Julio Salgado, a DREAMer and CultureStriker, sends us a dispatch from the UndocuBus, a project of the “No Papers, No Fear” campaign, as it makes it way across the country to Charlotte, NC, site of the upcoming Democratic National Convention:
A Juanes song, “La Camisa Negra,” is blasting from a small black speaker inside the UndocuBus. Mari Cruz and Chela are seated at the front of the bus and are singing along—they know all the words, about a black shirt and a broken heart. The folks in the small bunk beds at the back of the bus are encouraging the celebration, when suddenly the iPod connected to the speaker loses its Pandora signal. That’s the thing about this ride. The unexpected is bound to occur.
We are on our way to Ashville, NC, and already the bus has wended its way through twelve cities across the South. I’ve been on board for five days now and have already heard stories about the unpredictability of riding in Priscilla—the name given the bus. From a tire that gave out, to driving at a snail’s pace because of Priscilla’s age, you never know what adventures the riders (and Priscilla) are going to face. What we do know is that humor and laughter—and above all, the need to tell our undocumented stories—are the real fuel propelling the bus toward the DNC.
I met up with the UndocuBus in Atlanta, GA. On my way from the airport to the church that was housing the riders, I felt apprehensive. These riders had been on the road for a couple of weeks now. Friendships would have developed, and there would be inside jokes. I wasn’t present for the civil disobedience that launched the ride in Phoenix, AZ, nor for the actions in the other cities. I didn’t want them to feel like I was an awkward latecomer, just along for the ride. Those thoughts vanished once I arrived at the church. Two men, Pancho and Jose, were painting a banner in the church’s dining area. With welcoming smiles, they asked where I was coming from and said “Bienvenido.”
Another thing I want to share: The mothers aboard Priscilla are a constant reminder of my own mother and father. In the past, we as DREAMers have blamed our parents for our situation. That is a narrative favored by politicians who in turn fuel the criminalization of our parents in the media. No mas. When I witness the bravery of people like 65-year-old Maria Hinojosa, who participated in a civil disobedience in front of Knox County Sheriff J.J. Jones’ office in Tennessee, I am reminded that we are not the victims in this so-called “immigration issue.” When we speak out and ride a bus that bears the words “NO PAPERS, NO FEAR,” we reclaim the dignity that has been ripped away from us.
Stay tuned for more of Salgado’s dispatches from the UndocuBus.