‘Aquí lo que hay que seh,’ the bearded man half-shouted to his friend on the other side of Cathedral Square, ‘eh cerra la frontera una veh por toah.’
I’m not sure why the fellow came up with this remark, but his words made me think of ‘On the Border: Two Cities, Two Countries, Common Ground’, a piece that I had recently read in the NEW YORK TIMES.
Written by a Texan journalist called Cecilia Ballí, it focused on the history of Nogales, a Mexican town that in 1853 was effectively split in two – with one half of Nogales becoming part of Arizona, and the other half remaining in the Mexican state of Sonora.
With passion and conviction, Ballí writes about the two Nogaleses – in close proximity, but fated to remain apart – and how the consequences of that original cleavage are still being felt one hundred and sixty-five years later.
But what struck me most about the piece was how differently men and women see the fence that stretches like an unhealing scar across the divided town.
“Women are very much more sympathetic,” one of the American ‘fronterizos’ interviewed for Ballí’s article is quoted as saying. “When they spot some of the families reaching between steel bars to hug each other, or holding up a newborn baby for their relatives on the other side to meet, women will frequently cry. But many of the men say, ‘build it higher.’”
Reading this, I couldn’t help but think about our own border with Spain and how it is almost always men – rather than women – who are calling for the frontier gates to be closed.
I think it’s because women have a greater capacity for empathy than men and because they can see all those interstitial grey areas which males, in their desire to compartmentalise the world into black and white absolutes, sometimes fail to register.
To borrow a line from a scholarly friend of mine: ‘Place a random man in front of a border fence and there’s a fair chance he’ll see an affront to his pride; place a random woman in front of the same border fence and she’ll probably see an affront to humanity.’
M. G. Sanchez has written nine books on Gibraltarian subjects, among them novels, short story collections, books of essays and autobiographical memoirs, all of which are available on Amazon. More information on his writing can be found at www.mgsanchez.net/media or on his Facebook page. He also tweets under the handle @MGSanchez.