Today, I shed tears my body couldn’t afford to spill on the Sonora Desert. My water bottle was nearly empty. We’d been walking for a bit in the morning heat (not as far as we thought but it sure felt like it). Up a hill, through a washout, under and around cacti and other desert brush. Our guide, from the Good Samaritans, was great about telling us to avoid nature’s sharp objects and we tried hard to do so!
The Good Samaritans drive into the desert to supply several water stations along the migrant trail. Along the way, they find items left behind on the journey. A Dora the Explorer backpack. Shirts and other clothes too heavy to carry any further on the 30 mile hike through the desert. Shoes with no soles. Sometimes, and too often, a body. Our guide tells us that already in 2014 some 98 people have died in the desert. When the soles of their shoes wear out, their death sentence is nearly sealed. One can’t walk in 100 degrees weather over rocks and brush and hilly terrain in their bare feet. Soon, they will be either injured or exhausted, and they will die. Jen Einspahr found this the most moving part of the journey. “To walk so short a part of their journey and to stand where they stood and to pray where they died was very moving,” she said.
Today, I shed tears my body couldn’t afford to spill on the Sonora Desert. Our guide took us to a makeshift memorial to a father who died in the bush. As we walked a little further on, we came to the memorial to the woman supposed to be his wife. Her cross had the prayer of St. Francis posted on it, and a rosary. “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.” And just the littlest way onward, the memorial marked, in Spanish, "adolescente desconocido." To ‘an unnamed adolescent.’ He could have been anyone’s child.
Someone might say, ‘Well, why didn’t they just get in line and wait their turn.’ I’ll suggest, as a parent, that wasn’t an option for this family or for so many who risk the dangerous journey today. You see, the drug cartels in Central America, made up of US gang members our government deported, are recruiting these little children into the drug business. If they refuse, they are murdered. I can’t say it any more clearly. This unnamed adolescent was likely fleeing with his family from the drug lords who would either corrupt him or murder him. He, with his family, was willing to make the dangerous journey in hope of finding peace and justice and safety. Indeed, to find life. At his memorial, we read a prayer for all those who die in the desert, and today, I shed tears my body couldn’t afford to spill on the Sonora Desert. But at least I was safe and alive.
Orthon Perez wrote this prayer, a piece of which is quoted here:
“In memory of those who risked everything and lost everything,
Of those who went with hope in their eyes and challenge in their souls,
The sun burned them and the desert devoured them
And the dust erased their names and faces.
In memory of those who never returned we say with deepest respect:
Your thirst is our thirst, your hunger in our hunger, you pain is our pain,
Your anguish, bitterness, and agony are also ours.
We are a voice that will not be lost in the desert that insists
That the nation give equal opportunity to a dignified and fruitful life to all its children.
Having walked into and out of the desert, we pray others will listen but, regardless, we are a voice.