The way everyone gets here is different — for me, it was my parents. They decided to stay in El Paso after their parents gave everything for them to go to college in the United States. They did the same for me, but they never stopped going back to Mexico for birthdays, family dinners on Sundays and even grocery shopping.
As I grew up, I had my own reasons to cross into Mexico and back. I’ve run because I was late for my hair appointment. I’ve walked with my friends as we headed toward downtown Juarez for one of its famous margaritas. I’ve shepherded all my younger cousins across to meet my grandparents who can’t cross themselves.
This sort of life in which you can wake up in El Paso and sleep in Juarez makes the concept of borders an elastic one. It’s a way of life only possible through radical openness and only understandable through the elevation of voices that have lived this experience. Here, regardless of whether or not people have a relationship with the other side of the border, they inevitably interact with those who do and come to understand it. And to live such a life, there is no room for white nationalist beliefs rooted in xenophobia and racial prejudice. But it is this special relationship with the border that white nationalism is threatened by.
One thing that I never thought I’d be crossing the border to do is to take care of my four-year-old cousin because his mom needs time to cry and mourn her in-law, killed in the shooting in El Paso. I, too, mourn her passing. I should not be afraid that the name of someone I know will be on the list of those killed. But that fear is real and rational, despite El Paso’s population of nearly 700,000.
After August 3, we have to acknowledge that our current government structures and race relations are not only allowing these tragedies to happen but they are doing little to dispel the pejorative mainstream narratives about minority ethnic groups in the United States and the spaces we occupy.
El Paso is such a strong and diverse community that a domestic terrorist deemed it worthy of risking life in prison, or the death penalty, to strike out against it. It became a target because its ethos of inclusion and community threatens the ideas perpetuated by white nationalist ideology. But when hatred tries to extinguish communities like El Paso, we realize how the border forged our spirit, and made it invincible.