Valentine’s Day at Casa del Migrante

Rethinking Schools co-founder and editor Bob Peterson wrote this poem after a visit to Casa del Migrante, a migrant shelter for men in Tijuana.  Some of the men who stay there are from Mexico on their way to the U.S., while others have been recently deported.  This poem recounts a conversation Bob had with Juan Torres, whose daughters were born in the U.S.  Juan had recently been deported after he was arrested by California authorities for driving without a license.

Casa del Migrante, Tijuana


Saint Valentine
was not looking over
Juan Torres today
as he landed in
downtown Tijuana
dropped off by la migra
after getting pulled over
a few days earlier by
San Jose police for
driving without a license
— a license he cannot get
because he is undocumented —
leaving his construction job
to go home to his two daughters
Cinthia aged 9 in fourth grade
Karely aged 8 in third grade
both citizens of the U.S.A.
born in California,
the police zapped their
computer connections with the INS
and Juan was no longer
staring down the headlights
of a San Jose cop
but rather turned over
to bright lights of the
Border Patrol
where he was
interrogated,
imprisoned for two days,
then flown to San Diego
with 200 other deportees
and finally bused to
downtown Tijuana
and dumped
in a place he’d not been
for 12 years
when he first crossed over
having left his home in Michoacan
at age 20 “to get a better life.”
Pushed off the bus
in the middle of the night
cold, hungry
Juan climbed into an
abandoned car in a futile
attempt to stay warm
shivering he abandoned
the car and sneaked into a church
resting a few hours
until the sun came up
when he learned from someone about
la Casa del Migrante
where he now sits
telling me
his story over a plate of
frijoles, papas, carne asada y arroz
saying how he talked by phone
to his daughters
and they said.
“We miss you, Papi…
so much!”
Juan looks down at his plate
and then into my eyes
and says “I miss them so much too.
I’m going back
but now you have to walk
for two straight days and one night
to get there.
“Good luck,” I say
and shake his hand.

Related Resources:

Teachers Tour U.S.-Mexico Border, by Bob Peterson, Rethinking Schools, Summer 2004

The Line Between UsThe Line Between Us: Teaching About the Border and Mexican Immigration, by Bill Bigelow

The Line Between Us explores the history of U.S-Mexican relations and the roots of Mexican immigration, all in the context of the global economy. And it shows how teachers can help students understand the immigrant experience and the drama of border life.

Using role plays, stories, poetry, improvisations, simulations and video, veteran teacher Bill Bigelow demonstrates how to combine lively teaching with critical analysis.

The Line Between Us is a winner of the World Hunger Year Media Award.

Rethinking Globalization: Teaching for Justice in an Unjust World, edited by Bill Bigelow and Bob Peterson

This comprehensive 400-page book from Rethinking Schools helps teachers raise critical issues with students in grades 4–12 about the increasing globalization of the world’s economies and infrastructures, and the many different impacts this trend has on our planet and those who live here.

Rethinking Globalization offers an extensive collection of readings and source material on critical global issues. Through numerous role plays, interviews, poems, stories, background readings, cartoons, and hands-on teachign activities, the book offeres a memorable introduction to the forces that are shaping the future of our world.

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