The present U.S.-Mexico borderlands bring documentary filmmaker and author Kathryn Ferguson tremendous melancholy.
A Tucsonan by birth, Ferguson remembers the days when she and her family would drive down to Nogales for even the simplest craves, such as a cup of coffee. There were no walls or armed men in uniform patrolling the frontier; people didn't die as often while trying to cross the desert into the United States; and the cultural exchange wasn't as problematic.
"It was a different world, it is a darker world now," she says. "When I was a girl I would never use the word 'raid,' the word 'deportation.' You would think, raids at 3 a.m., when people are taken out of the homes and put in prison, you would think that was another country you were talking about, not the United States."
But things have also changed in Mexico. For years, she'd travel alone to as far south as Michoacán and Guerrero. And, as a documentary maker, she extensively explored the Sierra Madre in the state of Chihuahua. Michoacán and Guerrero are now two of the most dangerous states in Mexico. "(They are) not very good places. I would think twice about going...and I love Mexico," she says.
Witnessing all those changes throughout her life was what inspired Ferguson to write The Haunting of the Mexican Border, a collection of anecdotes about her and friends on both sides of the border.
The book is split in two: the introduction is on Ferguson's travels through the Sierra Madre, while she worked on a documentary, and the second part takes place once Ferguson returns to Tucson, while also traveling to Mexico back-and-forth. She describes her experience collaborating with a group called the Tucson Samaritans, volunteers who bring water to the desert for migrants to drink. "This is a personal book," she says. "Seeing things that happened to friends, to me, the desert...as a result of politics."
"Nobody really knows what goes on in the border, even though it is on all the headlines," she says. "Everybody is crossing all the borders of the world, and we need to take a look at why that is happening."
Ferguson is having a book party Saturday, Aug. 15 from 5 p.m.to 7 p.m. at the Temple of Music and Art lounge, where she will read excerpts of her work. John Fife, local human rights activist, retired Presbyterian minister, as well as co-founder of the Sanctuary Movement in the 1980s, will be the guest speaker.