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Mother Mary seeks asylum as Kino Border Intiative hosts posada in Nogales
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Mother Mary seeks asylum as Kino Border Intiative hosts posada in Nogales

  • In Nogales, Son., a procession of about 120 migrants and supporters walk along the border fence separating Arizona and Mexico as part of a posada. A posada is a Mexican tradition in which people commemorate the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem.
    Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.comIn Nogales, Son., a procession of about 120 migrants and supporters walk along the border fence separating Arizona and Mexico as part of a posada. A posada is a Mexican tradition in which people commemorate the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem.
  • In Nogales, Son., two boys watch as the posada procession walks along Calle Internacional as part of the binational event.
    Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.comIn Nogales, Son., two boys watch as the posada procession walks along Calle Internacional as part of the binational event.
  • Two children take a rest along Calle Internacional as part of the procession in Nogales, Son.
    Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.comTwo children take a rest along Calle Internacional as part of the procession in Nogales, Son.
  • A boy dressed as Joseph walks Pancho the Donkey and the girl dressed as Mary to Kino Border Intiative in Nogales, Son.
    Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.comA boy dressed as Joseph walks Pancho the Donkey and the girl dressed as Mary to Kino Border Intiative in Nogales, Son.
  • A father carries his young son during the posada in Nogales, Son.
    Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.comA father carries his young son during the posada in Nogales, Son.
  • Bishop Jose Leopoldo Gonzalez Gonzalez of Nogales, Son., and Bishop Edward Joseph Weisenburger of Tucson accompany the posada, joining migrant families in Nogales who peacefully reenact the holy family’s journey to seek refuge.
    Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.comBishop Jose Leopoldo Gonzalez Gonzalez of Nogales, Son., and Bishop Edward Joseph Weisenburger of Tucson accompany the posada, joining migrant families in Nogales who peacefully reenact the holy family’s journey to seek refuge.
  • Dozens wait outside of the Border Kino Initiative after the posada for food and drink as part of the celebration.
    Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.comDozens wait outside of the Border Kino Initiative after the posada for food and drink as part of the celebration.

A crowd of more than 100 people congregated outside a border crossing in downtown Nogales this weekend, walking to a migrant aid center almost two miles away during a Christmas season posada highlighting the travails of migrants.

Mary sat on a donkey named Pancho at the head of the line accompanied by Joseph and an angel. Two guitar players played and sang on the back of a pickup truck ahead. Children dressed as angels held a hand-painted sign that read "We are all humans" in Spanish.

En español: Santa María pide refugio, KBI presenta posada binacional

Saturday afternoon's binational posada was organized by the Kino Border Initiative, and started at the Dennis DeConcini crossing, on the Sonoran side of the border.

There were stops where participants — many of them migrants — could share their stories.

"The posada we celebrate today has its roots in the historical memory of Jesus, who over 2,000 years ago, from his birth to his death, was persecuted," Bishop Edward Weisenburger of the Diocese of Tucson told the crowd.

Although the Nogales faith-based humanitarian aid group has been holding the border posada since 1997, the tradition is much older, dating back to colonial Mexico.

The name translates to "inns" or "lodging" and it is celebrated in many places in Latin America and the United States from Dec. 16-24.

Traditionally, a procession takes place in the streets of neighborhoods to commemorate the journey Mary and Joseph made from Nazareth to Bethlehem to find a safe place for the birth of Jesus.

Because the procession takes place each night from the 16th to the 24th, different households volunteer to be the hosts that will offer "lodging" to the participants.

The host and the group perform a litany which portrays the conversation between the owner of the posada and Joseph. Once they're granted entry, the celebration begins.

There is usually a religious service before the festivities take place. The neighbors and community members bring food, drinks, and candy, which are then enjoyed by everyone there.

Once the last procession takes place on Christmas Eve, a Catholic mass is celebrated. After, a meal is served and children get to break open their piñatas.

"It's not only a spiritual journey - for most of these people here - it's a physical journey as well," Weisenburger told the Sentinel in an interview. "We have this belief in Catholicism where no matter where we are from, we are one family of God."

Before the idea arrived to Mexico through the colonizers, it was a Spanish event.

It is believed that in 1586, Friar Diego de Soria, who was an Augustinian friar of San Agustin de Acolman near Mexico City, received a papal bull from Pope Sixtus V stating they were to celebrate the "misas de aguinaldos."

Over the centuries, the gatherings spread beyond Mexico and countries such as Guatemala, Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador celebrate the posadas as part of their Christmas traditions. They are also held in the United States.

Saturday, one of the people taking part in the Nogales, Son., event was Antonio, who had been living with his family in Guerrero, his home state. They were forced to leave due to his last name, which caused envy directed towards them. They fled to Michoacan, where they were at first able to establish a stable life, with a farm and livestock.

But "there was organized crime there," Antonio said in Spanish. "They took my oldest son and left him for dead."

His son told his dad the group was out for his family and they were forced to leave once again and start from zero. They went to Nogales, seeking hope. It's been three months since their arrival.

"It has been a difficult process," he said. "We are discriminated against, even though we're from the same country. There's so much danger. Finding jobs is hard; rent prices are high."

He said their effort to seek asylum in the United States was crushed by Title 42, a policy imposed by former President Donald Trump that has blocked many people from being able to establish asylum claims.

Antonio, who the Sentinel is referring to only by his first name because of his fears, was dressed in robes for the posada. He said it helped protect his identity.

"We have this connection with the posada because us migrants go through similar experience," Antonio said. "We identify with Mary and Joseph."

Madison also made her way to Nogales from Michoacan with her three children. She has spent four months in Nogales, Son.

"It has been an ugly experience," Madison said in Spanish. "A completely ugly experience. They denied my children education."

Her family had left Michoacan due to violence and danger. Her underage children were witnesses to a crime.

"As parents, we just want to keep our children safe," said Madison, who also asked to only be referred to by her first name to protect her identity.

Bianca Morales is TucsonSentinel.com’s Cultural Expression and Community Values reporter, and a Report for America corps member supported by readers like you.

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