The story of Andres Bermudez, the so-called “Tomato King,” seems to exemplify the American Dream – but with a distinctively cross-border twist.
Bermudez got to the United States after being smuggled inside a car trunk through the Tijuana border in the 1970s, according to this story in the Los Angeles Times. Like many other Mexican migrants, Bermudez started out as a farm laborer in California. Unlike many other Mexican migrants, he invented a tomato-planting machine and became a wealthy rancher.
Rather then be pegged as a symbol of immigrant success, Bermudez expropriated his own story and added a new twist, returning to Mexico to run for mayor of his hometown of Jerez, a town of migratory exodus in the state of Zacatecas. After holding that post, Bermudez was elected federal congressman in Mexico.
Referring to the Jerez election, Los Angeles Times reporter Sam Quinones wrote in a Feb. 8 article that “Bermudez’s candidacy reflected long-held animosities these immigrants had for Mexico’s elites, who they felt had run them out of the country.” The Los Angeles Times story sums up Bermudez’s full-circle migratory life after he died of cancer last week at the age of 58.
Quinones previously wrote about Bermudez in the book “Antonio’s Gun and Delfino’s Dream: True Tales of Mexican Migration.
To see a news report (in Spanish) on Bermudez, you can watch this YouTube video.
Photo from Free Stock Photos
University of San Diego invites the public to attend a presentation on religion, migration and national identity. The event starts at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2009:
“The Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies and the Trans-Border Institute welcomes His Excellency, Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, J.C.D. Apostolic Nuncio. Secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerants
The Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies and the Trans-Border Institute will sponsor a major international conference on April 15-16, 2009, to consider the connections between migration, religious experience, and national identification. This conference will provide a unique opportunity to examine migration, religion, an national identity in historical and comparative perspective, as well as the efforts of different faith communities to grapple with the challenges of contemporary immigration and assimilation. In advance of the conference, Archbishop Agostino Marchetto will offer his reflections on these important issues.”
The event is free and open to the public at USD’s Joan Kroc Theatre
For directions, visit www.sandiego.edu/about/directions
Read the event flyer here.
Photo of Mision Nuestra Senora de Loreto, in Loreto.
**Disclosure: I am a contributing writer for the monthly Justice in Mexico news report, which is produced by USD’s Trans-Border Institute**
There’s a tendency for us to get somewhat myopic about immigration and the U.S.-Mexico border. We forget that these complex issues are playing out in other parts of the world in different yet equally-dramatic fashions. NPR ran a three-part series this week about race and politics in Europe (access it here) that looks at how immigrants are changing the demographics of countries like Italy, Germany and France. Over there, immigrants from Africa have to cross the sea to get to Europe. Closer to home, we have the border fence. I drove out to Playas de Tijuana this week to see how fortification there is changing the landscape. The photo at the top of this post shows older and newer fence sections. The photo below is of “Smuggler’s Gulch” where truckloads of dirt have created the equivalent of the Great Wall of China in what was once a hollow section of the border:
Construction has started along Friendship Park, a part of the border that overlooks the ocean where families on both sides of the border have traditionally gathered to have picnics and converse through gaps in the older section of the fence. Here is a photo of what I saw looking into the United States park from the Mexican side. I’m not seeing so many amigos there:
To read a recent story about the construction going on along the San Diego border, you can read this story by Los Angeles Times reporter Richard Marosi. To learn more about the fate of Friendship Park, here is an Associated Press article by Elliot Spagat and another piece by San Diego Union-Tribune reporter Leslie Berenstein. Also, fellow blogger Kinsee Morlan shares a video of the fence in her blog, Stairs to Nowhere.
***Update: Randal Archibold of The New York Times has a story about a border plan to address environmental harm along the border fence area. You can read it here. ***
Posted in Musings, News & current events
Tagged Baja California, border fence, illegal immigrants, immigrants, immigration, kinsee morlan, mexico, npr, Tijuana, undocumented immigrants
YouTube video of a posada in Ciudad Juarez (Mexico) area from YsletaLM
Throughout Mexico this time of year residents re-enact the story of how Joseph and Mary seek shelter on Christmas Eve. The recreated journey – which can be repeated over several nights – ends with a celebratory fiesta at an appointed house.
The border has appropriated this tradition with its own Posada Sin Fronteras (Posada Without Boundaries) at the border fence. La Prensa San Diego reports that the 15th annual event will take place this Saturday from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the fence area along Border Field State Park, .
The Tijuana border posadas create a parallel between the plight of immigrants and how Mary and Joseph seek hospitality in a foreign and unfriendly land, according to a recently-published book by USC professor Pierrette Hondagneu-Sotelo called “God’s Heart Has No Borders. How Religious Activists are Working for Immigrant Rights.”
I came across the book on a USC colleague’s desk and read the section in which Hondagneu-Sotelo discusses the meaning of border posadas and shares her own observations from attending one. Hondagneu-Sotelo calls the Tijuana tradition an example of how “symbols and rituals from distinctively Mexican and Catholic traditions mesh with interdenominational Christian beliefs to galvanize moral voice against U.S. border policy.”
This year’s border posada takes place as U.S. authorities move forward with plans to fortify this section of the fence.
For more information on this year’s border posada go here.
For a short and quick explanation of posadas, go here.
Disclosure: My job as a media representative at the University of Southern California includes bringing attention to books authored by USC professors and this particular book seemed relevant to this particular blog posting.
Stories de la Frontera’s latest documentary, The Devil’s Breath: Border Crossers Caught in San Diego’s Wildfires, revisits the plight of migrants from Mexico who were killed or burned during last year’s October fires in San Diego County. Aside from capturing the horror of being trapped along the border, the program also airs 911 calls between the immigrants and emergency personnel that demonstrate language barriers.
Several studies have come out recently that touch on the issue of emergency response for immigrant or limited English speakers. “Disaster Preparedness in Immigrant Urban Communities” comes from a joint effort by the Tomas Rivera Policy Institute and the Asian Pacific American Legal Center. You can read their report here. Another study that focuses specifically on the 2007 San Diego fires was done by the National Latino Research Center at California State University, San Marcos. You can read it here.
Stories de la Frontera’s production will air on UCSD(University of California, San Diego)-TV for about a week, starting July 21 at 8:30 p.m. on Cox, Time Warner and AT&T Channels. But you can also see it online here at Stories de la Frontera’s website where the television schedules are posted.
Disclosure: The Tomas Rivera Policy Institute is an independent, non-profit group that’s affiliated with the University of Southern California. As part of my job, I helped put together a press release on their report.
Screenshot from Stories de la Frontera webpage.