Closing numbers and stories

Life is full of numbers: the years, the kilos, the friends, the money, the steps we must take, the qualifications and the salaries. We grow up celebrating the achievements we associate with mathematics: the sum of birthdays, salary increase or academic grades.

From childhood we were taught to believe that numbers weigh more than stories. As adults, we continue to echo the old school: how many views and for how long, how many “likes” and “shares”, how much income and how much profit, etc. We measure everything in black and white, without understanding that we live in an eternal gray scale. We have put a number to the most important events and memories, but there are moments that cannot be pigeonholed into dates or digits.

Here is a story explained with numbers: On March 21, 2020, at 12:01 p.m., the border between Mexico and the United States was closed as a measure to prevent the spread of coronavirus. It was only supposed to last 30 days. The restrictions were extended until November 8, 2022, that is, just over 19 months.

According to the US federal authorities, 1,000 million dollars in merchandise, 452,000 vehicles and 30,000 cargo trucks crossed each day through those 3,175 kilometers of border with Mexico. This generated an economic spill of 900 million dollars per week and with the closure, the income plummeted. The impact on the border economy was devastating, so much so that it has not yet recovered from the lack of those million people who passed into the United States every day to shop, work or study. One of the people who crossed the border frequently was my mom.

I’ll tell you the same story without numbers

My mom crosses the border from Mexico to the United States at least once a week. She travels from one country to another to go to the supermarket, buy clothes, eat a hamburger or get gas. She spends a lot and very often. My brother and I joke that she supports Walmart and thanks to her the JCP doesn’t end up going bankrupt. She is from the border and she is used to coming and going; she also has Sentri, that US government program that allows trusted travelers to use the fast track to cross.

However, when the global coronavirus pandemic was declared, governments imposed restrictions that prohibited tourists from entering the United States. My mom locked herself in the house. She stayed in Mexico and we, her family, in the United States. He lived through the pandemic in raw solitude for not being able to cross.

She lasted almost two years isolated from a country that she also considers her home; without the gallons of “gringo” milk or the packaged sugary cupcakes. The worst is He was away from his family, without hugs or comfort.

Nogales, Arizona, suffered his absence and that of millions of other Mexican tourists who were unable to cross. They closed businesses that did not survive the crisis and when she was finally able to return, nothing was the same, even her favorite restaurant was full of cobwebs and had a permanent closing announcement. Crossing again he realized the devastation.

Two years after the border closure, the impact cannot be measured only in numbers: in losses and businesses closed or in the decrease in crossings. It is told in the stories of tourists and businessmen, of essential workers, of separated families… of the many words and memories that were trapped by the wall. Let us not forget. We still have so much to tell.