Home » Blog » Ministry at the border: belleza (beauty) of binationality

Ministry at the border: belleza (beauty) of binationality

Sister Tracey Horan is the new Education Coordinator at the Kino Border Initiative/Iniciativa Kino para la Frontera. In this role, she works with an education team to coordinate and host individuals and groups for immersions to the U.S./Mexico border. There she and others engage participants on the current reality of migration. Since her arrival in July, they have hosted six high school groups for this experience, 58 individuals in total.  

Before I arrived in Nogales, Arizona last month, I already had a sense that I was stepping into a place where cultures mix. In communications with the woman with whom I would be staying for part of my transition to the U.S./Mexico border, I noticed that she switched back and forth between English and Spanish. Even after talking to her on the phone, I wasn’t quite sure what her dominant language was.

A view of Ambos Nogales, the border city in Arizona/Mexico, where Sister Tracey Horan now ministers. You can see the border wall dividing it in the distance.

Shared city

This is how things are in the border town of Nogales, the place I now call home. Nogales is a mid-sized city in the high desert that sits on a passage across the hills of southern Arizona, U.S. and northern Sonora, Mexico. Collectively referred to as “Ambos Nogales” or “Both Nogales,” Nogales, Arizona and Nogales, Sonora once existed as one city, one community. The town motto of Nogales, Sonora reads, “Juntos por amor a Nogales,” which translates, “United by the love of Nogales.” In some ways, the connections and movement between the two show that it still is one.

An art piece titled, “Paseo de la Humanidad” by Taller Yonke along the border wall in Nogales.

As I walk to the downtown port of entry several times a week to cross into Mexico, I encounter a visual sign of this fluidity — people walking toward the turnstile to Mexico, people waiting in line to cross into the U.S. Although the belleza (beauty) of this movement and exchange is made less vibrant by the steel barriers and rows of barbed wire, this does not stop people from being people — from greeting each other, from letting an elderly woman with a cane pass through, from giggling at an unruly child’s antics.


The belleza of this binationality shone through last week at a despedida (good bye party) for a colleague at the Kino Border Initiative who would be moving on to another ministry.  Volunteers from both Arizona and Sonora filled the room. Conversations could be heard in Spanish, English, and creative mixtures of the two. I sat my vegan tofu dish alongside bags of chicharrónes (Mexican pork rinds) with all the traditional fixings.

Candles painted on the border wall at Nogales.

As I looked around and absorbed the cariño profundo (profound care) manifest in that room, even in the stumbling between languages and sometimes clumsy attempts to learn each other’s dance moves, I wished that decision makers working to build ever higher walls and send more armed troops to patrol the border could see what I saw: the belleza of binationality.

Flowing together

As much as we humans believe we can control the movement of people, animals and resources, Mother Nature has a way of offering a swift reality check. In the case of Ambos Nogales, she reminds us that no matter how high we build a wall to separate these lands, they literally flow together. The water here flows south to north – from the hills in northwestern Mexico toward Phoenix via the Santa Cruz River. In southern Arizona, we rely on the flow of life-giving water from our southern neighbors for survival.

Image from 2007 report from AZ Department of Environmental Quality shows water flow from Sonora, Mexico to Arizona, USA.

Of course through our own water treatment and levy systems we’ve tried to tame even this connectedness. Still, as I move into this new ministry of accompanying and learning from people on the move — people fleeing violence, seeking opportunity, working to keep their families together — I find some solace in the ways Creation shows us that division is a farce. I find my compass is realigned when I remember the truth is that we need each other.

Share this:

Sister Tracey Horan

Sister Tracey Horan

Sister Tracey Horan is a Sister of Providence in formation. She professed first vows in 2017. She is a former intern at White Violet Center for Eco-Justice, a ministry of the Sisters of Providence. She currently ministers as education coordinator at the Kino Border Initiative/Iniciativa Kino para la Frontera where she works with an education team to coordinate and host individuals and groups for immersions to the U.S./Mexico border in order to engage participants on the current reality of migration.

Plan for your future!

Leave the things you value to the people and purposes you value most.

Updated Estate Planning Info. here

Farm Internships!

Are you interested in interning at White Violet Center?

Learn more here


  1. Avatar S. Carol Nolan on August 16, 2019 at 8:08 am

    Tracey, thank you! Thank you! Know that you are very specially in our prayers. I am so proud of you, and your work there confirms my belief in the value of education. Keep it up, girl! XXX

  2. Avatar Mary Carroll Blocher on August 16, 2019 at 9:22 am

    Tracey, thank you for being there representing all of us. We pray for you, your fellow workers and all those involved in aiding the border situation.

    • Avatar Charles Fisher on August 21, 2019 at 7:53 am

      Tracey, please say hello to Fr. Sean for me. We worked together when I was the Executive Director of Catholic Community Services in Southeastern Arizona. That included Santa Cruz County.
      Blessings on your Ministry!
      Chuck Fisher

  3. Avatar Donna Butler on August 16, 2019 at 10:06 am

    Thank you for helping us to feel a part of your ministry. I always appreciate your thoughtful perspective and reflective insights.

  4. Avatar Betty Sloan on August 16, 2019 at 6:25 pm

    God bless you and your work. May you feel the love and support of the Sisters of Providence Community….S.P’s and P.A’s

  5. Avatar Diann Neu on August 21, 2019 at 9:27 am

    Gracias, Tracey, for sharing your much needed ministry of accompaniment and education with us. May Providence surround you with love, care, and safety.

  6. Avatar S. Janice Smith, SP on August 21, 2019 at 10:20 am

    Thank you, Tracey,
    For this beautiful reflection. It also brought back to me special memories of some years ago when a large group of us did a 3 day walk from Nogales, Sonora for 25 miles north into the US in support of migrants. This was nearly 10 years ago now and we are still struggling with welcoming our hermanas e hermanos….Sighhhh… keep up the good work and advocacy!!!

  7. Avatar madonna on August 21, 2019 at 10:31 am

    Thank you so very much. You are proof that we don’t need D.C. to fix things. We the people can achieve more than D.C. could in 100 years. Please keep blogging and let us know how things are.

  8. Avatar Sister Joan Kirkpatrick on August 22, 2019 at 8:12 pm

    Thank you, Tracy! My heart is warmed by your giving of yourself to the refugees. I pray for them every day and appreciate your being there linking the Sisters of Providence to so great a cause. My love and prayers are with you, S. Joan Kirkpatrick

  9. Avatar Eileen Horan on August 25, 2019 at 12:40 pm

    Dearest Tracey, Thank you for sharing your work and for being Providence at the border. I pray for you every day!

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.