Arrupe Immersion Hug
Fun on Retreat
Reflection on Senior Retreat
Students in Colombia
Church & Tree
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Reflection

A Student Reflection on the Puebla, Mexico Trip: A Voice for a Better Future: By Germaine Kabutaulaka

04-14-2014

The sun’s rays pierce through the morning mist and ashy clouds of the volcano, Popocatépetl. Like glowing arms, they span across the majestic peak and beckon towards the weary, yet excited faces that slowly emerge from doors of the retreat houses. These are the faces of USF students who have travelled from their sheltered lives in the heart of San Francisco to the city of angels of Puebla in Mexico. I am fortunate to be one of these faces. 

It is a chilly morning in Puebla, where the plump dew rest on the crest of the cadmium green grass lawn. As our group hurriedly rushes towards the dining hall to escape the cold, we are greeted by the smiling faces of the Immersion trip leaders. We are seated and enjoy handmade tortillas, freshly squeezed orange juice, frijoles and sweet pastries, courtesy of the retreat home. Conversation floats through the dining hall, but I, I am elsewhere in a sea of wonder. My wonder is manifested in the thought of what the day shall bring. It is wonder that stems from the root of our trip’s focus: Immigration. 

Before coming on the Arrupe Immersion trip to Mexico, my impression of immigration was conformed much by television.  The news fed me with information of immigration and the thoughts of border hopping, wall-building and law-suiting. The knowledge I had on immigration was very limited. So when I applied for this opportunity and got in, I initially had no idea what I was getting myself into. “I’m going to build a house for a family or two and feed some immigrants…right? I mean, isn’t this what social justice is?” These were my first thoughts on what I would be doing on this trip. Going in, erecting a building, and getting out, changing the country one home at a time. Oh boy, was I wrong. 

The Arrupe Immersion trip isn’t one where you build homes and dig ditches for helpless people in rural communities. It is a trip where you give the people something they need even more than new homes and a better infrastructure. I learned that this is a trip where you give them your ears to listen. Each day in Puebla represented a day of growing, learning and enlightenment; and all of this came from me listening and hearing the stories of what the people of this beautiful city had to tell. From the couple who selflessly opened analbergue– safe house- to tired and hungry immigrants, to the old woman who sold clothes to feed the immigrants; I learned and understood so much by listening. I connected with the people of Puebla through their stories and gained a deeper understanding about immigration. 

One of the most impactful story I had the humble honor of listening to was that of a couple who were immigrants from Guatemala. We met this couple, tired and weary, at one of the albergues in the city. The couple had been travelling for weeks. They had initially walked 8 days to the border of Guatemala and then rode La Bestia –The Beast­- cargo train to the outskirts of Puebla. It was there that they kept on walking, carrying nothing but blankets to sleep with. The irony is, they had not had any sleep in a week. They had not eaten in 3 days. They were determined to find work, which is all they wanted. With a salary of the equivalent of $80 a month and living off tortillas and salt, the couple made the brave decision of leaving their 2 young daughters in Guatemala to look for a better life elsewhere. This story of the couple left me heartbroken. It’s stories like this that more people in America need to hear. Immigration isn’t a problem; it’s a phenomenon. By pushing immigrants away from our borders, we are pushing away honest, hardworking people who are in need of a better life. 

Immigrants like the couple from Guatemala inspire me to promote solidarity to fight for a common ground. The people of Puebla were so graciously happy to share their stories with us. We were fortunate enough to receive their stories. Now let’s use the stories to make a difference.

Unlike other mission trips where tools are used to build homes for the less fortunate, the Arrupe Immersion trip is a trip where you immerse yourself into the culture, and use the stories you hear as tools for change. 

So as I sit here and reminisce about my trip. I know that there is a brighter future for the immigration situation. Because just like I know the sun will rise and break the darkness through the ashy clouds of Popocatépetl tomorrow, the shadow of ignorance and the unknown will break and immigration will have a bright, positive voice in our society. I believe the Arrupe Immersion Trip has given me a voice in this situation and it is a voice that speaks through the stories of the people of Puebla.