I was soon chest-deep, standing on the downstream side of a little aluminum dinghy. The accoutrements of Holy Communion according to our tradition were precariously perched on a table, spanning two seats of the boat. As Pastor Sarah and I prepared to shout at the top of our lungs the opening sentences to the liturgy, kids threatened to baptize the wine and wafers with highly-unsanitary Rio Grande River water. It was Round 2. Last year was Round 1. Both times our offering of a spiritual slant on a social/political event were well received and appreciated.
The event, called Voices from Both Sides/Voces de Ambos Lados, emerged from La Protesta, a spontaneous gathering that remembered Mother’s Day, 2002, when the Border Patrol abruptly shut down this small river-crossing site, suddenly isolating the village of Lajitas on the Mexican side, and dividing families who live on both shores. The closest official crossing point is in Ojinaga, and the round trip involves a 5-hour drive. Clandestine movements continue, but officially, this was politically charged water, divided by an imaginary line down the middle of the channel. Voices happens because the local Border Patrol people are locals and they understand. They absent themselves for a day and let a bi-national party happen. Perhaps they, too, would rather see this tiny location opened up again to legal traffic, to see the economy of the village resurge and see families reunited.
Perhaps, too, they understand that the unsanitary river water is really spiritually and relationally holy, in spite of policies made far away, for it flows through the hearts and souls of a people for whom it is not a boundary or border, but a common source of life in the desert.
I doubt if politics has ever really been successful at dividing a people united in spirit. If I am right, may it ever be so.
Picture Credits: Reagan Reed of Terlingua, all rights reserved.