The world of the border el mundo de la frontera



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THE WORLD OF THE BORDER

EL MUNDO DE LA FRONTERA

By Flagstaff Arts and Leadership Academy’s 2013-14 Advanced Creative Writing
Sarah Adams

Cassidy Christiansen

Nathaniel Clinch

Reed Corse Parker

Dylan Dixon

Hailey Goebel

Ethan Gooby

Jeremy Graves

Ryan Loritz

AJ Maniglia

Aundrea Nebitsi

Samantha Quintinilla

Talia Rice

Meilani Sabino

Adrian Skabelund
Mike Levin, Instructor

The ensemble gathers on stage.
ACTOR

Good evening. From August 2013 through June 2014, Flagstaff Arts and Leadership Academy’s Advanced Creative Writing class agreed to write a theatre piece centered on the United States-Mexico border. Through ten months, the fifteen students and their teacher discussed and researched the issues, traveled to Nogales and immersed themselves with No More Deaths.


ACTOR

We are members of Flagstaff Arts and Leadership Academy’s Advanced Acting. The performance you are about to see is based on true events and inspired by actual people and writings.


Each performer introduces him/herself. (My name is …, I’m …, Me llamo …, or simply stating his/her name. The last person says: “This is The World of the Border.” Another says: “El Mundo de la Frontera.”).
ACTOR

This performance is about walls. The barrier that is and is being constructed is not the only wall I’m talking about. It’s about all the walls you encounter when you talk about migration.


ACTOR

It’s about the wall between humankind that manifests in violence.


ACTOR

It’s about the wall that’s between us when we speak different languages.


ACTOR

It’s about having different races.


ACTOR

And racism: The belief that races have distinctive cultural characteristics determined by hereditary factors and that this endows some races with an intrinsic superiority over others.


ACTOR

And racism: Abusive or aggressive behavior towards members of another race on the basis of such a belief.


ACTOR

And racism: hatred or intolerance of another race or races.


ACTOR

It’s about the wall that’s between politicians, politics and the rest of us.


ACTOR

And the walls that money creates.

ACTOR

The wall that drugs create.


ACTOR

It’s about justice.


ACTOR

It’s about death.


ACTOR

It’s about hitting the walls you hit when you agree to write a play about migration. And you keep saying no, it’s too big, I can’t. These are people we don’t know, I can’t. They’re so different than us, I can’t. We live 300 miles from the border, why is it my job? Are we the right people to do this? Will we become colonizers once again?


ACTOR

And you keep saying every time you hit those walls: because I am a human being, from the state of Arizona in which people on both sides of the border in this land I inhabit are dying. That human lives are being commoditized. And I got lucky enough to be born into the United States and I love it way too much to simply ignore what is going on here.


ACTOR

This is one of the migrants we helped to care for at a No More Deaths camp.


JOHN DOE

The following is translated into Spanish and projected on screen.

I waited on the side of the road. Not sure how long. Time had lost most of its meaning during this ... crossing, except that I would be doing this again, no doubt. When they came in their truck, they asked me the usual questions. It was the same man that was questioning me too. He didn’t notice it though. I wonder if they can ever remember faces. When they put me on the bus, I knew that I would be back out there. Today … tomorrow, didn’t matter …
ACTOR

Border Patrol agents cannot, of course, be interviewed while. We culled their words through those retired and through research.


PATROL AGENT

It’s stressful. It’s dangerous. Anything could happen at any given time. Y’know we’re out there oftentimes alone in really isolated areas at 2, 3 in the morning and you got a well-armed Mexican military who are paid off to protect a drug cartel. They’ll shoot up our cars or us, they don’t care. They need to move the drugs and we’re in the way. Rocking, too. Rocking’s become an increasingly steadier occurrence. A bunch of Mexicans are trying to cross illegally into the U.S. and they see a single agent so they take these multiple, large rocks and start chucking them so the agent either shoots or retreats. It all takes a toll. Mentally. Physically. It’s incredibly hard work.

JOHN DOE

The following is translated into Spanish and projected on screen.

I tried to make sense of it all. The water bottles that came empty, the food that was spoiled. I thought of all the taunting from the desert’s spirits. I thought of my daughter. The most water she had encountered in days were the tears wetting her cheeks. My daughter. My little girl. My child.


PATROL AGENT

When I found them I thought they were both dead. The heat baked into my hair. The dust stung my eyelashes. I had followed the tracks. I found them. One huddled over the other like a heap of death, it smelled too. A man and a child. I was about to call in the unit, but I heard the whimper. The man knew I was there, he didn’t care. I stood. I watched. I watched tears roll off of his face and onto the dead child. A child. Five, maybe, pink tattered dress, dark dirty curls, sun-blistered face. I didn’t call for anyone. I only wanted him to know. (pause) When I returned home that night I held Zoe until she fell asleep. My sympathy had worn out. How dare he, and any one of these Mexicans, take that girl into the desert. How dare they. Might as well have killed her himself. Now, I want him to understand.


CLIFFORD

My name is Clifford Alan Perkins. I was put in charge of building the United States Border Patrol. I arrived in El Paso in 1908. Nobody seemed interested in hiring an unexperienced, nineteen year old semi-invalid. See I moved there because I suffered from tuberculosis. I got some menial jobs but the monotony was killing me. So I started mouthin off to one of my coworkers at the post office and she mentioned something about this, uh, Immigration Service. I didn’t even know what immigration was. So she explained two things: first, immigration had to do with the exclusion, deportation and expulsion of aliens’. Right? Any alien entering the United States in violation of any law. Second thing she says to me was that the starting salary was twice that of what we were making at the Post Office. I signed up. I moved up there fast. In 1924 they asked me to build the police force along the U.S.-Mexico border. It was awful, I’ll tell you. Keeping men on was hard. By and large we weren’t hiring law enforcement officers; we had working-class men. You give them a little power over these landholders along the border and they take it all the way. The men I hired were too quick with a gun, or drank too much, too often or both. They’d become corrupt because the men around them were corrupt, or get real violent with the Mexicans or deport them without question. There was no very little organization, resources, no real strategy of enforcement. No formal training. No substantial direction. There were three stations – Los Angeles, El Paso, and San Antonio - along 2000 miles, so the men were so isolated there was no way to keep an eye on them or communicate adequately. We also had to deal with the locals and the Texas Rangers who didn’t take to us. We were doing the best we could making it up as we went along. I recall a couple of agents who caught this Mexican under suspicious circumstances and had bound him, dragged him to the water, and just kept on dunking him until he admitted being a smuggler. It was real raw in those early days. You need to keep in mind that this is backbone upon which this organization is built.


ACTOR

A group of us drove to Nogales and we had lunch at this amazing Mexican place that had delicious food: Pollo Adobado, Pescado Taco, Milanesa de res. The downside is that, as writers, there’s so much going against us. None of us are fluent in Spanish, and the little that we speak no one will talk to us. We don’t know where to go or what to do. Those walls. And midway through our meal twenty-some border patrol agents descend on the place and stand in line. They all have orders to go. It was a striking moment in the collision of two cultures.


ACTOR

We spent much of our time in Nogales at the wall. We’d seen a lot of pictures of it, but there’s nothing like being there. Looking into Mexico from our position. I mean our position: white, privileged gringo Americanos. This is where our play begins: at the wall.


ACTOR

Keep in mind that the U.S.-Mexico border is 1,952 miles from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico. Each one of these miles means very different things depending on which side you’re standing.
ACTOR

From America, you see Nogales, Sonora, a border town, it’s certainly not the romantic vision one has of Mexico. From the other side, you see the promise land. You see hope, a way to provide for your family.
ACTOR

1848.
ACTORS

1848.
ACTOR

The Treaty of Guadelupe Hidalgo. The border was established. Over 300,000 Mexican nationals were left in the U.S. It wasn’t so much a border as borderlands. People came and went.
ACTOR

The border became the border that we know because of three events: 1964 …
ACTORS

1964.
ACTOR

… the end of the Bracero Program that allowed Mexicans to work in the U.S.
1971 …
ACTORS

1971.
ACTOR

… Nixon declares the “War on Drugs.” And September 11, 2001 …
ACTORS

September 11, 2001.
ACTOR

… the worldwide security shift.
ACTOR

The primary fence averages 18 to 21 feet high, delves 6 feet into the ground and is built in a 3-foot wide trench. President George W. Bush signed The Secure Fence Act of 2006 which calls for some 700 miles. On average, it costs 3.9 million dollars per mile. 190 miles have been completed so far.
ACTOR

The psychology is something like this: bad people are coming in, put up a wall up to keep them out. If you ask anyone, anyone without an agenda, the fence is a failure. Okay, so given the right circumstances, a barrier can – in theory – work. But stopping someone that needs to get over? Not going to happen. Listen: the fence is the epitome of government waste and fiscal mismanagement. After a decade of mistakes, we still don’t get it.
ACTOR

One billion dollars. Think about what you could buy for a billion. A billion. DHS spent five years and a billion dollars to build this invisible electronic border fence that never worked. It’s enough to make anyone go Thoreau and become a contentious objector.
ACTOR

You need to understand that the Sonoran desert might be considered more of a deterrent than this visible metaphor that is the fence, but you also need to know that when someone is determined, nothing can stand in the way of that determination. Nothing at all can stand in the way of that determination.
ACTOR

Since 1998, over 6000 migrant deaths occurred along the U.S.-Mexico Border.  These men, women and children encounter more than just a wall when they cross into the U.S. They are faced with relentless heat, bitter cold and unforgiving terrain.
ACTOR

The wall really manifests as a symbol for the problems we have.
ACTOR

It took one act of terrorism for us to even realize we have borders that need to be protected.
ACTOR

There have been more agents killed in the line of duty than any other federal law enforcement agency in the United States: 120. The wilderness is vast and the people on patrol become targets. The men and women BPA work with are some of the strongest people working for our country. Mentally, physically, they experience things that the public has no idea about. It’s a tragedy that they are constantly working on. They constantly adapt and change.
ACTOR

Most of these people cross to find work. People say that the Mexican economy is struggling, but there is no economy. The cartels run everything. The government, every industry is corrupt. Any person who does not want to be a part of that violence has to find real work in the United States. The problem is that both choices are illegal. Either way, you are either the enemy of the cartel or the enemy of the border patrol.
ACTOR

Millions of pounds of marijuana alone are detected at the border every year. This does not account for the millions of pounds of illicit substances that go undetected. We are battling a billion dollar industry with more resources than a small government. The 700 miles of border fence only contain a fraction of illegal immigration and smuggling. BPA knows a maximum of ten percent of marijuana being smuggled into the U.S. is actually intercepted.
ACTOR

Is the fence doing its job? What is its job? Well, it’s not to stop people. It is meant to slow them down. So in San Diego, where response time can be less than two minutes, yes. In the places with washed out roads or insufficient agents, what’s the point?
ACTOR

It’s theatre. The fence. It’s photo ops for the media. So John McCain or DHS can get their photos taken in front of it to assure everyone we’re secure. You go just a few miles out of Nogales, and the pedestrian fence abruptly stops and there’s this older fencing that anyone can just crawl under or over.
ACTOR

It’s all a wall. It’s all a wall. Fortification, apprehension, detention, prosecution and deportation. Money. Politics. If you have the ability to get here, then we have work for you. But if you get caught, there’s a massive system put in place where you go to trial and get thrown in a for-profit prison. So who wins? It’s one big futile wall.
The ensemble begins to disperse.
ACTOR

Two things happened within a week of one another. The first incident was that Border Patrol Agent Nicholas Ivie was killed on October 2, 2012. His death is shrouded in mystery: either it was a case of friendly fire or people who wanted him out of the way killed Nick. Nick’s brother, Joel Ivie, also and still a border patrol agent:


JOEL IVIE

I had been listening to radio communications that night. There was a tripped ground sensor in this remote part of Mule Mountains where there’s a lot of human and drug smuggling. It was still dark, early in the morning. He was on his own. And as two people approached he opened fire and they shot back. It was fast. DHS says it was friendly fire, that he fired on two agents coming from the other side of the mountain. (Pause.) Nicholas was the baby of the family. When Nick was 19, he served a two-year mission in Mexico City for the Mormon Church. He learned Spanish before he went, got much better when he was there and developed a great love for the Mexican people. He told me about this time when he encountered a pregnant woman who had been traveling with a small group in the desert.  She lost her shoes. Her feet were cut up real bad and she just had them wrapped in rags, and she was in a pretty remote area and couldn't make it any farther, and he carried that woman a mile and a half to where she could receive the proper help that she needed. He really did love the people that he worked with. He read a princess story every night after work to his daughters, Raigan and Presley. He used to tell his girls to “cowboy up.” All the time. “Cowboy up.” (Pause.) He was real dedicated. He joined the border patrol to serve his nation. He loved it. Lived a life of charity. He was a hero.
ACTOR

Of course, Border Patrol was on a higher state of alert at the time when another incident occurred just over a week later on October 10, 2012 when Jose Antonio Elena Roderiguez was shot to death by Border Patrol Agents. This too is a life taken that is shrouded in mystery. From where we’re at standing at the wall in Nogales, we can see the bullet holes that are left. Here is Jose’s brother, Diego:


(Young man stands alone in front of the audience, clutching a framed picture and a rosary to his chest.)
DIEGO

The following is translated into Spanish and projected onto the screen.

My brother, Jose Antonio Elena Roderiguez, was shot ten times and killed as he walked along a street adjacent to the border in Nogales, Mexico. It was late. October 10th, 2012. 11:30. I was finishing up at the convenience store, where I worked for months. He was coming to see me at work, and help me finish up for the night. That was something that Jose Antonio did often. He was a real good kid, he liked to help. He was smart too. He read a lot, did his work at school. His death happened by the corner of Internacional and Ingenieros. The bullet holes are still there. No one will say what happened. There’s a video of everything that the U.S. Government won’t release. They won’t tell us the names of the men who shot Jose Antonio. One story is that Border Patrol say they were getting assaulted by rocks. They may or may not have warned the rock throwers before they opened fire. One rock allegedly hit a patrol dog. Do I think Jose Antonio was throwing rocks at Border Patrol Agents? There’s no way. You know how you know your family? The other story says agents were trying to catch a couple of drug-running suspects and they opened fire after rocks started flying over the fence. Do you know how frustrating that is? To not know? All I know is that the unnamed border patrol agents first shot him twice in the head, and then eight more times in the back, as he lay on the ground. They were brave enough to shoot him. They should be brave enough to admit what they did. Our family wants justice, you know?
(A man in a lab coat walks onstage with a clipboard, which he reads from.)

MEDICAL EXAMINER

The following is translated into Spanish and projected onto the screen.

Direct cause of death: Head injury caused by projectile fired with gun fire. Based on what was observed at necropsy, it is stated that most of the injuries are from bottom to top from right to left and back to front.


ELENA

It was my child. Our family is broken.


ETHAN

Along the way, we did a series of interviews. We approached people from Flagstaff to Nogales and asked if we could ask them questions about immigration and the border. Mostly we got something responses such as:


ACTOR

No.
ACTOR

Nope.
ACTOR

No thank you.


ETHAN

Or they would just walk by us, ignoring us. We heard a lot of this:


ACTOR

Two things. First: They shouldn’t be working here. Second: They should learn our language.


ETHAN

And then there were the people who wanted to talk. Jim is a security guard in Downtown Phoenix. Hi, my name is Ethan. I am working on a play about the U.S.-Mexico border. Can I ask you a few questions?


JIM

If it doesn’t take long and you don’t use my name.


ETHAN

It won’t take long. Can I use just your first name?


JIM

(Pause.) Call me Jim.
ETHAN

What do you believe a person needs to survive, Jim?


JIM

Well food, water, air. You know, the essentials. And hope. I think a person needs hope to survive.


ETHAN

What makes you say that?


JIM

My sister died when I was a kid. She slipped running around our pool and fell in. She drowned. My mother didn’t leave her room for a month. I can remember that the food in our fridge rotted. It wasn’t even that old it just, fell apart. It was like there was a cloud over our house blocking the sunlight. Keeping us in the cold. When she finally came out she didn’t speak much. She smelled I remember that. She smelled like shit. Not just bad, but like literal shit, like she had been rolling around in it. There was a...lifelessness to her. Her eyes were dark. Her mouth was shrunken. We need hope to live, because without it we don’t want to.


ETHAN

And is there hope out there?


JIM

Out there? (chuckles) Fuck no. Out there there’s nothing but sand. You want hope? You want satisfaction? You want Jesus to come down on a cloud and tell you the fight is over? You stay in fucking Mexico.


ETHAN

So you don’t think they make it?


JIM

Of course they make it, you know why? We let ‘em. Yeah that’s right. We put the walls up and the towers up and the big men with guns but not everywhere. We funnel them in, right into the jaws of hell itself. And they walk. And sure sometimes they fight off everything. Heat and thirst and fucking blisters the size of my fist and they wriggle on into the promise land on their bellies. Like snakes. And then I can go home and give ‘em a dime to clean my toilet. They make it sure, but they don’t win. They never win.


ETHAN

And what about the people that don’t make it? That die out there?


JIM

If I’m hungry, and I look over and spy my favorite type of pie coolin’ on your windowsill next door. Can I just stroll on over. Can I open the door and mix our fingerprints on the knob? Can I leave my boots on and track mud on your carpet? Can I take the goddamn pie and eat it? Stick my damn fingers in it? Most men would rather I just go hungry.


ETHAN

It sounds like you think it’s an invasion.

JIM

You’re damn right it’s an invasion.  Sure now they just make our food and build our houses for next to nothing. But what happens when they want more? What happens when there’s more of them then there are of us? I’ll tell you what happens. The food starts tasting funny. The houses start caving in. The honest white men who build this goddamn country start dying. You wanna know what happens when Pablo and Pepe get tired of cleaning up shit? We get a fucking wetback revolución.


A movement piece happens while VALENCIA speaks.
VALENCIA

The following is translated into Spanish and project onto the screen.

First: Familismo.


ACTOR

Valencia Juarez lives in Nogales, Sonora.


VALENCIA

My grandmother died in December ten years ago. We have gathered at her home every year since. Since then, we practice cabo de ano: a ceremony performed on the anniversary of her death. In the evening, there is mass. We pray, we sing. God is with us. There is great sadness. In the daytime, we celebrate at her home. A party with many people, it is hard to count. For me, the best part is cooking in her kitchen. All the men arrive at dawn to kill the pig, a huge pig, that has been fed all year for this purpose. The pig is cooked as carnitas and chicharrones and stew. After that, all the women and some of the men come together to make the mina dish for dinner: Tamales. Everyone works together for the “Tamalada,” and you hear stories about your ancestors and funny stories and scary ones too. Cooking the filling, preparing the corn masa dough, assembling the tamales. They taste so delicious because they are made with stories of la familia. Then we march to la frontera and hand them to our family in the United States of America.


KEN

I was addicted to the hunt.


ACTOR

Ken Lowell, U.S. Army veteran and current Border Patrol Agent.


KEN

Like a lot of young men of my generation, I was defined and shaped by war. I saw the mouth of the beast in Afghanistan. Carnage, blood-soaked battlefields. I have a necklace made of fabric, a piece of fabric from each man I killed. I don’t remember every one of them, but I remember clear as day that first one. His eyes. The knowingness of resignation to his life. It was years of rage, barbarism. War made me appreciate life. So after that, I needed to quench my thirst. I needed the excitement of the hunt and, yeah, being hunted. So I signed up for the United States Border Patrol. I don’t care about the regular illegal aliens who cross to feed their families. I want the dope smugglers, violent fugitives, bandits, homicide suspects, burglars, communists. I went from the desert back into the desert and it’s perfect for me. When I was in training, I remember I was taking a shit by the river I was squatting there and these three illegals who had just crossed the river walked straight into me. And I’m in the squat position, so I grab my .357 and hike my pants up best I could and parade the Mexicans over to my trainer. And he said, “Boy, you got a hell of a career ahead of you.” And I have so far. Nine years of service. The shit I see out there. The stories I could tell about what happens at that fence and in that desert over nine years. I love my country. Whatever happens, happens. Whatever happens I keep the oath:


I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office that I am about to enter. So help me God.

We hear “Rosaura Munoz: ID # 595” (Denise Chavez) along with “5 MIN” (Zeitkratzer Electronics featuring Carsten Nicolai). The ensemble engages in sequence of movement that happens behind the poem. And a series of photos. The photomontage is life affirming and heart breaking.
PEDRO

Me llamo Pedro.
YANETH

I am Yaneth.
BAL

My name is Bal.
LYUDMYLA

Lyudmyla.
SANDRA

Me llamo Sandra.
PEDRO

My name is Pedro. I am from Morales, Mexico. I have two children. I made about $2.00 a day doing various jobs. It was hard. The hardest. We only would eat corn tortillas and salt. My wife, Martha, wanted the keep the kids in school no matter what, so she started taking on debt. Eventually, the debt got to be so much that I couldn’t cover it. So we came. We took out another loan, $12,000, to cover the cost for the coyote. When we crossed into Arizona, we were spotted and everyone ran in different directions but I told mi familia, whatever happens we stay together. We did and hopped on a slow-moving freight train. We got to Phoenix several days later. We then went by van to Chicago where my sisters and cousins live. We stayed with them and they got us fake Social Security cards. We work a lot. We work hard paying into Social Security, a system we will never benefit from. We feel like we’re in glory here.


YANETH

My name is Yaneth. I am from El Salvador. I have three children. My husband and I both have education but in El Salvador, our combined salaries didn’t pay for more than one meal a day. My husband applied for a tourist visa but because we had no assets he was turned down. So we came illegally. The trip took fifty days. I work for a cleaning team for an apartment complex and send money back to my children. If I cannot get them into the U.S., I will return to them.
BAL

My name is Bal. I am from the Philippines. I entered the United States on a work visa in 1988. I was working as a crewman for a shipping company. While here, I was offered a construction job with a monthly salary that would take me a year to make in the Philippines. In 1995 I married Shirly who is also form the Philippines. She became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2007. I have lived here for over twenty years and paid my taxes. I am desperate to become legal.
LYUDMYLA

My name is Lyudmyla. I came to the United States to be reunited with my husband. He had come eight years earlier and been granted asylum because we was an ethnic minority in the Ukraine, so he faced persecution. When I arrived in Chicago, he had changed. He was abusive. I went to a women’s shelter and soon filed for divorce. I didn’t know that in divorcing him, I lost my right to apply for a green card. So now I am in legal limbo.
SANDRA

My name is Sandra. When I cam to the United States, I was six. In Mexico, my father would not let me go to school; I stood on corners to sell oranges. He was a drunkard and abused my mother. So she brought me here. When we arrived in San Francisco, my uncle – a U.S. citizen – started the process for us to become legal. It takes many many years. I went to school. And it wasn’t until my guidance counselor talked about college that I felt the full weight of being undocumented: even though I excelled in high school, without a Social Security number, I couldn’t apply for financial aid and there was no way to pay for college.
PEDRO

Me llamo Pedro.
YANETH

I am Yaneth.
BAL

My name is Bal.
LYUDMYLA

Lyudmyla.
SANDRA

Me llamo Sandra.

ALL

We are five of the twelve million living among you.
The following actors do no act out what is happening to them. Rather, they use the language and physicality expressively, poetically.

ACTOR 1 (a female)

It’s so cold.
ACTOR 2 (a male)

It’s so hot.


ACTOR 1

I couldn’t keep up with the group. It was grueling. I started vomiting.


ACTOR 2

We lost the trail. Couldn’t stay together. We lost each other. Then it was just my wife and I.


ACTOR 1

I am taking my brother to my mother in Los Angeles.


ACTOR 2

We are going to Maryland to work.


ACTOR 1

Last night it was near freezing. Today it rained. My clothes are wet. The path is slippery and wet.


ACTOR 2

It is a vast inferno. Pitiless. Barely any shade. We can’t walk in the daytime. It’s 115 degrees and you can’t risk being seen by border patrol.


ACTOR 1

Cacti claw at your skin.


ACTOR 2

Blisters cover your feet.


ACTOR 1

You have to move very fast.


ACTOR 2

Over many days.


ACTOR 1

And I am so cold.

ACTOR 2

I am so hot.


ACTOR 1

The coyote left me on a platform la migra uses for landing helicopters. He said they would be by soon. My brother cried and kicked and screamed to stay with me but they carried him away. I told him, “Tu tienes que seguir a donde esta mama.”


ACTOR 2

I sit down. I tell my wife I can’t go on. She says get up. I can’t. She says I’ll die. I tell her to go on. She wails. I plead with her to stop. That it is okay. I am ready to die. I tell her …


ACTOR 1

You have to keep going and get to mom.


ACTOR 2

… in Mexico you have death very close. That’s true for all human beings because it’s a part of life, but in Mexico, death can be found in many things.


ACTOR 1

I can feel hypothermia setting in.


ACTOR 2

I am dehydrated.


ACTOR 1

And I am vomiting and I know that’s bad.


ACTOR 2

And I am vomiting and I know that I am going to die.


ACTOR 1

The wet clothing. The cold air.


ACTOR 2

The sweat. The heat doesn’t stop. There’s no water. That hasn’t been water.


ACTOR 1

I start shivering to create body heat.


ACTOR 2

Then heat exhaustion. My muscles cramp. My heartbeat quickens, my breath is faster. I get weak. A headache. I feel as though I am going to faint. My body is steering blood from all my organs to my skin.

ACTOR 1

My body goes below 95 degrees …


ACTOR 2

My body is above 105 degrees …


ACTOR 1

Shivering isn’t working. I’m tired. I lose dexterity. I can’t use my hands. My body gets so cold. I just want to sleep.


ACTOR 2

Heat stroke sets in. My skin is hot to the touch. My heart works hard, 180 beats per minute. My lungs.


ACTOR 1

My body is now 90 degrees … I am shaking violently. It’s hard to speak. I can’t walk.


ACTOR 2

I am confused. I have no idea where I am.


ACTOR 1

My body is now 88 degrees …. The shivering stops. My muscles are stiff and numb. I’m confused. I don’t know where I am or what I am doing.


ACTOR 2

My body is overwhelmed down to the tiniest cells; tissue perishes. I start convulsing/.


ACTOR 1

86 degrees I am breathing slow, my pulse is slow. And then erratic and I panic.


ACTOR 2

Organs start to fail and life-sustaining chemical reactions collapse. My eyes dry up. Kidneys shut down. Moisture is gone. I look shrunken.


ACTOR 1

At 82 degrees, my heart fibrillates, breaks into chaotic contractions.


ACTOR 2

My body’s final throes are frantic. It flails, throwing up sand. And then death.


ACTOR 1

At 78.8 degrees I lose consciousness and very shortly, at 75 degrees, I am dead.


ACTOR 2

It is one of the most terrible deaths that can happen to a human being. It’s a grisly, terrible, terrible death.

ACTOR 1

Listen to these words: It doesn’t take much to get in trouble.


RICKY

With the addition of these two bodies, that makes 133. John Doe. Jane Doe. Migrants are about half of all my cases. Each one costs the county about $2000: body storage, autopsy, sheriff photographer, coroner, burial. My job is really twofold: to figure out the cause of death and to identify the body. Even when the cause of death might seem apparent, I have to give a through examination. My job is to speak for the dead. The problem is the coyotes tell them to get rid if all their ID. It’s something like becoming an investigator. Sometimes, it’s a slip of paper. And others its clothing: a sneaker, maybe or a belt buckle. Fingerprints, sometimes, although Mexico doesn’t have a centralized database. And there’s 133 that haven’t been identified. Funerals for John and Jane Doe’s are quick and dirty. They’re buried as they were found: alone, nameless, far from home. They get a pressed-wood box and their coroner’s case number scrawled on the lid. And lowered into the ground. Buried. Each one gets a concrete loaf that says either John Doe or Jane Doe. There but for the Grace of God.


NAFTA-- http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/row/R42965.pdf -- actors one by one start to talk about facts and statistics ether pro NAFTA or agent, they start to raise there voices over each other and speaking at the same time  
RICK

A small caliber copper jacketed projectile was in Nick’s brain. Border patrol carries 40caliber semi automatic handguns. 12-gauge shotguns, and AR-15 rifles. They don’t carry small caliber weapons. There were Mexican pesos, water bottles and evidence of drugs that were in transport found near his body, which says that he may have taken someone into custody prior to the shooting and, per protocol, required them to empty their pockets. The female agent says she saw three or four silhouettes speaking in Spanish. So how do we know what happened? Why don’t we know? (Pause.) We want the American people to remember our brother. Nick was a humble man who was always faithful to God, family, and country. Our family has always and continues to support Border Patrol. We are focused on Christy and the kids. We are not angry. We simply want to know what happened that night and if anything is being covered up and why.


Along the iron bars of the border fence, protesters gather against the accumulation of deaths cause by border patrol agents. In their hands are white daisies, candles, and wooden crosses. The sound is chaos as a course of voices, side conversations pertaining to Jose, religion, and the grim presence of border patrol dominate the dialogue. One voice becomes clearer, a woman stands separately from them, speaking loudly, with authority. The lights focus on her. Slowly the crowd begins to listen.
ISABEL GARCIA

I’ll tell you what’s wrong, they’re investigating each other. And the fact that they’re treating it as a investigation, as an assault on a federal officer. The use of force policies with this border patrol is out of control! You don’t find any other police agencies that, as bad as they can be across the country, can do and get away with what their work force does. It’s really amazing. It has been documented the bravado, the meanness, the cruelty, that is exhibited out on the field. and yet when they kill somebody, they say “Oh, I was scared!” We know it is an impossibility, their stories are an impossibility. And look what happened before. they shot at each other and for three days they didn’t listen, they didn’t know it was friendly fire. They shot themselves. We have an agency that is out of control. And this is the result, a grieving mother, a family, a community, that are tired of impunity, we have seen the Chicanos killed along this border with impunity for too long. This is an international incident on top of a homicide. The grotesque, barbaric actions that take place in these lands are hidden.  According to one  family their son’s arms were almost torn off. We are not hearing of this in the US. They’re investigating each other. That’s not right. I hope we can get a truly independent investigation. Not an investigation by the agents who work with each other. There’s conflicts of interest here that have to be acknowledged. Because I can see the result. I know there has to be a video, where is the video? This entire border here is video taped. Where is the videotape?


Then: A young child’s bedroom, night. A father enters the room and sits down at the edge of a bed by the child.
MAN

You get to sleep, it’s already past your bedtime.


CHILD

Wait, can I ask you a question?


MAN

Ok. One question. Only one.


CHILD

Who first made tortillas: the cowboys or the Indians?


MAN

(chuckling) You've asked this nearly a hundred times now. Neither.
CHILD

Then who?


MAN

Well, it was the crows. The crows used to go out in the fields and eat all the corn. One day, they got sick of eating ears of corn so they made them into tortillas.


CHILD

Daddy!  
MAN

Hey! (lovingly embraces his son)
CHILD

Hey dad. You’re always tired when you come home.

MAN

Yeah. I’m working hard.


CHILD

It’s hard fighting bad guys huh.


MAN

Haha, though you know. I’m not Superman.


CHILD

Yeah you are! You get rid off all the bad people! Mom says that’s what you do you protect all the people in the country from bad guys.


MAN

Is that what she says?


CHILD

But why are they bad guys dad? What would they do if they wanted to hurt us?


MAN

(The man sits in silence for a moment as he contemplates what to tell his son.)

Well, uh- now that’s uh. That is something that you will understand when you’re older. I can’t explain it to you now-


CHILD

Why not? What would they do?


MAN

Everybody has a home, a place that they belong to, you see. And some people feel the need to break into other people’s homes, their land and make it their own. People have been doing it all throughout history, but today it doesn’t work that way. You can’t just come into a place and say it’s yours if it doesn’t belong to you. Not with the military or the police around, they have to protect us from people who are trying to steal our livelihoods away from us.


CHILD

Okay… Do you kill them?


MAN

We send them back where they came from.


CHILD

Okay. That’s good. But why do they want to come here? Why do people have to steal?


MAN

Because they don’t live as nice as we do, and they don’t know how to make their own country-their homes better for them and their families.  


CHILD

Okay… I get it but I also don’t get it. I don’t know why mommy always calls them bad guys… Stealing is bad but, Mrs. Williams always says sharing is caring. I want to be old enough to go to work with you. I want to know what bad people look like.


(Radio broadcast is heard over a silent scene depicting an arrest in the desert/or a journey through the desert. The voices become muffled and morphed as the scene goes on.)
RADIO VOICE 1

But, we didn’t start the fire


RADIO VOICE 2

Not only did we start the fire, but we are the only ones who can start to put it out.


RADIO VOICE 1

We are in no place to reach out to others, only to help ourselves.


RADIO VOICE 2

Let go of control. Stop trying to find control or be controlled. Send every reminisce of any idea of  control out into the universe, and the universe becomes everything you want it to be. You find you have a relationship with the universe and everything in it, and you can’t control it just as it can’t control you. You find this, sitting under the stars and possibly loving every one of them, and your heart rate slows. Another heart rate is slowing down and it matches yours, and here you are, in tune with this heart. And you choose to ignore the messages it sends to you because the responsibility of its arrhythmia is too heavy for you.


RADIO VOICE 1

How can we interact with those who refuse or are unable to connect with us? Does “letting go of control” become a limitation itself?  How much thought does this all take?


RADIO VOICE 2

Simplify.


RADIO VOICE 1

Of course. It’s simple then, just simplify -


RADIO VOICE 2

Them and us; the innate separation of physical forms has had the tragic consequence of deluding our understanding of survival. Competition versus Compassion. Simple


JOHN DOE

There was a cold dampness that never seemed to leave my skin. It had been days since the patrol agent found me. Days of seeing jaws moving, tongues flicking, creating sounds that I couldn’t follow. The rooms were white and sterile of all life. The spirit of the desert and all of its pain was gone, replaced by sharp needles and clear tubes. Big men with black guns stood outside the room. Watching as if I had killed someone, when really it had been them.  The ghost of my daughter still lingered in my arms, dipping them in the lead of my guilt. I thought of my wife, Nina, and the new baby. My eyes stung and my head hurt every time I tried to explain to an imaginary Nina, of what had happened to her man… to her child. The hours moved on and over time I embraced the white as a state of limbo. God had not yet decided whether to punish me for my absolute failures or to release me back into the hardships of existence.


(Blank stage. A woman and a child enter. They run across the stage in slow motion as they run the drop all of their possessions on the stage. Once they reach the middle of the stage they collapse. Then another family runs, then another and another. Each family drops their things as they run and falls in a heap in the middle of the stage. Families enter from both sides. The pile of bodies gets bigger and bigger until it begins to resemble a wall. The Virgin Mary personified as a giant puppet swings back and forth over the wall of bodies. She sings loudly. A family of four runs and the father climbs over the wall of bodies as his family becomes part of it. He makes it to the other side, picks up a broom, and starts sweeping up the possessions. More men try to climb the wall and gunshots are heard. they fall off and lie still. The Virgin Mary puppet is swinging back and forth over all of it, laughing and singing and twitching. The janitor starts to make a nest downstage of all the swept up possessions. A man in a suit sits in it and slowly starves and other men in suits come and bury him in the positions. They pull out rifles as if to do a salute and fire upon the Virgin Mary, who screams, and melts away into shadow. BLACKOUT.)
Sheriff’s office in Maricopa county Arizona. A woman in uniform sits at the desk when the phone rings.
SHERIFF

Maricopa county sheriff’s office.


WOMAN

Please help. I need water.


SHERIFF

Where are you? Can you describe the place you’re at?


WOMAN

I don’t know. There are bushes and small hills of rock.


SHERIFF

Do you know which way is north?


WOMAN

No. Please help me.

SHERIFF

We will. It’s going to be alright.


WOMAN

I’m going to die.


SHERIFF

No you’re not. I’m sending help right now, I’m sending a helicopter to come get you, alright?


WOMAN

My husband’s name is Miguel, I have two kids-


SHERIFF

No ma’am, that is not what I do. I am not going to do that because you are going to survive and everything will be alright. Do you understand?


MAN

Pause

Yes.
SHERIFF

I know you think you can’t make it, but the helicopter is going to come, you’re going to be given water and something to eat. I will ask again, do you understand?
MAN

Yes.
Three women are sitting in a semi-circle. They are all looking down, their hands are folded. Women tell their stories in a scattered fashion i.e. WOMAN 1 stands, tells the first part of her story, WOMAN 2 stands, WOMAN 1, WOMAN 3, etc.


WOMAN 1

I left my children with my Mother.  And then I left with my sister. It was cold. The coyote told us we had to keep moving if we didn’t want to freeze. It was the first night and I was so tired already. We had been walking for two days when my sister began to feel shortness of breath, but the coyote didn’t let us stop. My sister and I fell behind.


WOMAN 2

This was my third time crossing in seven months. The first time, my husband made it to California, but I was captured and sent back to Nogales. I have tried to get to California to be with him, but it is hard. I was crossing in the summer. I was in a group of twelve. Nine of us were women. We were resting in a gully when Border Patrol came. Four were able to escape, including all the men. The seven women and I were stripped down to our underwear while the Border Patrol rested in the shade.

WOMAN 1

It was cold, but we shared our sweatshirts and rested under a tree. I heard the dogs before she did. My sister was weak, and couldn’t walk. I tried to carry her away from the sounds of dogs, but I was weak too, and she was heavy. (pause.) I hid her under a bush and ran away. But the men saw me, and were faster. When they asked me if I was travelling with anyone, I said I was alone. That was a month ago. I don’t know what happened to my sister.


WOMAN 3

(She is crying silently, has to take pauses every other sentence to catch her breath.) Both my children are in Arizona. I was caught because I couldn’t walk anymore, but my children were being carried and I told them to leave me. They were crying and pleading and I fainted. When I woke up I was alone. I tried again two weeks later and was caught again, with seven other people. The Border Patrol were cruel. They spit on the men and called the women names. They searched under our underwear.
WOMAN 2

They felt us, making sure we had no weapons, but couldn’t they see we didn’t? We had nothing. One man kept stroking a woman’s hair. She stayed behind with him while the rest of us were loaded into the back of a truck. They didn’t give us back our clothes until we were in the cell.


WOMAN 3

The men hit us when we tried to protect our bodies with our arms. And then they hit us again. And then again. I know we are breaking their laws, but I don’t understand why they treat us this way.


WOMAN 1

My body is broken. My hands never stop shaking now. My children are happy I am home, but I’m not. I’m still in the desert, fighting. I will try again and again and each time I fail, (woman slowly stands), I will stand strong on my broken feet and fight with my broken hands and my broken mouth will scream, I am not afraid, and even though my heart is broken, my broken eyes will not cry.


(WOMAN 3 stands, WOMAN 2 remains sitting, yet is looking straight ahead. She slowly looks upwards as WOMAN 3 speaks, her hands becoming fists in her

lap.)
WOMAN 3

I have been praying in the dark. I have been pleading. I have wept. I am still trying to cover my body with my arms even though it no longer feels sacred and worth protecting. My body no longer feels worth protecting. Who possesses the right to make a woman feel powerless? The right to make her feel that her broken, tainted body no longer deserves to be protected. I should be able to protect my body with my body. I should not feel lifeless, as if the only thing rattling around inside me are broken, dirty bones. I should not have to fear being defiled by men with bigger bodies than I. I should not have to be warned of them.


(WOMAN 2 stands, there is a pause before she speaks.)

WOMAN 2


I am simply asking. I ask that you tell our stories. I ask that you be kind. I ask that you see us as undeserving of these cruel acts. If you can do only one thing, please do this. Please do not forget us.
SAMANTHA

My name is Samantha and I am working on a play about the border. Do you mind if I ask you some questions?


RUTH

Okay?
SAMANTHA

Ruth is a teacher. She’s a couple years from retirement. What do you know about U.S.-Mexico relations?
RUTH

Too little. I live in Massachusetts and that’s quite a ways from the border. Our newspapers don’t really cover any stories. Our son Philip recently returned from a trip to Miami and he did mention that he saw many very rich and well-dressed Mexican travelers boarding planes headed for Mexico. We suspect that these travelers are far removed from the Mexicans who are crossing the border into Texas and Arizona.


SAMANTHA

Who do you think those people are?


RUTH

I assume they’re poor people looking to improve their economic conditions. I wish them well. I think they are looking for the work that U.S. citizens don’t want to do. I’d like to see the border agents open the border to allow perfectly free travel for all those who are interested and can find good jobs here. But for now they need to obey the laws.


SAMANTHA

Many don’t have a choice.


RUTH

(Laughs) Now that’s just silly talk. You always have a choice. Why my parents weren’t born here. They had to come across on the boats just like everybody else. They didn’t have family here, they didn’t speak English, and my family grew here just fine. And we did it without breaking a single law. I think if the good Lord wants them to come, they will come.


Then:
areceli roderiguez

When Border Patrol agents shot my son, Jose Antonio Elena Roderiguez, they let the world know that they are out of control. They’ve taken a piece of my heart. It’s where they buried him. No one is going to return my son to me. No one can give me back the hugs I gave him, the kisses, his voice or his smile. I want a response. To get an answer from the US government. To get an answer from the Mexican government. It’s been a year-and-a-half and I want someone to talk to me. To tell me what happened. You cannot assassinate my son and not speak to me. I would like to see justice, that’s what I want to see. What I want to see are the people responsible in front of the court and judge. I want to see justice. I have no other weapon than my voice and I am going to use it until something gets done.

(A Caucasian woman of about thirty is trudging through the desert, holding a plastic bag- collecting random items strewn across the desert. She has a small radio hooked up to her belt.)
RADIO

“...Mexican drug lords coming into the U.S…”


WOMAN

(Picks up a backpack and digs out remaining contents, empty water bottles, a toilet paper roll.) You know, I dread the days when I find a child’s shoe, or a tattered family photo. I pick them up, and I take them back to camp, but I still dread finding them. They serve as a constant reminder of the perils so many migrants face, just trying to make a better life for themselves.

(She shakes her head, and continues to walk, scanning the ground for trash or “artifacts”. She soon comes across a small pink backpack - mud stained. The RADIO continues in the background, with certain lines emphasized.)
RADIO

“...I’m telling you, Senator Davidson, the only immigrants we’ve got coming up from Mexico are criminals and rapists…”


WOMAN

(examining the backpack) Sure, there are some drug runners and criminals that pass through this desert - but there are also so many honest men and women and children - just trying to make a better life for themselves and their families. I’d like to take Senator Davidson and all the rest out here and show them something like this (she holds up the backpack) or maybe some of the children’s shoes, and ask them how they think these things got here. Because I’m pretty sure that criminals and rapists don’t carry tiny pink backpacks with Hello Kitty stickers. But 6-year-old girls do. (Comes across a pile of unidentifiable bones, could be the bones of an animal or small child) Bones. These, I would guess are simply the leftovers of an unfortunate animal, died from dehydration. But I’ve come across piles like these, only in some piles you’ll find fingers. even teeth, human teeth. It’s a hideous thing to have to witness. I even once found a hand- all the bones still intact, clutching a rosary. (Long moment of silence.) Skeletons are strange- just to think that they live inside all of us. It’s funny I mean- we’ve all got the same thing just beneath our skin. The bones of a six-year-old girl, the bones of a drug lord, the bones of a border patrol agent. Inside our ribcage, even more similar yet, a heart and lungs. The deeper we go, the more similarities there are.
RADIO

These illegals…


WOMAN

These people…


RADIO

They act as a sort or parasite…


WOMAN

Trying to keep their families alive…


RADIO

...they come here to take our jobs, to rape our women, to take our livelihoods...


WOMAN

And all they ask is that we share… (she says this as she picks up a baby toy such as a rattle from the ground)


RADIO

“Really what it is it’s a battle between us and them. It’s us and them Senator…”


KELLY

(Takes off headphones)

What?
DYLAN

I asked if you had any thoughts about the situation with the border.
KELLY

What border?


DYLAN

The US border with Mexico.


KELLY

What about it?


DYLAN

Many people are very concerned with the annual death toll associated with it.


KELLY

Oh yeah no I did see that! Like three border patrol dudes got beat to death or something by illegal aliens. Why aren’t we like, doing anything about that? Can you imagine what it must be like to have your life threatened like that constantly? People wanting to off you because they need to get their shit from here to there and you’re in the way.




CASSIDY

Hey there.
SCOTT

What’s happenin?
CASSIDY

My name is Cassidy and I am writing a play about migrations and the border. Do you know where Mexico is?
SCOTT

That’s next to France right?
CASSIDY

No that’s Spain. Mexico is next to Texas.
SCOTT

Oh


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