Border Journey – Josseline’s shrine
I visited the shrine for Josseline Hernandez during a hike along the migrant trails on October 8.
visited the shrine for Josseline Hernandez during a hike along the migrant
trails on October 8. Josseline was a 14-year-old girl from El Salvador
who was traveling with her 10-year-old brother. They were going to Los
Angeles to reunite with their mother. After crossing Guatemala and the
entire length of Mexico, they hiked 20 miles in the desert of southern
became ill and they were still 20 miles from the pick-up spot. The
“coyote” (guide) left her behind because he had to get the group there on time
to meet their ride. Her brother didn’t want to leave but she told him
“You have to keep going and get to Mom.” Josseline died in the cold of
winter in the desert on February 20, 2008.
my attention on the task of taking photos allowed me to ignore any feelings
about what had happened there. I pulled out the plants that were
obstructing the view of the cross so that I could get a clearer picture.
Then I started removing a few of the plants that had grown up behind the cross
and I remembered watching Isabel cleaning the grave of her brother Reyes for
the Day of the Dead in El Salvador. It felt as if I was doing something
for Josseline but it was more about soothing my own emotions.
took the photos and put the camera back in my pack. That’s when it hit me
and I started to sob. Sonia, Josseline’s mother, wrote a poem that is
inscribed at the base of the cross: “When you feel that the road has turned
hard and difficult don’t give up in defeat. Continue forward and seek
God’s help. We’ll carry you always in our hearts.”
died alongside a dry streambed in a small canyon. As we were hiking up
the hill, I looked back and was struck by the beauty of the scenery. The
contrasting emotions of the sorrow for her death and the peace from that view
are still with me.
sorrow also alternates with anger about the policies that killed
Josseline. Sonia was unable to find work in El Salvador and she went to
Los Angeles to earn money to send back for Josseline and her brother. She
had worked for years in L.A. and finally saved up enough money to bring her
children there. Her dream turned to tragedy when Josseline became the
victim of a militarized border created by successive administrations in the
Clinton began the policy that would lead to the death of Josseline and
thousands of other unauthorized immigrants. He pushed the North America
Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) through congress in 1993 and that destroyed the
livelihood of more than two million small farmers in Mexico.
administration then started building border walls and placing more Border
Patrol agents to block the flow of migrants through Tijuana-San Diego; Nogales,
Sonora–Nogales, Arizona; and Ciudad Juarez–El Paso. This policy of
“deterrence” funneled migrants away from the urban areas and into more remote
and hazardous terrain. Following the terrorist attacks of September 11,
2001, this militarization was escalated by George Bush and Barack Obama with
the justification of “securing the border.”
a single terrorist has been caught crossing the border from Mexico into the
U.S. Yet, the government continues to “deter” people that are seeking
work, or to be reunited with their families, by pushing them into the deadliest
terrain along the border. That’s a political objective which is pursued
through the use of armed force and causes large numbers of civilian casualties
– including 14-year-old girls from El Salvador.
In love and solidarity,
Nicholson, a member of University Congregational UCC in Missoula, Montana,
serves with BorderLinks in Nogales, Mexico as a volunteer at the Community