On March 11th, it was time for our next transition on the trip – from Morocco to Spain. This journey, however, was much different from our prior transition from France to Morocco. This time, rather than hopping on a plane, we took taxicabs and our own feet to cross the border. After our last event in Morocco, a roundtable discussion about immigration from different cultural perspectives, we set off in four cabs for the Spanish/Moroccan border at the Spanish enclave of Ceuta. After about a 30-minute ride, the cabs dropped us off right outside the Moroccan side of the border. Because it was night time and rainy, we all knew we were in for an adventure. Within instants of stepping out of the cabs, we were flocked by Moroccans hollering at us in every language they could think to try. We pushed our way past, and started toward the Moroccan gates, where we had to fill out customs forms. This post will have to be picture-less as we learned, from a screaming guard, that pictures are strictly forbidden at the border. Once crossing through the Moroccan side, we continued walking, through the rain, to the Spanish side. As our passports were being checked and stamped there, a group of us witnessed two figures crawling across the gates. The Spanish guards must have seen this just as we did, because within seconds almost a dozen of them were running after these two figures. As they went off to catch these two people trying to illegally cross, we finished getting our passports stamped, and easily made our way across.
I think this experience really marked all of us. We had read, and heard, a lot about the Spanish enclaves and tensions there with crossing the border. We knew that every day, many Moroccans and Sub-Saharan Africans try to smuggle themselves, others, and goods across in search of a better life. However, there was something about actually witnessing this tension, that changes one’s perspective. While it seemed overwhelming at the time, crossing the border was really very easy for us with our Western passports. For us, mobility is easy. This is not the case for those two dark figures we saw. I don’t think any of us can fully understand what it is like to give up your whole life, to put everything at stake, and to hold just the hope that maybe you will successfully make it across and find things easier on the other side.