Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Bisbee, AZ and Naco, SON

We were welcomed in Bisbee (population 6,000) by near-famous/probably-famous-in-some-circles painter Peter Young.  After arriving and showing us the vacated apartment we could stay in, Peter immediately gave us a walking tour of the adorable historic Bisbee which included its very own OccupyBisbee!

Peter is one of many artists in Bisbee, but he is one of the few people there involved in work with migrants in Naco, Sonora.  Bisbee is only 11 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border and a few years ago a devoted group from Bisbee started a migrant outreach shelter for people who were deported to the small town of Naco.  The shelter offered food, clothing and an orientation to resources available to migrants, but one thing they did extremely well was document human rights abuses.  I posted previously about A Culture of Cruelty and the staff of the center, including Peter and the director Cecile Lumer (who we also had the privilege of meeting in Bisbee though she was recovering from knee replacement surgery), provided a lot of the data used in that report. 

Unfortunately, last summer the Department of Homeland Security decided to stop deporting people to Naco, so this migrant center is now empty. Everyone in social services hopes their work will no longer be necessary in the future, but this was not the desired scenario.  Instead of deportations slowing or ending, DHS has just stopped deporting to Naco and is instead sending deportees to other cities which may not be as prepared.  Peter and Ceclie speculate that DHS stopped deporting people to Naco because they were so prepared and because of the fact that they were able to talk to a high percentage of deportees about human rights abuses.  Either way, the center is closed for now, but other projects continue.

Migrant resource center of Naco, Sonora

The day after we arrived, Cecile's friend Carol brought us over to Naco with her.  We attended a Plan Naco meeting at the Naco Wellness Center.  Plan Naco is a new binational collaboration that includes a sewing course and cooperative, diabetes education including building gardens and greenhouses, a clinic and health education for low income residents, and other projects.  It is so new that we helped them proofread their brochure and hoped with them that they are not biting off more than they can chew!  It sounds like an awesome effort and it was great to see that it was actually bi-national, with the meeting participants split about 50/50 from Bisbee, AZ and Naco, Sonora.

Plan Naco meeting at the Naco clinic

Tom, Carol, Lupita, Sister Mary Rose at the clinic

After the meeting and some lunch, we stopped briefly to drop off some medical supplies at the house of a young man who is now quadriplegic after being involved in a shooting.  After listening to the big dreams at the Plan Naco meeting and after hearing of some politics among the Bisbee volunteers that have caused several groups to go in different directions, it was really great to see a young man who is benefiting from this work.  When volunteer Tom met this young man, he was skinny and confined to bed, but is now going to receive his second wheelchair from them after having outgrown his first!

On the way back to the bridge, Tom also showed us part of the diabetes wellness project--building greenhouses from trampoline frames!

Tom shows us his greenhouse project using a trampoline frame
 After the halt in deportations in the Bisbee/Naco area, it was great to see how these committed individuals (in this case, mostly retired snow birds) changed the direction of their efforts to better their own well-being and that of their greater, binational community.


  1. Any chance you could give Tom my email address. I have also built a greenhouse out of a trampoline frame. I'd like to see how he solved certain problems.