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'Only Here' Episode 5: Crossing The Border For An Education

 April 24, 2019 at 10:53 AM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:00 According to the federal government, about 90,000 people across legally through the San Ysidro port of entry every day. Among those daily crossers are hundreds of students who live in Tijuana but go to school in San Diego. The international commute is long. It's annoying. It can also be traumatic. On the latest episode of Kpbs is only here podcast hosts Alan. Lillian thall talks to Alex Zara Goza about what it's like crossing the world's busiest border every day just to get to school. Speaker 2: 00:32 Alex Saragosa is an editor for vice in New York now covering culture over the years. She's written a lot about the border and her personal experiences. Speaker 1: 00:41 Yeah. Speaker 2: 00:41 She grew up here and started crossing the border to go to school when she was 12 and her family moved to Tijuana. Speaker 1: 00:46 Okay. Speaker 2: 00:47 She had to wake up at 5:00 AM just to get to class on time. Speaker 3: 00:50 I went from literally driving like 10 minutes from my house to Chula Vista junior when I went to then having across the international border and to get to school and like the two hours that took every day. Speaker 2: 01:04 Alex says the commute was more than just time consuming. She says it took an emotional toll. Speaker 3: 01:09 The crossing the border exacerbates so much like, you know, intense feelings and um, like just stress. It exacerbate stress and anxiety like, like so much. And my mom at the point at that point was dealing with like depression and really severe anxiety and like having had like a workplace injury. So then having to deal with like crazy cars honking all the time and like just being in a border for two hours and like, is my daughter going to get to school on time, whatever. Like it was just, it was really intense for her. It was intense for me. It's like just a kid, you know, coming of age, um, and having to do it like while navigating like the code switching and just, you know, being embarrassed because you're taught to be ashamed of where you come from, you know, when you're from the corner and stuff. So I'm now having to do that every single day. Like that starts to weigh on you and it starts to have bigger implications on your identity and how you view yourself, how you view where you come from. Um, what opportunities are available to you. Because like if I wanted to go to college, it was just going to be a little bit harder than for all the kids that lived in San Diego. You know, Speaker 2: 02:31 there was another time during Alex's daily cross border commute that she'll never forget. She says her family cross one day on the way to school and he immediately got stuck in standstill traffic. Eventually the cars began inching along. That's when she saw it. What was holding things up? The dead body of a man who had been hit by a car while trying to cross the border illegally. Speaker 3: 02:54 I never forget the like Yelp, my mom's made like this, like horrified, like saddened sound that came from her heart, like from her chest of like seeing this person being lifted. And I was been shocking to, didn't even know what to like, what to think or say, but I just remember hands and like how like they were, they looked like kind of cal. It's kind of jointly looked like my dad's my dad's hand. They looked just like my dad's hands. I could kind of see his jacket and it was like dusty and stuff and there's this things where I was like, I saw like I saw this person who was just trying to get across the border. It just, it just brought that understanding like the space that um, that I was crossing every day. For us it was definitely a nuisance. I was definitely traumatic and has all these other implications. But for other people it's a life and death Speaker 2: 04:09 according to the federal government, about 90,000 people across legally through the Sunday see the port of entry every single day. No one knows exactly how many of those are students going to school. But a professor at San Diego State University estimates that it's in the thousands for more than a decade. That professor has been working on a project. She says, it gives her a much better understanding of these students and their lives crossing the border. Speaker 2: 04:42 Well, why do we have here, it's again, the first element of this mental map. It's, it's the idea nor my Yglesias Prietto is obsessed with how people in San Diego experience or tone experience the border. The San Diego state professor has spent 33 years of her life studying the border. She lived in Mexico for the first half of her career, but came to San Diego to get a better understanding of life on this side. One of the classes nor to my teachers at Sdsu is an introduction to border studies. And for the last 14 years she's required students in that class too, draw large maps of the border. So the mental maps are exercise, uh, in which, uh, I ask the students to think about how borders and border lands affect their life. And they have to express it in a graphic way. In, um, in a, in a mental map, she tells the students not to worry about making the maps geographically accurate. Speaker 2: 05:45 Instead, she wants them to include drawings of places. That means something to them and the roads that they take to get to those sentimental spots. The resulting drawings are super fascinating. Imagine poster boards filled with hen made drawings of the places that mean the most to the students. Those places are then connected by hand drawn freeways and how unaware the students decide to draw the border on the map. It depends on how often they cross or if they cross at all. She showed us a map with a drawing of several places on the San Diego side of the border, just a few places on the Tijuana side and a big cloud drawn right in the middle. Normally interprets the cloud and the rest of the images on the map as if there's some kind of secret language that she's become fluent in. She pointed to a line drawn through the middle of the cloud Speaker 4: 06:33 that is referring to here thinking no, his mind he's mine is divided. His thoughts are divided into the the U s and the w that is related with the Chicano, and that is part of the flag of Ceasar Chavez, the farm workers union and justice as the EU and the war. And that means people in his Spanish, this, our people. So it's very clear that have a, a very Chicano awareness of his condition of being a minority or a Mexican America. Um, this person is divided, divided in terms of a language and a culture that is related with media, music and education, formal way of thinking that is the you, the American war. But that the fate, because it's a cross with Eh, with the roots, that means they're my, they're his path. He's mine. He's their faith. It related with Mexico. Speaker 2: 07:48 That was Norma Yglesias. Prietto speaking to KPBS is only here podcast host Alan Lillian doll. Listen to only hear wherever you get your podcast or go to k and click on only here.

About 90,000 people cross legally through the San Ysidro Port of Entry every single day, according to the federal government. Among those daily crossers are hundreds of students who live in Tijuana, but go to school in San Diego.