October 29th, 2019
The visit to this section of the border was intensely Catholic. Fortunately, I have a lot of experience being Catholic, so it wasn’t that much of a culture shock.
Mount Cristo Rey straddles the U.S./Mexican border. It was one of the few places near El Paso that does not have a wall. The only reason it doesn’t have a wall is that it would require far too much effort, time, and money to construct such a thing. The mountain itself is a nearly insurmountable obstacle, so why bother?
Our group walked up the long, dusty road to the crucifix that crowns Cristo Rey. Along the way to the summit, there are the fourteen stations of the cross. Each station is marked by a bright blue cross. At every station we gathered to pray. We prayed for the migrants, whose current sufferings match those of Jesus during his passion.
The mountain is of a conical shape. The path to the peak wound around the mountain, and consisted of various curves and switchbacks. The path was wide enough for two people to walk side-by-side, but there was no guardrail on the way. Often, our journey took us to the side of a cliff, and we prayed together on the edge of a precipice.
Our route took us to places where we could see for “miles and miles” (my apologies to The Who). From up high, I could see the cities of El Paso and Ciudad Jaurez, in all their glory. I could also see the Rio Grande, wandering sluggishly through farm land and urban areas. I saw the wall, as it stretched from El Paso into the distance on the border between Mexico and New Mexico. I could see it all.
I was not at peace.
I was not at peace because I felt alone. The one person that matters most was not with me. Yes, I had friends with me, but Karin not with me. Karin is my partner, my wife. She is also an immigrant. She has a green card, but she refuses to become an American. Everything that I saw, everything that I heard, everything that I felt: she would have understood.
As I walked along the trail, I sometimes felt a little dizzy or unsure of my next step. I wanted so much to hold Karin’s hand. I wanted her to steady me. I wanted her to be there.
Why wasn’t she there?
Karin was not with me out of fear. It was not just her fear. It was also mine. We were worried about her crossing the border into Mexico. She could have come with me to Cristo Rey, but she wasn’t going to go to Juarez. So, she stayed home. Karin has been in this country legally for almost thirty-five years. We have done everything right in order to keep her safe. But, under the current regime, is that good enough? Is anything good enough?
I missed Karin. I wanted to tell her my thoughts and feelings. I wanted to walk down that path, holding her hand as tightly as I could. She would have been with me. What else would have mattered?
Cristo Rey. Christ the King.
What does that really mean?
To me, it means that my wife loves me, even when she is 1400 miles away. It means that I have to care about people, even when l am far away from them.
Cristo Rey means that I have to give a damn.