador
Drowned together in the Rio Grande River, June 24, 2019
Frustrated at being unable to present themselves to U.S. authorities and request asylum, Oscar swam across the river with his daughter. He set her on the U.S. bank of the river and started back for his wife, but seeing him move away the girl threw herself into the waters. Óscar returned and was able to grab Valeria, but the current then swept them both away.
Oscar & Valeria's story HERE.
Age: 19 mos.
Died May 10, 2018, New Jersey
(after being held at ICE detention in Dilley, TX)
When the two arrived at the border in Texas, they were quickly funneled into the U.S. immigrant detention system to wait for their case to be processed. They were both examined by a doctor and found to be healthy. The two were then transferred to a facility in Dilley, Texas where they were crammed into a filthy, crowded cell with sick children. Mariee became sick within a week of their detention with a cough and runny nose and grew steadily worse; contracting a high fever and diarrhea and vomiting.
Yazmin stood in line for hours, begging the guards for help. When Mariee was finally seen, she was given antibiotics after a quick examination. Yazmin begged the clinicians to run additional tests and allow her daughter to stay in a more sanitary area until she recovered, but she was sent back into their overcrowded cell with the other sick children.
Shortly thereafter, the two were released from custody and allowed to stay with family in New Jersey until their asylum claim could be heard in court. Upon their arrival, Juárez rushed her daughter to the hospital where it became clear that her condition was far worse than diagnosed. Mariee died six weeks later, on the day celebrated as Mother’s Day in Guatemala.
Mariee and Yazmin's full story HERE.
Died Dec. 24, 2018, New Mexico
The boy’s mother, Catarina Alonzo Perez, said she spoke with her son the day before they arrived at the U.S. border. “He wasn’t sick on the way; he wasn’t sick here,” she said through her stepdaughter in the Mayan language known as Chuj.
His body was returned to Guatemala.
More of Felipe's story HERE.
of Raxruha, Guatemala.
Died Dec. 8, 2018, in New Mexico.
Jakelin's story HERE.
The treacherous journey through Mexico and into the Sonoran desert overcomes the pregnant Maria, and she goes into labor. The pollero (coyote) of her group leaves her to fend for herself. She seeks shelter under the spreading branches of a mesquite tree.
Maria sits on her backpack, covered by her jacket. Her bare feet have blisters from many miles of walking. The man Jose is older than Maria and could be her husband, a relative, or a sympathetic fellow crosser. He wears dark clothing and the iconic back-pack with a gallon jug of water. In his right hand is a staff hewn from a mesquite branch, which may also indicate he's made this trek before.
Maria wraps the newborn Jesus in a bordado (hand-embroidered tortilla cloth) -- a memento given by her mother back home for her new life in the E.E.U.U. (United States). Hummingbirds are an auspicious blessing in most indigenous cultures, and three of them visit the baby.
The birth of this tiny human stirs the curiosity of some local desert wildlife... a javelina and her baby and a jackrabbit look on. A bobcat gazes from atop a saguaro behind the mesquite tree. ( Yes, they really do hang out on top of saguaros!) Crawling from the rocks towards Maria's battered shoes is a scorpion - a reminder that life is a precarious journey. (A scorpion logo also appears on many cartel drug packages.)
Instead of a star, there is a Border Patrol helicopter. It is not clear whether it has discovered Jose & Maria's hiding place...
Navidad en Arizona is part of the vision I seek to portray through art:
a compassion that can stand in awe of what "the least of these" carry -- rather than stand in judgement of how they carry it.
- Linda Magdalena Victoria
The presence of an owl portends death, according Mexican folk traditions. There is an old saying in Mexico: Cuando el tecolote canta, el indio muere ("When the owl cries/sings, the Indian dies"). The Aztecs and Maya, along with other Natives of Mesoamerica, considered the owl a symbol of death and destruction.
The saguaro cactus has finished its spring bloom and is ready for the saguaro harvest conducted by the Tohono O'odham Indians in late June. From the saguaro fruit they make saguaro wine, jams, and jellies and have a rain feast in honor of the coming monsoon.
The horned lizard at the bottom does not have any special meaning except that they are a beloved endangered desert critter.
Sonoran Arizona remains America's migrant graveyard. Nativist immigration policies have become more and more untethered in recent decades in a lust to grow the new industrial for-profit private prison complex. Meanwhile, the American economy still depends on immigrant labor, now more than ever - to feed us, and do the jobs Americans never have, and never will do.
I continue to find ways where I can honor all those who gave up everything for a better life. It is my intent to show here that we can only hope they are being received into a better place than those they knew in their home countries or in our deserts.
Ca nel nehuatl in namoicnohuacanantzin in tehuatl ihuan in ixquichtin in ic nican tlalpan ancepantlaca, ihuan in occequin nepapantlaca notetlazotlacahuan, in notech motzatzilia, in nechtemoa, in notech motechilia …
For I really am your compassionate mother, yours and of all the people who live together in this land, and of all the other people of different ancestries, those who love me, those who cry to me, those who seek me, those who trust in me …
Nican Mopohua, 29-31
Nahuatl version of the apparition of Nuestra Señora to San Juan Diego.
Everything I am and do is rooted in love of our land and its people, and our Mother. Her mantle has room for everyone. And 'She Comes for Them'...
Crossing With the Virgin collects stories heard from migrants about these treacherous treks—firsthand accounts told to volunteers for the Samaritans, a humanitarian group that seeks to prevent such unnecessary deaths by providing these travelers with medical aid, water, and food.
Adelita (la soldadera) stands tall, gazing forward, carrying a young child in a traditional indigenous sling. On her thigh rests a Carabina 30/30— (Winchester 30/30) decorated with a rose and two hummingbirds; both powerful Yoeme (Yaqui) symbols. She is dressed plainly, in a Tehuana style skirt. She shows signs of struggle but is poised and undeterred. She is the enduring Woman Warrior Spirit personified, the unsung strength of the world.
The girl child Adelita carries represents a new generation of life. She could be the child of Adelita, or a rescued child separated from her own natural mother. She sleeps peacefully.
- Blood on the ground: Mexico’s bloody history and ongoing struggles.
- Aztec calendar motif: embodies sun & earth deities Tonatiuh & Tlaltecuhtli – both related to sacrificial blood.
- Border Fence: symbol for all that is ridiculous.
- Skeletons: ancestors, perished migrants.
- Rattlesnake: Animal guardian, powerful transformative medicine. Also connected to the Aztec serpent goddess, Coatilcue, and Cihuateteo; one who guards the spirits of women who died in childbirth.
- Prickly pear cactus: (in this case opuntia var. Santa Rita) Food & sustenance for desert survivors.
- Mourning Dove w/creosote bush sprig: Desert peace symbol.
- Banner: In English: “If you want peace, work for justice.” --Pope Paul VI
- River: Santa Cruz River; without which human settlement in this far corner of the Sonoran desert would not have been possible.
- La Virgen de Guadalupe: Our Holy Blessed Mother and Empress of the Americas, sprung from the ancient Aztec mother goddess Tonanztin. Some believe that she holds the spiritual blueprint of the U.S. Southwest.