“Energetic” may not be the word one thinks of to describe traveling for several days in an RV with a dozen other people. But this is what it felt like to travel along the U.S.-Mexico border with the Texas #TogetherJuntos caravan.
The #TogetherJuntos caravan was a procession of several cars and an RV brought together by several non-profit organizations, which traveled for 14 days to 20 border cities. Led by the Border Network for Human Rights, the caravan aimed to educate, organize, and empower communities on the Texas’ Senate Bill 4 (SB 4), one of the country’s harshest anti-immigrant laws. The caravan started in El Paso on March 30 and continued on to cities such as Socorro, Presidio, Eagle Pass, Laredo, McAllen, Rio Grande, Brownsville, and Corpus Christi before making a final stop in Houston on April 13.
SB 4 is a “show me your papers” law that legalizes racial profiling, discriminates against people of color, increases mass deportations, and makes communities less safe. During the caravan, advocates held rallies, marches, and Know Your Rights sessions on SB 4. At a time in which immigrants in Texas face large challenges, the #TogetherJuntos caravan brought hope — and brought communities together.
In Corpus Christi, home of legendary Tejano artist Selena Quintanilla, the caravan preached the late star’s legacy of inclusiveness. A press conference with local immigration organizations and community members was held by the Selena Memorial Statue and asked attendees: what do you dream of?
“I dream for my kids…to never know the hurt of not having a dad. We must not make family men feel like criminals based on their immigration status,” said Melinda Xicotncatl as she held a photo of her three children and her husband.
“I dream of a south Texas where children don’t have to worry if, when they come home from school, their parents will be there,” said Claudia Rueda of the Corpus Christi Immigration Coalition.
Halfway between Corpus Christi and Houston, the caravan stopped at a gas station. But this was no ordinary pit stop to stretch and get snacks. Off to the side of the gas station, a half-dirt, half-grass area featured several crosses with rosaries hanging from them. There were bottles of water and plastic flowers scattered around a portrait of the Virgen de Guadalupe. The caravan stood in front of this memorial and bowed their heads. This was the site where nineteen immigrants suffocated in 2003 after being left inside a trailer as they tried to reach the American Dream.
Further on the route, I talked to Guendi Castro. Guendi is 19 years old, a Dreamer and the youngest traveler on the caravan. She had been with the caravan since the beginning in El Paso.
When I asked her what her experience with the caravan has been like, she said it’s been “exhausting,” and a lot of days on the road.
“But,” she continued, “it’s exciting to see that there are people ready to make a change and that they’re taking their time and effort to go out and talk to the community. It makes me happy that people are doing something for themselves.”
She said she wants the Know Your Rights trainings to be the beginning of a better Texas. “We want the trainings to go above and beyond and lead to a better organized community. We want the community to have better resources to help those in need.”
For Guendi, the organizing work has been the easiest part of the trip. Her biggest challenge has been to be away from her family. This was the first time she’s been away from home for such a long period of time. It saddened her to call home and have her nieces and nephews ask when she’s coming back.
As for being the youngest member on the caravan, Guendi, whose uncle was deported, said her message to young people is to not wait until the last minute to get involved and make a difference.
“It doesn’t matter your age,” she said. “If you want something better for this country, for your families, for your communities, you have to stand up.”
She continued, “Your voice is the power of this country. Immigrants made this country. They’re not going to build [Trump’s border wall] if we don’t build it. Your voice being quiet, the community being quiet, is what is going to build the wall.”
The caravan has disbanded for now, but it’s not yet finished. In fact, it’s just getting started. This summer, the Border Network for Human Rights will be driving the caravan once again, this time traveling along Texas’ interior, continuing its mission to educate, organize, and empower.
The caravan showed that the Texas community is paying attention, coming together, getting involved, and fighting against the laws it doesn’t like. It showed how, despite being on the road with a dozen other people, you can feel energetic.
Read more at the Corpus Christi Caller-Times.