Deck the Halls at the US Mexican Border

By on December 19, 2011

Decking the Halls at the Comed



Our Samaritan group has big Holiday plans today. We are all carrying Christmas cookies and cards which we intend to give to the peddlers we meet along the way, the checkpoint windshield washers, the migrants, the priests, the nuns, the volunteers. But this is one serious rain, and we are the only people walking the streets. Arriving at the comedor we are greeted by at least 75 people crowded in the tiny space. Rain pelting loudly on the tin roof makes it impossible to communicate. We hurriedly unload the van with clothing and medical supplies. In a word, we are soaked. Our Christmas gifts will have to wait until next week when the sun shines.


Loading up the Van for the Comedor


Buckets are strategically placed here and there catching the rain through gaps in the metal roof. And then I spy the simple colorful Christmas lights and decorations strung around the ceiling. The rains are literally washing away the hillside surrounding the shelter, but there is a warmth and cheeriness as we huddle against the storm inside. Even the Virgen de Guadalupe painting on the wall, nestled behind the refrigerator, is strung with Christmas lights while roses, sacks of onions and potatoes sit at her feet.  I just stand there and am so glad I am here, shivering, wet, and happy.


In the Light of the Virgen de Guadalupe




Father Martin, who directs this whole operation, asks me to take a photo beside the virgin, and I happily oblige. He is amazing in his calmness and focused attention amid the chaos of migrants, helpers, and the clattering of breakfast dishes.




Women of Guerrero



But there is despair among the migrants today. They huddle with make-shift trash bags draped over their heads. This is their rain gear, which is better than nothing. The migrants gaze blankly into space, and I wonder where they will go the rest of the day. One young man is weeping uncontrollably. He is 14 years old and has traveled from Honduras. A Samaritan volunteer speaks softly to him and hugs his shoulder. I sit down and offer him a soggy bag of cookies. Two other men tell me that they will watch out for him. The young man tries to speak, and cannot talk through his emotions. We are all speechless and can do nothing but offer our silent support.


Three women from Guerrero look at us quietly. They have been traveling for a month and are shivering under their colorful ponchos. One woman finds an ankle-length black wool coat, smiles, and gives me a thumbs up. I sit down with them and tell them in my simple halting Spanish that I wish them a safe journey. They all tear up. I open my backpack and dig out more cookies. We sit there, the 4 or us, munching on cookies. The resident orange kitty comes around and licks up the crumbs falling to the floor.



A warm coat on a wet and cold day



I do not want to leave. Once again I feel that there are times when the Samaritans receive much more than they give. Today is one of those times. We witness the human spirit in its struggle to survive with dignity and grace. Being here is a blessing. I will not forget this day.



Singin' in the Rain



And I cannot forget how the United States treats migrants. Our country must radically change our laws and policies toward Latino immigrants. It all comes down to treating our neighbors as we, ourselves, would wish to be treated. It is a simple rule, and we have strayed far from its message.

About Linda Eckhardt

Linda West Eckhardt, is an award winning journalist, food writer, and nutritionist. Her more than 20 cookbooks have garnered prizes including the James Beard prize for the best cookbook for a text she wrote with her daughter, Katherine West DeFoyd, entitled Entertaining 101, Doubleday. Their follow-up book, Stylish One Dish Dinners, Doubleday, was also nominated for a James Beard prize. Their next book, The High Protein Cookbook, Clarkson Potter, remains a best seller after 12 years. That book was designed to accompany low carb diet plans. Her ground-breaking book, Bread in Half The Time, Broadway Books, was named the Best Cookbook in America by the prestigious IACP, The Julia Child award. Her award winning radio work with Jennifer English, for a national show on the Food and Wine radio network, was nominated for a James Beard Prize for a show called, “I Know What You Ate Last Summer.”