In a few short weeks, CCDA practitioners will begin a 150 mile walking pilgrimage at the border of Mexico and California––El Camino del Inmigrante––to share in solidarity with immigrants who are migrating across the world.
Pilgrimages are an opportunity for the re-orienting of oneself––not only in place but in spirit, enabling us to come to a new place of discovery and understanding of self and others. As hundreds of us gather on August 20, asking God to help us enter into solidarity with the immigrant, we invite you to join us by following our blogs, stories and reflections along the way.
I know I am Mexican-American because of my hands.
My hands are brown like café con leche. My hands are soft like a fleece cobija. My hands are smooth like a Cumbia rhythm.
I explain my hands with a blend of English and Español, Mexican and American culture, because I am a living blend. This is how I see the world––through blended vision.
My hands are brown because I was birthed by two parents of Mexican descent. My Pa, a native-born Mexicano, turned Americano from tanto football, hamburgers and city coding manuals. My Ma, a native-born Americana, turned más Mexicana after falling in love with my Pa and, thus, Mexican bailes. My fiercely loving, hardworking parents raised three little sets of brown hands in the heart of Elgin, Illinois––a city rich with a combination of Mexican and American flavors.
My hands are soft and smooth because of my Mexican ancestors. Not because their hands were this way but because they allowed their hands to suffer for mine to be soft and smooth. From my grandfather who picked cotton in California through the Bracero Program to my great-great-grandmother who harvested corn on el rancho, much of my family developed rough, calloused hands. For generations, my family has been working hard for me to have soft, smooth hands.
This is why I have decided to do El Camino. Because every time I look at my Mexican-American hands, I am reminded of my heritage and the struggle that has brought me so much privilege.
The privilege I carry into this journey is multifaceted and colorful, like a poncho. There are streaks of brown from being raised by two loving parents. There are streaks of yellow from growing up in a safe, suburb. There are streaks of purple from graduating the gifted academy of my high school. There are streaks of white from attending a prestigious evangelical college. There are streaks of green from receiving a Bachelor’s degree in elementary education. There are streaks of red from finishing a two-year, post-grad urban leadership program. And all of these beautiful streaks are laid across an electric blue backdrop, the color of being born in America.
Since I first became aware of my privilege in college, I have been eagerly awaiting a day when I could use my soft, smooth hands to advocate for those whose hands are rough.
God must have heard my prayer because El Camino is providing me this very opportunity. First off, I will literally be putting my hands to use as I serve as the Blog Coordinator for El Camino. I will be helping Camino participants craft their own stories in a series of blog posts. I’m hoping to help reveal the diversity of perspectives of those willing to stand in solidarity for immigration reform.
Secondly, I will be putting my soft, smooth feet to work by participating in the walk myself. When August 20th comes around, I will begin a 150-mile journey up the coast of California. For eleven days, I will be walking alongside brothers and sisters in Christ who truly believe that the stranger in our country should be treated with love. Together, we will traverse a path that many of my ancestors have bravely walked in hopes of a better life. We will allow our soft, smooth feet to become rough and calloused, in order to step into the painful journey that many immigrants have had to endure.
Thus far, the walk of developing into my Mexican-American identity has been mostly a mental and emotional journey, a journey of both head and heart. I have grown in knowledge of my Mexican and American history and culture and in my passion for justice on behalf of the oppressed. But the time has come for my walk to become physical and spiritual. I am asking God to deepen my empathy for the immigrant journey as I personally experience the physical tension, pain, and exhaustion from such a strenuous walk. I am also praying that God will deepen my connection to the heart of Christ as I step into a journey that He himself had to walk.
I know I am Mexican-American because of my hands.
Yet, my brown hands do not mean that I fully understand the complicated issue of immigration in the U.S. For me, immigration is only a story, deeply embedded in the blood that runs through my veins. This is also the case for many other Americans, whether White or Black, Asian or Middle Eastern. Many of us share the same story of immigration, but we have become detached from it. It is only in stepping into the story of immigration that we will be able to understand the complicated issue of immigration in our country.
It is time that we examine our hands. It is time that we examine the blood that runs through our veins. It is time that we ask ourselves how our ancestors had to suffer in order for us to be alive. By turning inward, we can begin to understand how we fit into the greater narrative of America, and thus, how we can further shape it.
Jenny Medrano is a Mexican-American woman who aspires to unite God’s people through empowerment, education and reconciliation. Jenny is serving as the blog coordinator for El Camino del Inmigrante.