Explore Class 2 Visits “Ambos Nogales”

May 8, 2023

Visiting the border town of Nogales is such a beautiful experience, especially for those who have never visited such a unique place before. In the second year of Valley Leadership’s Explore program, Nogales exceeded our expectations!

Our partners in Nogales welcomed our second class with open arms and embraced the co-creation of the program experience. They helped to make adjustments to the previous year to ensure we could further develop and learn the story of Nogales from the folks who live and work there every day.

Our first day was packed. The journey started at the Santa Cruz County Provisional Community College District building, where local leaders in economic development representing the Port Authority and Startup Unidos shared their experience and knowledge with the Explore class. We learned about the South 32 mine in Patagonia, the impact of the border as a crossing for significant amounts of produce feeding the nation, and how they support local entrepreneurs and build workshop development efforts.

“The organizations and people we connected with were so knowledgeable and shared great information,” said one of the program participants. “Some of the discussions I did not want to end!”

Afterward, we toured a local cooling center, seeing firsthand the volume of produce and learning about how this industry works. Participants were offered fresh watermelon and walked away with delicious mangoes to take home! Later we met with the board chair for the Nogales Community Development Corporation and ate lunch at a local restaurant with historic roots, now owned and operated by the county supervisor. 

After lunch we traveled to the historic courthouse where we learned from a panel about the unique nature of education in Nogales that serves students from both sides of the border. We then transitioned to a walking tour of murals by a local artist, visited the Friday night market, and ended with a sneak peak of the new Wittner Museum covered floor to ceiling in oil paintings from an artist in Patagonia. For dinner, we crossed the border and went to La Roca that had live music and delicious food before turning in to prepare for our next day in Mexico. 

Day two started at Kino Border Initiative where participants broke into groups to learn about the stories of the people seeking asylum in the U.S. and to serve breakfast to the long line of folks who showed up for a meal that morning. Two women shared their personal stories of leaving their homes to find safety for their families, allowing the Explore group to deeply connect with the underlying motivations for enduring such a difficult journey. One participant shared that “having the opportunity to witness what happens and to serve at the Kino Border Initiative was an amazing experience.” 

Our next stop was ARSOBO, an organization that makes prosthetics, wheelchairs, and hearing devices at a cost that is accessible to those who wouldn’t normally have access to these tools. Afterwards, we stopped at La Llorona, an incredible restaurant where the founder of Borderlandia coordinated a delicious lunch for the group, and shared their goal of shifting perceptions about the region and highlighting the beautiful culture and history of this amazing city. We wrapped up our program day at a co-working space where we learned about ARINAC, the local human resources organization that manages the workforce in the maquiladoras industry, which provides the majority of jobs in Nogales, Sonora. 

Our time in Nogales was as powerful as always, and we are so grateful to have such an amazing group of participants to experience these emotional and impactful adventures. One of our participants said it best, “This trip was super emotional and impactful. A great experience I will never forget.”

Thank you to everyone who supported us on our trip and all of the amazing organizations we were able to connect with!

For more photos, please visit our Facebook album.

Special thanks to all of our community partners who made the trip such an incredible experience.

Tom KieferPhotographer, El Sueño Americano
Stephanie BermudezStartup Unidos
Evan KorySanta Cruz County Arts for Learning Program Director
Priscilla RodriguezArtist / Nogallería
Alex La PierreFounder & Owner of Borderlandia
Francisco PadillaRegional Director First Things First
Christopher YoungChief Deputy, Superintendent’s Office
Guillermo ValenciaPresident and Co-owner of Valencia International, Inc.
Eleazar CoronadoSenior Associate, Verdugo & Associates
Bruce BrackerCounty Supervisor / Board of Nogales Community Development
Francisco TrujilloExecutive Director of ARSOBO
Alma Cota de YanezExecutive Director FESAC
Joanna WilliamsExecutive Director Kino Border Initiative
Josh RubinVice President of Business Development at Javid LLC
Yoselin CardenasDirector of Economic Development, Nogales, Sonora
Aissa HuertaSanta Cruz County Arts for learning Program Director
Jessica FrederickNogales Unified School District
Nilo LarrivaExecutive Director of the Nogales Community Development Corporation

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