Travel and Community Engagement, Border Studies | Earlham College
COVID-19 news, plans and updates | READ MORE
Skip to Content

Travel and Community Engagement

Caborca Spring 18

The travel seminars, excursions and community engagements are intended to enhance students' understanding of the different issues faced by border communities today.  As one aspect of the program's experiential learning curriculum, students engage with different people and community organizations working along both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border by travelling to different locales. Required program excursions then are designed to complement the academic work students are engaged while in the borderlands. Multi-day excursions have included trips to Altar, Cananea, Caborca, Hermosillo, and Nogales in Sonora, Mexico, trips to Arivaca, Ajo and Patagonia in Arizona, El Paso and Big Bend in Texas, and a number of places in the southern states of Chiapas and Oaxaca. The program also includes a number of one-day excursions to observe first-hand the ways policies and laws shape the experiences of people inhabiting or in transit through this region. These visits include going to Operation Streamline, visiting Border Patrol and the Eloy or Florence Detention Centers. We also learn of the response by community groups to the needs emerging in the borderlands by engaging in workdays with grassroots organizations, visiting community gardens, engaging in a barrio walk, participating in local projects and events, and speaking to local organizers and activists.    

 Nogales Collage 2

Images: (Top Left of page): Students on a desert walk in Caborca, Mexico where they learned about the Tohono O'Odham community residing on the Mexican side of the border. (Left) Students walking along the wall on the U.S. Mexico Border, Nogales. (Right) Students working with Taller Yunque, a local Nogales Art Collective, on an art piece that will be placed on the Nogales, Sonora side of the border wall.  


Travelling to places such as Nogales, Altar, and Cananea in the Sonoran valley on the Mexican side of the border gives students an on the ground perspective of the effects of Mexican and U.S. immigration policies on migrants, neoliberalism and labor, environmental degradation, and community responses through art, neighborhood and labor organizing, and education. These excursions may include visiting a factory (maquila), a night at a migrant shelter, a day-long service project, visits to the desert where many people travel north, visiting the border wall, conversations with migrants, and opportunities to speak and collaborate with activist groups, labor union leaders, scholars, and neighborhood organizers. 


Nogales Cananea Collage

Images (clockwise from top left): Students learning about the impact of neoliberal policies, NAFTA  and maquilas on colonias (neighborhoods) from HEPAC trip leader in Nogales, MX; Students participating in School of the Americas Watch (SOAW) border encuentro; BSP students and staff with members of Cananea labor union- Sindicato Minero Sección 65; BSP group learning from local scholar/activist the effects of mining in Cananea, MX   


In trips such as those to Ajo and Arivaca, students have the opportunity to learn about the responses of small, rural communities to the ongoing militarization of the border, the re-emergence of militia, and the displacement of migration routes to more isolated and harsher terrain by U.S. immigration policy. Often, students are invited to participate in humanitarian projects by local grassroots groups such as People Helping People (PHP), Samaritans and No More Deaths.    

 Ajo Arivaca Collage

Images (from left to right): Students and local humanitarian aid workers walking the desert in Ajo to leave water, food and socks for migrants; students writing messages to migrants on clean water gallons in Arivaca.  


During the semester, BSP also travels to a comparative location on the U.S.-Mexico border such the cities of El Paso/Juarez. The goal of this excursion is to provide students with different border experiences to the ones that they have encountered on the southern Arizona borderlands. This trip may include visits with local migrant justice organizations such as Annunciation House, academics from the University of Texas- El Paso (UTEP), labor, migrant justice, anti-gentrification organizers and activists as well as artists and other cultural workers. This excursion may also include day-long service projects or opportunities to collaborate with activist groups. In the recent past, students have supported the work of Annunciation House with asylum seeking families recently released by ICE. Sometimes, BSP adds to this trip a couple of days camping in Big Bend National Park.  Big Bend adds a new perspective on what natural landscape barriers to migration might looks like on the southern U.S.- Mexico border.   

 El Paso CollageImages (clockwise from top left): Students learning about the history of Segundo Barrio through a mural tour with local artist; BSP in Annuciation House hearing from volunteers about their work; Students walking alongside the border wall in Anapra; Students hiking in Big Bend National Park.   


Depending on the semester, the travel seminar may take place in the state of Oaxaca or in Chiapas. This trip gives students the opportunity to learn directly from local activists, scholars, legal observers, artists, indigenous community leaders, and grassroots organizations about the different effects of global economic policies as well as specific national politics on communities in the southern region of Mexico. While travelling through Chiapas, students learn about Mexico's southern border, migration in and through Mexico, NAFTA, alternative economic projects, cooperatives, indigenous education, resistance art, and indigenous resistance by autonomous communities such as the EZLN and Las Abejas. Some of the places we may visit include Tapachula, Cuidad Hidalgo, San Cristobal de las Casas and nearby autonomous communities in resistance. In Oaxaca, BSP works with SURCO and travels to Santa Maria de Yaviche to learn about indigenous education, language, radio broadcasting, and other autonomous community projects. BSP also goes to Teotitlán del Valle to speak with members of a women's textile collective and to the city of Oaxaca to experience resistance art and speak to grassroots activists on a number of different topics such as migrant justice, mega-projects such as mining or dams, gender and sexuality in Mexico, and revolutionary art.  

 Chiapas CollageImages (clockwise from top left): Students learning about Central American migration at the Suchiate River (which borders of Guatemala and Mexico); La Bestia at Arriaga, Chiapas; the lodgings in EZLN Caracol IV in Morelia, Chiapas; BSP students and staff in Caracol IV learning about autonomous governance. 


Oaxaca CollageImages (clockwise from top left): Students hiking in Santa Maria de Yaviche, Oaxaca; Community Radio Station in Oaxaca; student trying their hand at weaving; Señora from the women's collective teaching students about natural plant and mineral dyes for textiles. 


Print Friendly and PDF

Earlham College, an independent, residential college, aspires to provide the highest-quality undergraduate education in the liberal arts and sciences, shaped by the distinctive perspectives of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers).

Earlham College
801 National Road West
Richmond, Indiana
1-765-983-1200 — Main Switchboard
1-800-EARLHAM (327-5426) — Admission


Earlham admits students of any race, color, national and ethnic origin, age, gender and sexual orientation to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national and ethnic origin, age, gender and sexual orientation in administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic and other school-administered programs.