Submitted by Nikki Hertel Meirose, President of Project Puente Board
We were very careful in choosing the name of Project Puente. We wanted something that truly spoke to our vision for achieving a more just world. We believe that a better world is possible by connecting people to each other- buy tearing down walls and replacing them with bridges, by allowing people to form relationships with those who they consider “others,” people who are different than themselves. The word puente is bridge in Spanish. We consider our immersion trip experiences the foundation to incredible bridges that are built as relationships are formed. Our hope is that when we bring groups from the interior of the United States to the border, they will meet immigrants, people from a different country, who speak a different language, who have grown up in different conditions; and they will recognize the many ways in which they are the same. They will recognize their common humanity. And in that experience, we all become more human.
In preparing for the annual strategic planning meeting of the Project Puente board of directors, I came upon a quote by Chicana activist Gloria Anzaldúa. In This Bridge We Call Home- Radical Visions for Transformation, she writes:
“Bridges are thresholds to other realities, archetypal, primal symbols of shifting consciousness. They are passageways, conduits, and connectors that connote transitioning, crossing borders, and changing perspectives. Bridges span liminal (threshold) spaces between worlds, spaces I call nepantla, a Nahutl word meaning tierra entre medio. Transformations occur in this in-between space, an unstable, unpredictable, precarious, always-in-transition space lacking clear boundaries. Nepantla es tierra desconocida, and living in this liminal zone means being in a constant state of displacement—an uncomfortable, even alarming feeling… Though this state links us to other ideas, people, and worlds, we feel threatened by these new connections and the change they engender… I use the word nepantla to theorize liminality and to talk about those who facilitate passages between worlds, whom I’ve named nepantleras. I associate nepantla with states of mind that question old ideas and beliefs, acquire new perspectives, change worldviews, and shift from one world to another.”
Somos nepantleras. We are nepantleras. We are creating experiences of the in-between space of transformation. We are facilitating passages between worlds. And this is our vision for a better world for all human beings.