Inside USD

Torero Life Abroad: The Other Side of the Border

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Torero Life Abroad chronicles the journey of a University of San Diego student participating in a study abroad experience. Elizabeth Stenger ’16, a sophomore majoring in history with a minor in Spanish, took part in the Tijuana Spring Breakthrough in March to explore the realities of life just beyond the U.S. border.

It was our first day in Tijuana. We had crossed the border into Mexico only a few hours earlier and now were at the Casa del Migrante shelter. I (pictured bottom row, far right) was at dinner, sitting across from a man I didn’t know. Like many, I was timid and unsure of what to say. After the initial hellos, Alejandro and I got to talking about a lot of things. I found out that like me, Alejandro had crossed the border into Mexico earlier that day as well. Unlike me, however, he did not have a choice in coming to Tijuana; he had been deported. Since he had lived in San Diego for six years, we talked about everything from beaches in La Jolla to the best places to eat in Old Town. This was the first of many times on Tijuana Spring Breakthrough that we listened to stories of, prayed with, and shared meals with the people of the community.

On our second night, we were paired with host families in La Morita in eastern Tijuana. We had the chance to share in the lives of some of the most generous and selfless people I’ve known. My host family made sure that more than just my basic needs were met; they cared for me and treated me like I was part of the family. I was able to see God working through my host family because they were able to show such love and open their homes to a stranger. My homestay was an awesome way to really be immersed in and gain new insight about the culture and family life of Tijuana.

In light of our homestays and our visits to Casa del Migrante, I was able to see immigration and the border fence in a new light. My fellow USD students and I spent a day exploring the economic, humanitarian, and social factors impacting immigration by going to the border fence at the beach and praying for those who have died trying to cross the border into the United States. Having gotten to know and live with people in Tijuana, I was even more upset at the injustice that the border fence represented. This is just a glimpse of what I did in Tijuana because it is impossible to share everything about the love, heartbreak, optimism, and inspiration I experienced.

The Tijuana Spring Breakthrough was challenging because we saw firsthand how a broken system ignores the dignity of people and divides communities. It showed me that even in the face of economic poverty, people are still more than willing to give abundantly of themselves, of their time, and of their talents. Going to Tijuana humbled me by allowing me to experience a community where I felt so welcomed, so cared for, and so incredibly loved.

For me, the breakthrough was an invitation to step away from what was familiar and comfortable and immerse myself in a different way of living. As a participant on this Romero Center Immersion trip, I was invited to live more simply, to further explore my spirituality, to live in solidarity, and be inspired to work for social justice. I leave you with something that continues to provide me with both comfort in knowing that I cannot do everything and motivation to do everything I can. It is an excerpt from Archbishop Oscar Romero’s prayer, often called Prophets of a Future Not Our Own:

“We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.”

—  Elizabeth Stenger ‘16

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