Tears in the Desert

Some say the flowers of the Sonoran desert spring come from the winter rains and spring warmth.

But now I see that the flowers of the desert are watered by the tears of migrant mothers.

During this Holy Week of a mother’s tears and pilgrimages, I spent a day at a shelter for migrants on the border.

desert flowers stock photo2As I walked along the dusty path to the Mariposa (“Butterfly”) crossing in Nogales, I spotted spring flowers along my route. Yellow, purple, blue, pink, orange – fleeting beauty in the desert.

I always look for flowers when I’m walking, but I didn’t expect to find any on this barren half-mile, from a parking lot overlooking the border wall, to the border checkpoint, and across to Mexico. Unexpected and welcome beauty.

Later in the day, as I walked back to my car, with my daughter at my side, I wept tears for the migrant mothers.

In between my border walks, I met Paula. As she shared her story, her eyes filled with tears for her four children. Children left behind when she was arrested, detained, and deported. And my eyes filled with tears as well, because even though there are so many differences in our stories, we shared our mothers’ hearts.

tucson flowers

My Spanish is quite limited, so usually I cannot grasp much of the migrants’ stories without an interpreter, but Paula spoke English well. She lived in the U.S. for 24 years, brought over from Mexico as a teen with her parents. She worked in Las Vegas, perhaps serving food or cleaning rooms for visitors, for people on vacation. Her four children are U.S. citizens. Her crime was a broken tail light.

Now Paula weeps in the desert, wondering when and if she will see her children again.prickly pear tucson

A mother’s tears.

Bitterly watering the blooms in the desert.


Note: I visited the Kino Border Initiative in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico where my daughter is on staff. Paula is a pseudonym. I did not take pictures near the border because of security restrictions. The last two pictures are of flowers I saw in Tucson, the others are common desert flowers from stock photography.

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