I’ll be in Nogales this Saturday for a very special event, the 2017 Encuentro en la Frontera (Convergence on the Border), taking place from November 10–12.
This massive rally is sponsored by the School of Americas Watch (SOAW), a nonprofit dedicated to closing what was once called the School of Americas and is now called WHINSEC (Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation). The school, originally in Panama and now at Fort Benning, AR, has been a training center for Latin American military and police for decades — and long known to teach torture techniques.
Washington, DC-based SOAW has held a vigil at Ft. Benning for years (this photo shows Dr. Martín Almada [on the right] and others participating in the 2012 vigil) but recently opened an office in Tucson and began the border convergence, which is all the more vital now with the specter of “the wall” and the current crackdown on immigrants.
I joined a SOAW delegation to Paraguay in 2013 to observe the presidential election there and was impressed by this worthy organization. It was founded by Father Roy Bourgeois (in the center of the photo); here is his biography from the SOAW website:
“Born in Lutcher, Louisiana, Fr. Roy served as a Naval Officer for two years before entering the seminary of the Maryknoll Missionary Order. Ordained a Catholic priest in 1972, Roy went on to work with the poor of Bolivia for five years before being arrested and forced to leave the country, then under the repressive rule of dictator and SOA grad General Hugo Banzer.
“In 1980 Fr. Roy became involved in issues surrounding US policy in El Salvador after four US churchwomen–two of them friends of his–were raped and killed by Salvadoran soldiers. Roy became an outspoken critic of US foreign policy in Latin America. Since then, he has spent over four years in US federal prisons for nonviolent protests against the training of Latin American soldiers at Ft. Benning, Georgia. In 1990, Roy founded School of the Americas Watch.”
The charismatic Fr. Roy will be at the convergence along with many speakers, artists, and activists from around the world. If you can’t make it to the border this weekend, consider supporting SOAW in other ways. But perhaps I’ll see you there!