Border Wars between Mexico and the U.S. are documented by French Film Makers at the Comedor in Nogales. Wars? Really?

By on February 4, 2012

Border Wars •February 3, 2012 •

By Peg Bowden for


I’ve always liked living on the edge of things. My home in the desert is on the edge of a cliff. I’ve lived on the edges of this country—on the West coast in San Francisco, spent time in New York City, walked the beaches of the Oregon Coast, and now I live on the edge of the U.S./Mexican border. It always felt to me that ideas and life were, well, edgier on the edge.  Not always stable and comfortable, necessarily, but vital and dynamic and creative and alive. I like the cultural mix, the fusion of foods and customs, the different languages, and the challenges to my own comfort zone.


The Line that Divides Mexico from Arizona

Approaching the comedor in Nogales, Sonora, today I see a couple of people with a large video camera and a microphone—the kind used by film-makers. They are speaking French to each other, and struggling with their Spanish while talking to a line of migrants in front of the shelter. They are creating a documentary, they tell me, about border wars.


French Film makers documenting the border war between Mexico and the U.S.

Border wars? Here?

“Yes….we are interested in how a border in conflict affects people. We are filming North Korea and South Korea, Israel and Palestine, Pakistan and India, and today, Mexico and the United States.”

“But”, I reply, “we are not at war with Mexico.  Border wars?”


Peace at the Breakfast Table at the Comedor in Nogales

“Well, maybe not officially”, they counter. “You are turning away refugees fleeing their homes in Mexico because of drug cartels and the breakdown of law and order. Your country is clearly not interested in helping hundreds of thousands of people in need—people who are economic refugees looking for a way to survive. People who are fleeing the violence of their villages.”

“And, you are deporting truckloads of Latinos daily to this shelter—people who have lived in the U.S. since they were children. Many of these people here today do not consider Mexico their home. They live in the United States.”


Border Fence dividing the U.S. and Mexico


The French film-makers tell me that they are interested in how border conflicts affect the people who live on the border. They are looking for common threads that run through all border conflicts, threads that rise above the politics and the rhetoric. They want to know how the Wall has changed things for me and for my Mexican neighbors.

And so today I meet Pedro Luis, a young man who was deported from Tucson. He looks to be about 25 years old, and has lived in the United States since he was three months old. He graduated from Tucson High School, my own alma mater, and is a student at Pima Community College. Pedro has been stuck in limbo in Nogales for almost two years, and has a young daughter whom he hasn’t seen in over a year.  And here is something to ponder:

Pedro Luis did not know he was undocumented growing up in Tucson. His parents never told him.  Pedro thought he was a citizen.

Pedro tells me with great emotion,  “I feel more illegal in Mexico than I do in the States. The United States is my homeland.”


Tucson natives Pedro and Peg at the Comedor

He has been told by our government to get a life in Mexico—get a Driver’s License, become involved in the country of his birth. He flunked the written Driver’s Test in Mexico because he doesn’t read or comprehend Spanish very well. He signed up for a Spanish class in Nogales so he could pass his Driver’s test. (which he eventually passed)

I ask, “How are you surviving here?”

Pedro presently works part-time at a tattoo parlor on one of the seedy back streets in Nogales. Today he is applying at a fancy Nogales restaurant, hopefully as a waiter or bus boy. The Samaritans are working with lawyers to try and get this young man a visa so he can cross freely back and forth.

“All I want to do is return to Tucson, finish my degree at Pima College, and be a good citizen. I was a Boy Scout growing up, and in my heart I’m still a Boy Scout.” Indeed, Pedro volunteers each day here at the comedor, and I see him scrubbing out the sinks, washing the dishes, emptying the garbage.

And so, once again, I have this feeling of immobilized inertia. And THAT is one of the results of living in this so-called “border war.”  I am stuck.  I hate being stuck. I hate listening to this sort of crazy injustice and not knowing how to impact the immigration policies of my country.

I really like this kid, (and the comedor is full of them today) and so I tell him, “You will get through this. You are smart, you are patient, and you will succeed.” And I make a mental note to email Obama and our Congressman, Raul Grijalva today.

We both get a bit teary at this point. Another Samaritan asks to take our photo, and Pedro is delighted. I tell him I will spread his story to others. We will keep in touch.


A moment of reflection at the wall

So today is one of those days when I wish I had a law degree and some hot shot lawyers standing next to me. And maybe a few politicians who lead with their heart and head instead of their poll numbers and their campaign coffers. Pedro could be a poster child for the Dream Act. Where is this fast track to citizenship for youngsters who have lived here most of their lives and want desperately to work hard for their own American dream?

Listen up, America. We are losing some fine young men and women, all because of a Congress that gets hung up on some idea of what a real American ought to be. Hey, this country was built by immigrants. Read your history.

Pedro Luis is far more patient and sane and grounded than I could ever be in this situation. And I tell him that I have the utmost respect for how he is handling this tragic event.


But it doesn’t seem like enough.


A Peaceful Moment with a Kitty



About me

I am Peg Bowden, and I live 12 miles from the Mexican border in Arizona on a ranch in a remote part of the Sonoran desert. Migrants pass through our desert seeking family connections in the U.S. and economic relief. Many die within a few short miles of my home. I have been an RN for 45 years, and am retired—I was so through with health care. And then I read of the numbers of deaths so close to home. So I’m back doing the most profound nursing care I’ve ever done.

I am active in two organizations that support the immigration issue in very different ways:

The Samaritans are up front and personal and very hands on. They provide food, water, medical aid and clothing to migrants both in the Sonoran desert in the U.S., and in Nogales, Sonora. Their website is:

I am a Board member of the Santa Cruz Community Foundation (SCCF) whose mission is to empower our community to invest in itself. The Foundation is an active partner with a sister organization in Nogales, Sonora, working together to improve and invigorate a thriving border community. Their website is:

SCCF works diligently to create lasting solutions to the issues confronting the US/Mexico border in Nogales.

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