Saturday, April 15, 2017




By David Bacon 

In Playas de Tijuana, on the Mexican side of the border wall between Mexico and the U.S., Catelina Cespedes and Carlos Alcaide greet Florita Galvez, who is on the U.S. side. The family came from Santa Monica Cohetzala in Puebla to meet at the wall.

It took two days on the bus for Catalina Cespedes and her husband Teodolo Torres to get from their hometown in Puebla - Santa Monica Cohetzala - to Tijuana.  On a bright Sunday in May they went to the beach at Playas de Tijuana.  There the wall separating Mexico from the United States plunges down a steep hillside and levels off at the Parque de Amistad, or Friendship Park, before crossing the sand and heading out into the Pacific surf.  

Sunday is the day for families to meet through the border wall.  The couple had come to see their daughter, Florita Galvez. 

Florita Galvez is on the U.S. side of the border wall between Mexico and the U.S., and her family on the Mexican side can only see her through holes in the metal mesh.

Florita had arrived that day in San Ysidro, the border town a half hour south of San Diego.  Then she went out to the Border Field State Park, by the ocean two miles west of town.  From the parking lot at the park entrance it was a 20-minute walk down a dirt road to the section of the wall next to the Parque de Amistad.

At 11 that morning, Catalina and Florita finally met, separated by the metal border.  They looked at each other through the metal screen that covers the wall's bars, in the small area where people on the U.S. side can actually get next to it.  And they touched.  Catalina pushed a finger through one of the screen's half-inch square holes.  On the other side, Florita touched it with her own finger. 

On the Mexican side of the border wall Catelina Cespedes sticks her finger through a hole in the mesh so that she can touch the finger of her daughter, Florita Galvez, who is on the other side, the only physical contact possible between people on each side.

Another family shared the space with Catalina and Teodolo.  Adriana Arzola had brought her baby Nazeli Santana, now several months old, to meet her family living on the U.S. side for the first time.  Adriana had family with her also - her grandmother and grandfather, two older children and a brother and sister.  

It was very frustrating, though, to try to see people on the other side through the half-inch holes.  So they moved along the wall to a place where the screen ended.  There the vertical eighteen-foot iron bars of the wall - what the wall is made of in most places - are separated by spaces about four inches wide.  Family members in the U.S. could see the baby as Adriana held her up.

But only from a distance.  The rules imposed by the U.S. Border Patrol in Border Field State Park say that where there's no screen the family members on that side have to stay several feet away from the wall.  So no touching.

Adriana Arzola, her sister and her baby Nayeli Santana talk with her family living in the U.S. through the bars of the wall.  On the U.S. side, her family has to stay several feet away from the wall, so they can't touch each other through the bars.

I could see the sweep of emotions playing across the faces of everyone, and in their body language.  One minute the grandmother was laughing, and the next there were tears in her eyes.  The grandfather just smiled and smiled.  Adriana talked to her relatives, and tried to wake the baby up.  Her brother leaned on the bars with his arms folded against his eyes, and her sister turned away, overcome by sadness.  On the U.S. side, a man in a wheelchair and two women with him looked happy just to have a chance to see their family again. 

Some volunteers, most from the U.S. side, called Friends of Friendship Park, have tried to make the Mexican side The Reality Check: THE SADNESS OF THE BORDER WALL: