Migrant Organizers of Tijuana Need Covid Support

                                                                   Contra Viento Y Marea, El Comedor 

Update 3: July 24, 2020
(For regular updates, find us on Facebook Or contact us via Facebook messenger: https://www.facebook.com/contravientoymareacomedor)
Email us at [email redacted] 

Greetings from Tijuana! The struggle to continue our vital work to provide free, nutritious, Central American home cooking to our Zona Norte barrio remains our main focus, in spite of the Covid-19 contingency. We are continuing to take extensive sanitary measures when serving meals, and cleaning as indicated in earlier updates. Our Covid protocols created and launched in early April are still in place. For example, all our meals are served to-go only, we give out antibacterial hand sanitizer before giving out plates, and rigorously cleaning everything. It’s paid off as we haven’t had a single volunteer show symptoms of Covid. There are however several new developments since our last Comedor Update posted on May 12th. Please feel free to contact us with questions or comments via Facebook messenger or at our email address. 

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We are slowly ramping up the days we serve now since the pandemic hit and we had to scale back. Coronavirus related deaths are still surging here and that’s why we’re serving four times per week, one meal a day. That’s 400+ plates per week. We serve Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays & Thursdays. The hope is to serve more days within a month or so but it depends on two things; whether we can raise more food donations or funds to purchase food and whether the pandemic doesn’t lead to another government mandated shut down. Starting in August we are serving Mondays and Wednesdays outside the free clinic Justicia en Salud (run by Refugee Health Alliance) at 1pm. We serve Tuesdays and Thursdays outside the comedor at 3pm. Check our Facebook page for updates. 

We continue to receive fresh fish donations from Sea Sabia (Ensenada, Baja California) to provide during our regular servings. Instead of delivering the 20 kilos every other week, we are receiving them weekly now and serving it usually on Mondays for the patients outside the free clinic run by Refugee Health Alliance (RHA), Justicia en Salud, near the migrant shelter Espacio Migrante. 

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We are in talks with our partnerRefugee Health Alliance to increase the number of servings we are providing outside their free clinic. As mentioned, we currently serve there on Monday at 1pm. We will begin to serve two or possibly three meals per week starting August 1st at the same time. The additional day(s) we will serve there is to be determined but will be announced on our Facebook page soon. 

We’ve received a handwashing station from RHA which we place outside our space during the days we serve food that's used by folks before they receive their free meal from us. It is also there for homeless people and people who are street vendors to have regular access to sanitation during this ongoing Covid pandemic. 

It is with a heavy heart that I report we are no longer receiving the 100 tamales donated biweekly to us from the local tamaleria, La Antiguita at the beginning of July. The reason is the owner and donor, Esther Morales was critically injured and almost killed the morning she was reopening the tamaleria at the end of June. She remains in recovery and we don’t know when she’ll be able to return to work. We’ve wished her a speedy recovery. Incidentally, we’ve had to purchase more food to replace the meals she was providing for us. 

In lighter news, the group Friendship Not Fronteras and several migrants residing in multiple shelters are hand sewing and delivering facemasks to us to give out for free during our regular servings. At the beginning of this week, we received 600 facemasks. We send them pictures of when we give them out to be transparent. We expect to receive around that same amount of facemasks every 4-5 weeks.
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The garden has gotten a lot of attention these past few weeks. We uprooted weeds and cleaned it up. We have planted more seeds of squash, tomatoes, and some cacti. Our jalapeno plant is producing a lot of peppers for us to cook with. We want to grow more of our own vegetables and herbs especially as food prices in Mexico continue to rise . 

Since we’ve been receiving significantly less clothing donations (and have to wash all the clothing before we give it out because of Covid) we are converting the donation center bodega into a computer lounge and chill area. We have three computers that were donated to us a while ago. We’re receiving guidance on how to reinstall the operating systems and plan to have them running in the coming week or so. The computers are primarily for the volunteers to be able to communicate with their families. If we receive more computers in the future, we hope to be able to let the public use them too! Although it depends on whether the covid situation is under control in Tijuana as we are currently not allowing the public inside the comedor. 
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We have a new YouTube channel! Search for “ContraVientoYMarea El Comedor.” We’ve uploaded at least 5 of our past videos on there including the videos made by us, Survival Media Agency, Univision Tijuana, Tijuanapress.com, and Frontera. We plan to upload more in the near future. 
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On our new YouTube channel, we are in the initial phases of creating our in-house media ninja production team. We are still planning the details but we’d like to make a call-out soon asking supporters to help us get new or used photo and video DSLR cameras to be able to create our own media. We will teach each other how to use the cameras, how to edit videos and photos, using Adobe Photoshop for example, and begin to tell our own stories and publish them on YouTube and Kolektiva. If you’d like to help with the planning or be a part of this team, please reach out. We’d love to have the support. 

To help us get into the media production mood, we’re kicking off migrante movie nights once a week for volunteers. We have a projector to display movies from the internet from Netflix. Once the pandemic is less of a threat to our wellbeing, we hope to be able to open the movie nights to other migrant organizers and friends in the community. The first one is taking place tonight at 8:30pm.

In Transnational Solidarity,

Devi Y La Banda de Contra Viento Y Marea

We now have Cashapp 
$comedortj
email: [email redacted]

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Update 2: May 12, 2020 

Hi Friends! The coronavirus pandemic has hit the Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico migrant community especially hard. 

The migrant organizers of ‘el comedor’ Contra Viento Y Marea Comedor  in Tijuana, Mexico need you more than ever right now. Before the pandemic hit, our community kitchen was serving two hot meals a day, 5 days a week in addition to giving out whatever other resources people donated from the US, such as handknit hats, scarves, or used clothing, shoes, toiletries, toys, diapers, and survival goods like tents, sleeping bags, blankets, towels, etc. We were feeding around 250- 300 per meal; 500 daily. We gave out the survival goods donations after the meals were served. Once the virus became widespread in the community, late March and early April, we saw a huge upwelling in the number of people coming to eat. The lines grew to about 400-500 per meal, leaving us without enough food to meet the increased demand. Despite giving priority to children and women to eat first, we knew back then we had to rapidly broaden our network of local and transnational supporters to bring us more food, more donations and more funding to keep our doors open.
 
Since mid-April Tijuana hospitals have been overrun with coronavirus patients, many are sick and still having to go to work for a poverty wage (less than $12 a day for 8+ hours of work). We see hunger and extreme poverty becoming more widespread in our already impoverished Zona Norte community. Furthermore, there is a serious lack of testing for those who are getting sick with covid-19 all over the world, and Tijuana is no exception. It is very likely that going out in public here means coming in contact with the virus. El Ccomedor has adapted to these new challenges and today continues to operate – but now with new tactics tested and added to our playbook.

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, we have adapted our community mutual aid kitchen in Tijuana to serve as a front line crisis preparedness center. There is no social safety net here. Those who have the means will survive this crisis and those who do not are in great peril. We, the volunteers of Contra Viento Y Marea, are doing everything we possibly can to support our impoverished neighborhood during these times of global crisis.  

The money we raised on GoFundMe through March 18, 2020 (totaling $2468) has been used to cover housing costs through the end of the month of April. Then, we were still serving hot meals at our space with additional precautions and protective gear for us, the volunteers, but now that community spread is far worse, we have found other ways to feed our most vulnerable community members and continue to support them with free survival goods.

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After being overwhelmed by the amount of people who were showing up to our daily hot meal servings, we’ve had to adapt. Mainly this is because we were running out of food donations to cook but also the local government was escalating crackdown measures against restaurants who violate new sanitation laws. Local newspapers have also been reporting of food establishments being shut down for allowing crowds to gather at their facilities. We feared that we could be fined or shut down if we continued to allow folks to gather at our space for meals. 

Furthermore, we’ve been affected by the restriction of US-MX border crossing. In late March when restrictions were put into place, we saw a 100% decline of donations from the US. This has meant a complete loss of the majority of all food and clothing donations. This new reality has led us to innovate new ways of continuing to serve food and give out donations to the most vulnerable people; the migrant community, the homeless, the recently deported, and poor working class families. In this new landscape of the Covid-19 crisis, we are working to distribute food and hygiene products by going out onto the streets (in our van, when possible) to quickly distribute any food, blankets, hygiene kits, scarves, warm clothing, and donated facemasks. We give out oatmeal, coffee, or lemonade through our van three times a week driving around la zona norte and la zona centro.

At our space, we assemble and give out boxes of uncooked food to families that regularly knock on our door looking for support. The boxes include milk, beans, rice, pasta, tomato sauce, canned goods and any other food donations we occasionally get from our Mexican community.  We are having to spend more funds on buying food to keep serving in the neighborhood. This is why we are making a callout for support.

As the crisis escalates from bad to worse here in Tijuana, we also have begun collecting raw materials to make face masks and to assemble them ourselves to also provide them to folks in our impoverished neighborhood. We’ve reached a point where the hospitals are overwhelmed and there is nowhere for folks who are sick with Covid-19 to go for medical help, much less support for food or basic goods for survival. We are on the frontline of helping those people who our society has left out to fend for themselves. Help us so we can continue to help migrants and the other people the US has deported across the border, with no regard for their humanity or our community’s well being. Thank you!

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Link to recent article on how El Comedor is working to respond to the added crisis brought on by COVID-19: https://itsgoingdown.org/mutual-aid-community-kitchen-in-tijuana-continues-serving-during-coronavirus-crisis/


About El Comedor

Everything we do is supported through donations. The comedor rent is raised separately through diverse sources that include crowdsource funding and grants. (You can support the comedor rent and bills through this link. ) Drop us your change to make a world of difference in the lives of Central American migrant organizers who are on the front lines of the war on migrants at the US-MX border.

For migrants and refugees, the border crossing at Tijuana is virtually closed. According to the Associated Press, Tijuana has the longest waiting list, of all the border towns, for immigrants trying to enter the US. We have close to 5,000 migrants who are unable to go back home and cannot enter the US who are literally stuck here without any money as they try to wait in line for their number to be called to be able to cross legally. The ‘metering’ system in place is leading many migrants to attempt to cross through more dangerous places or to be caught in a city where cartels often kidnap migrants to extortion their families.

A place like Contra Viento Y Marea’s comedor that’s a few blocks away from the border wall, is vital for them to be able to eat, get a coat and a new backpack while they make life or death decisions about their future. It’s also a place where they can come volunteer and receive free housing, food and transportation while they wait for their asylum cases to go to court.

The area where the comedor is located is one of the poorest neighborhoods starved of the most basic resources. Everything costs less because the average minimum wage for a full day’s work is $10. Even folks who are working full time struggle to support their families and come to us for lunch or dinner. Our space is a welcoming place for recently arriving migrant families, for the homeless community, for those recently deported from the US and anyone else who cannot afford to buy food.

Tijuana is one of the most dangerous cities in the world as it is the crossroads for multiple human, drug and sex trafficking rings. We have been able to secure a safe, comfortable place for the volunteers to rest at night without the worries of being kidnapped or robbed but we need consistent, reliable funding to keep our house.

There are no other migrant led community kitchens in Tijuana that are organized around the principal of mutual aid, not charity. What makes our migrant volunteers special is the fact that they want to actively organize and help our community as a way of giving back in exchange for the help they received along their journey north. They are primarily from Honduras but also from El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua. The migrant volunteers of the comedor came to Tijuana with the second caravan last winter. They started the comedor after the bodega near the Benito Juarez sports stadium where they were living was closed down by the local government. It's the place where this group of Central American migrants from the caravan could gather for meals and check up on one another.

The volunteers have all travelled thousands of miles from home, across the borders of three countries, in hopes of reaching the US in some cases to be reunited with family, in other cases, they are fleeing cartel violence or extreme poverty. While they wait for their asylum cases to be processed, which can take up to a year or longer, they are volunteering at the comedor in exchange for food, a couple of donations of shoes or clothing, and a secure roof over their heads. That’s where you come in. We could not keep the comedor open without the support of donations to house the volunteers who are not paid for their efforts. Please consider giving any amount to the housing of the migrant volunteers so we can continue to run this beautiful space.

In the words of Nelson Mandela, "Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life. While poverty persists, there is no true freedom." Your donations to us are not charity. Your donations are an act of justice because they are helping migrants and others in our community overcome poverty. Your donations change lives.

The house, like the comedor, is run on a consensus based decision-making model. The reasons for doing it this way is because it’s centering control in the hands of the migrant volunteers. Migrants are the ones who call the shots here. We do not have leaders because we are all leaders. This means we do not have an executive director because we believe we can all serve as the decision-makers by voting on the most important things that impact us. Furthermore, we rotate the hardest jobs, like washing dishes and cleaning bathrooms, amongst ourselves. Organizing in this way requires greater communication and participation from everyone, but makes for stronger decisions.

The house and the comedor are examples of what autonomous, migrant led projects can be if only given adequate financial and material support. We hope to serve as an example for other projects seeking to organize away from the non-profit system. If you believe, as we do, that migrants know best about how to run a community project like ours, then support us by sharing this page with your contacts and giving any amount on a monthly basis.


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To donate using Venmo, send funds to @tjrefugee-support with the word ‘Covid’ in the comments.

To donate using Cashapp, send funds to $comedortj; email: [email redacted]

For more information, visit our website http://contravientoymareatj.com/


Check out our Facebook page for regular updates about el comedor. @contravientoymareacomedor


Links to recent articles and videos published about el comedor:

Univision

https://www.facebook.com/groups/702704259881756/permalink/1421627231322785/

Frontera


https://www.facebook.com/frontera/videos/475538236416885/

La Opinion

https://laopinion.com/2019/11/17/migrantes-que-llegan-en-la-caravana-abren-comedor-en-tijuana-para-los-mas-necesitados/?fbclid=IwAR0Y5m4a362nGwI1Pp7P24zefjq8em7n9JQCC6gGH4gU9rsoWuvnkTX06Y0

Zeta Tijuana

https://zetatijuana.com/2019/09/contra-viento-y-marea-el-comedor-comunitario-de-migrantes-para-migrantes/

It’s Going Down 

https://itsgoingdown.org/help-keep-el-comedor-operating/

TijuanaPress.com

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CuVju2vAZYs

Survival Media Agency

 https://vimeo.com/351829155

Televisa

http://xewt12.com/comedor-comunitario-migrantes-migrantes-en-tijuana/

Donations

  • Anonymous 
    • $10 
    • 4 d
  • Jeanne Hobbie 
    • $35 
    • 4 d
  • Anonymous 
    • $100 
    • 11 d
  • Julie Dolan 
    • $25 
    • 14 d
  • Isabel Roney 
    • $5 
    • 28 d
See all

Organizer

Devi Machete 
Organizer
Temetate, VER
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