Saturday, August 22, 2009

Residents sign across U.S.-Mexico border to educate both countries about Deaf culture

From The Examiner:

On Saturday, August 22, people from Tijuana and San Diego gathered in and around the border on the beach to make friends, have fun, and learn a new perspective on life.

For the third time this year, border residents in San Diego and Tijuana inside and out of the Signing and Deaf communities will be gathering near the Bi-national Friendship Park.

The idea is to promote the learning of Sign Language and getting to know one another across cultural and societal barriers.

A volunteer organization in Tijuana that caters to the Deaf community, helping them get more involved in mainstream society as well as educating the general public about Deaf Culture, will be there teaching everyone how to finger spell their name in Sign Language.

In order to communicate across the border, people will be filling out sheets of paper that say “My Name is/Me llamo…”, “I’m from/Soy de…” and a blank section to share whatever else they want to share.

They will hand the sheets to interpreters who will then sign over to their counter part, 200 feet away with binoculars on the other side of the border so the person can be introduced to the crowd watching on the other side of the border and they can ask questions to get to know the person better and start a cross-border conversation.

The event is a “Border encuentro” event. Border encuentro activities consist of events in which people from both sides of the San Diego/Tijuana border meet through the border fence on the beach or at Friendship Park.

The goal is to bring people together by finding a theme that has no borders, often has a direct effect on improving the region, and always results in friendships across cultural boundaries.

Up until January of this year, it was possible for the Border encuentro, other organizations, and the general public to do events and meet through the primary border fence in an area designated in 1972 by then first lady Patricia Nixon as Friendship Park.

In January of this year, access to the bi-national area was strictly prohibited by the Department of Homeland Security. People are still allowed to get within about 150 ft of the primary barrier on the US side and right up to it on the Mexican side.

In order to continue its mission of making friends across the border, Border encuentro recognized that the new gap was a perfect opportunity for the Deaf community and those interested in the community to “Sign Through” and started reaching out to the Sign language communities on both sides of the border.

The interpreters are fluent in English and Spanish and can sign in both American Sign Language (ASL) and Lengua de SeƱas Mexicana (LSM). Last month, Border encuentro used giant sound dishes to communicate across the border and do a language exchange across the new divide and has been doing bi-national activities since summer 2005. For info on the upcoming “Signing Through III” event as well as past events, go to