On Faith: Walking, We Find our Name
By Natalia Serna
Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.” (Genesis 12:1) “As for me, this is my covenant with you. No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations.” (Genesis 17:4-6)
I like the smell of warm tortillas and the feel of the air before the sun rises and the heat has settled in. My home is Nogales, a city split by a wall. On this side of the border it’s called Nogales Sonora, on the other side it’s Nogales Arizona.
Every morning I make my way to el comedor (dining area), where I pass around plates of refried beans, mole, eggs, pozole (a pork stew), and cantaloupe juice—along with piles of warm tortillas to the dozens of men and women who arrive hungry to our tables.
Marla calls it the point of first contact, where a plate of salsa y arroz allows us to feed a hungry stomach and discover a hungry heart. Each heart is unique; some hearts arrive broken, some hopeful, some grateful, and some desperately confused.
Often, my surveys are the footnote of a tragedy. Just a week ago, Eduardo was sitting at the table with his two girls in California, today he is sitting in a dusty border town receiving a free plate of beans and a survey. I ask for name, age, and place of origin. Were you deported? From where? Were you separated from family? Were you abused in any way?
There is no lesson in geography that can help these unwilling travelers make sense of the dislocation that they feel. There are no words to mend the sudden shattering of a lifetime made in the United States. I take the survey gently from their hands. I look them in the eyes and thank them,
“Gracias, Eduardo; Gracias, Maria; Gracias, José; Gracias, Ezequiel; Gracias, Juan ….”
Nogales is one of the main stops migrants make on their journey north and it is one of the main spots to which migrants are deported. Some are deported while attempting to cross; others are deported after living a lifetime in the United States. Politics tell me much about the causes but little about the essence of migration, the Bible, however, tells me quite a lot.
To be on earth is to be named and to be human is to journey.
To be named you see, is to be stamped unique by God and therefore created for a specific purpose. To be named is to receive a promise. The migrant holds onto the promise by walking. By walking he or she refuses to become another victim of the politics that breed violence, family separation, poverty, and oppression. By walking migrants refuse to deny their names. For many, holding on to that name will cost them their lives, yet they leave country and kindred, because staying will cost them their humanity. So, between platefuls of warm tortillas and mole I wonder, do I understand the fullness of my name? And how far would I go to find out?
Natalia Serna aka La Muna is a volunteer with the Kino Border Initiative (KBI) and is currently working on a border-based album to release in 2014. Natalia contributed a song to Songs for 1,000 Days, Bread’s new CD that raises awareness about the importance of proper nutrition during the 1,000 Days from pregnancy through a child’s second birthday.
Photo: Natalia Serna with fellow volunteer Oscar Limon in the Kino Border Initiative’s comedor. Photo courtesy Natalia Serna.