If you read my story last week on a group of locals who use sign language to make friends across the U.S.-Mexico border, you may remember the comments of Adrian Posadas, whom I met from across the fence and with whom I’ve had an ongoing conversation since.
He wrote to me, saying his English wasn’t great, but reflecting on why that mattered less when using sign language for cross-border communication:
I felt closer (to you) because I didn’t feel the language barrier so strong. I didn’t have to worry about the pronunciation or my listening, I just had to see the hands expressions. Some things I communicated not for a specific sign, but with simple mimicry. It would be interesting doing more things like these and see how far we could get for communicate us and try to erase the psychologic borders that limit us for work together.
Hector Tobar wrote a thoughtful piece in yesterday’s Los Angeles Times in which he also reflects on how his interactions with the border, as an American visiting Tijuana, led him to manipulate his use of language in a way in which he was not necessarily proud.
Though Posada’s experience was positive and Tobar’s not quite so, they both reached similar conclusions, it seemed, about how the physical border contributed to what Posadas called “the psychologic borders that limit us.”
Tobar put it another way: “I learned that the fence is in my brain. And that it can take hold of my tongue.”