Bob’s Blog: Amistad Through a Fence

This is a very tough thing to say and even tougher to swallow: President Biden is building a Trump Wall at the San Diego border.

This past Sunday, I joined nearly 300 activists, organizers, and faith leaders in a march to Friendship Park, the iconic, cross-border park bridging San Diego and Tijuana.  Of course, there is fencing that separates the U.S. and Mexico there, and an army of Border Patrol agents and vehicles all over the place.  But for decades, Friendship Park has represented the idea of cross-border “Amistad” – friendship – where family members and friends and strangers from both sides of the border could view one another and communicate and touch hands through the fencing.

Although this particular segment of the border poses little to no security risk – the army of agents, cameras, fencing, and barbed wire prevent that problem – for some head-scratching reason, the Biden Administration has decided to finish the job of the Trump Wall at the park, replacing the existing fencing with a 30-footer.  It is an idea that is, at best, a foolhardy waste of taxpayer dollars, and at its worst, an offensive indignity to the people of Mexico.

So, on this Sunday past, I joined the protest against the building of a Trump Wall by the Biden administration at historic Friendship Park.

Under the very watchful eye of the Border Patrol, we were led by representatives of the Kumeyaay tribal nation, and a group of faith leaders organized by the extraordinary Reverend John Fanestil of the Friends of Friendship Park and Via International.  Dancers and musicians joined the March, and the cross-border protest against Trump Wall construction culminated in our “meeting” a contingent of protesters from the Mexican side, at the fence, just steps from the Pacific Ocean.  As we all gathered at the fence, we chanted and sang across the border, songs of protest, joy, and unity – invoking a world of Amistad and belonging.  At the place where I stood at the fence, a guitarist with our group met up with a guitarist and singer from the Tijuana side of the fence, and they joined in a back-and-forth rendition of a beautiful song.  Through the fence, protesters from both sides touched fingers.  A Mexican woman from “the other side” caught my attention and shouted “Cual es su nombre?”  I shouted back to her, “Roberto.”  She then reached through the fence in my direction, carefully avoiding the barbed wire, with the tiniest red packet in her hand.  I took the packet from her fingers and touched her fingers in gratitude.  Inside the red packet was a trinket-like bracelet featuring the Virgin Mary and a crucifix.  She shouted above all the noise around us, saying “Amistad, Roberto!”  I shouted back, “Amistad, mi amiga!”

Tears of Amistad, joy, and hope, for a world of Belonging welled up in my eyes.

Amistad.  Not a 30-foot wall.

Bob Ross


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