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A PERSONAL MESSAGE FROM UPWORTHY
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9 things most people don't know about life on the Mexican-American border.

We're masters at juggling the two cultures that surround us.

I grew up in Nogales, Arizona, a border town along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Nogales has always had a big, physical barrier between the two countries, and I never quite understood what that meant as a kid. Back then, it was normal to drive along the freeway toward downtown and see a whole other world through a dingy fence.

Homes in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, across the border from Nogales, Arizona. Image by Nieves Montaño, used with permission.


Through that fence, I remember seeing houses seemingly stacked on top of each other, painted in bright colors, like hot pink or teal. I always wondered how those residents got in and out of their houses, which were perched on a steep hill. I imagined a long stairway winding up the back of the mountain, a stairway that I couldn't see.

Mexico wasn't physically far away from me at any time growing up. But culturally, Nogales, Mexico, was worlds apart from Nogales, Arizona.

Lately, there's been a lot of conversation about border towns. So as someone who has lived in one, here are nine things I want you to know about living on the U.S.-Mexico border:

1. Going back and forth between countries is hard ... and easy.

It's super easy to walk or drive from Arizona into Mexico.

When I was growing up, we often drove or walked across the border for everyday activities and errands. As an American, it was easy to cross the border to have lunch with a friend or even to attend less costly doctor appointments.

Even today, if you walk to Mexico, there's hardly (if any) contact with an agent. If you're crossing the border in a car, you may get sent off to the side for a quick car inspection, but that's about it.

View from Nogales, Arizona, going toward the Mexican port of entry. Image by Jesus F. Barrón, used with permission.

But crossing from Mexico into the U.S. is no piece of cake.

If you want to walk from Mexico back into the U.S., you'll have to stand in line and wait to be called up to a counter by an immigrations agent. They'll ask you to show your passport and possibly answer a few questions, and you'll also be subjected to a search.

If you drive across, you're looking at a minimum of 30-45-minute wait in your car to reach the checkpoint. Then the agent will ask you questions, ask to see your passport, and possibly ask to search your car.

It's super easy to leave America, but not so much to come back ... which is a small example of the much larger story of immigration in America.

Cars waiting to cross from Mexico into Nogales, Arizona. Image by Alicia E. Barrón.

2. Some Mexican children cross the border every day to attend school in America.

Fernanda Astrain lives in Nogales, Mexico, and she drives her two elementary school kids to a private school in the U.S. every day so they can learn English while simultaneously learning about the Catholic faith, which is very important to her.

A group of Catholic school students. Image by Alicia E. Barrón.

3. There are also special circumstances during which border crossings become more common from Mexico to the U.S.

On Christmas Day, for example, kids from Nogales, Mexico, are often selected at random and bused over to the U.S. to collect presents and a meal.

And once a month, volunteers prepare special permissions from customs so that kids from Mexico can come to the U.S. side and get medical treatment from American doctors.

4. Border towns tend to be almost 100% bicultural, which affects the terminology we use.

Most kids on the border grow up thinking everyone is bilingual — I know I did. This is because, in order to communicate in a border town, you really do have to understand both languages.

This can affect even basic things like the terms we use, terms I've never heard used anywhere else. For example, I grew up referring to Nogales as "el otro lado," which literally translates into "the other side" (this term applied whether we were on the American or the Mexican side).

Another curious term that I've found to be completely exclusive to our border town vernacular is "across the line." Say that to anybody who's not from Nogales, and they'll look at you perplexed. But for us, Nogales, Mexico, was so close that it was literally "across the line."

Looking through the iron fence from Arizona into Mexico. Image by Alicia E. Barrón.

5. But if you don't speak English? No problem!

In border towns like mine, Spanish takes precedence. The "No hablo Inglés" phrase is almost nonexistent in American border towns with Mexico because, while some may not speak English, all of us speak Spanish.

Most of us also speak a hybrid variation. It's very fluid and natural and now has an unofficial official name: Spanglish. While ordering at a drive-through, it's completely normal and acceptable to place your entire order in English, Spanish, or Spanglish. The message will always come across loud and clear, no matter how you say it.

6. When I was growing up, we got to boogie young.

Growing up in a border town, I was exposed to nightlife a lot sooner than most American kids. That's changed quite a bit in the last 20 years, but back then, a fake ID could get you into any bar or club in Mexico when you were as young as 14 or 15.

Good idea? Absolutely not. Was it a good time? You bet! However, mandated curfews and officers waiting at the border for incoming partygoers from Mexico have really changed things to ensure everyone's safety. Parents are now required to go pick up their kids at the border if they're under 18 years old and coming back from Mexico late at night.

Nogales, Sonora, Mexico. Image by Nieves Montaño, used with permission.

7. Culture shock? Also not a thing for me.

When you cross that line between Arizona to Mexico, you'll instantly see a difference in culture, hear a difference in sounds, and experience a totally different environment from the one you're coming from. But for me, there was never such a thing as culture shock.

Living between and within two cultures was my norm, and I still find that I can navigate between the two worlds seamlessly. In many of my childhood memories, Nogales, Mexico, bleeds into Nogales, Arizona. I wish more places had a melding of cultures like this.

8. The curious case of the currency.

We often use American and Mexican currencies in my town, which means a two-peso coin and a quarter are easily confused because they are the same size and shape. It's not uncommon to be rummaging through your coin bag and present the cashier with a handful of pesos.

The kicker is just how different they are in terms of actual monetary value, though. The devastating devaluation of the peso (currently at about 19 pesos per dollar) is also making things extremely difficult for people who work in Mexico. As Astrain (who you'll remember lives in Nogales, Mexico) explains, "My husband earns money in pesos and we are spending money in U.S. dollars. That is expensive!!"

A quarter and a two-peso coin are roughly the same size. Image by Jesus F. Barrón, used with permission.

9. The Border Patrol is a constant presence.

I'm used to it, but you might be shocked if you visited my town because those green and white vans and SUV are everywhere. There are also agents on bicycles always riding around town.

Oddly enough, while the agents become part of our reality, they're also pretty detached. For the most part, they don't get to know the community, and we don't get to know them. They're there to do a job, and once you get used to it, they almost start to blend in.

Image by Alicia E. Barrón.

With all this talk about Donald Trump building a yuuuuuuge wall between the U.S. and Mexico, border towns like mine have suddenly jumped into the limelight.

But oddly enough, few people who actually live or have lived on the border are losing sleep over this divisive rhetoric. Yes, the border wall has served a huge political purpose as both a literal and figurative prop in this election. But to most of us who live exactly where it's supposed to go up, the concept is obviously flawed.

The odds of waking up to a mega-team of construction workers erecting a 10-foot-tall wall in our hometown seems so highly unlikely as to be almost impossible. We would sooner expect a visit from the Queen of England.

To me, growing up in a border town means being part of two cultures.

Living in a border town is about an added layer of cultural identity. It means becoming a master at juggling American culture and Mexican customs. It means that every fiber of my being is bicultural.

To me, growing up in a border town has been the best secret weapon I could ask for. I'm able to go into the world and explore it with an open mind and as much curiosity as I can gather.

View of the wall from the Mexican side of the border. Image by Nieves Montaño, used with permission.

As the saying goes: You can take the girl out of the border town, but you can't take the border town out of the girl. And for that, I am extremely, and truly, grateful.

Because after walking across a line for my whole life, boundaries don't seem so immoveable.

Photos from Tay Nakamoto

Facebook is no longer just your mom’s favorite place to share embarassing photos.

The social media platform has grown in popularity for young users and creators who enjoy forming connections with like-minded individuals through groups and events.

Many of these users even take things offline, meeting up in person for activities like book clubs, brunch squads, and Facebook IRL events, like the recent one held in New York City, and sharing how they use Facebook for more than just social networking.

“Got to connect with so many people IRL at an incredible Facebook pop up event this past weekend!” creator @Sistersnacking said of the event. So many cool activities like airbrushing, poster making + vision boarding, a Marketplace photo studio, and more.”

Tay Nakamoto, a designer known for her whimsical, colorful creations, attended the event and brought her stunning designs to the public. On Facebook, she typically shares renter-friendly hacks, backyard DIY projects, and more with her audience of 556K. For the IRL event, she created many of the designs on display, including a photobooth area, using only finds from Facebook Marketplace.

“Decorating out of 100% Facebook Marketplace finds was a new challenge but I had so much fun and got it doneeee. This was all for the Facebook IRL event in NYC and I got to meet such amazing people!!” Nakamoto shared on her page.


Also at the event was Katie Burke, the creator of Facebook Group “Not Wasting My Twenties.” Like many other recent grads at the start of the pandemic, she found herself unemployed and feeling lost. So she started the group as a way to connect with her peers, provide support for one anopther, and document the small, everyday joys of life.

The group hosts career panels, created a sister group for book club, and has meetups in cities around the US.

Another young creator making the most of Facebook is Josh Rincon, whose mission is to teach financial literacy to help break generational poverty. He grew his audience from 0 to over 1 million followers in six months, proving a growing desire for educational content from a younger generation on the platform.

He’s passionate about making finance accessible and engaging for everyone, and uses social media to teach concepts that are entertaining yet educational.

No matter your interests, age, or location, Facebook can be a great place to find your people, share your ideas, and even make new friends IRL.

Science

Researchers dumped tons of coffee waste into a forest. This is what it looks like now.

30 dump truck loads and two years later, the forest looks totally different.

One of the biggest problems with coffee production is that it generates an incredible amount of waste. Once coffee beans are separated from cherries, about 45% of the entire biomass is discarded.

So for every pound of roasted coffee we enjoy, an equivalent amount of coffee pulp is discarded into massive landfills across the globe. That means that approximately 10 million tons of coffee pulp is discarded into the environment every year.



When disposed of improperly, the waste can cause serious damage soil and water sources.

However, a new study published in the British Ecological Society journal Ecological Solutions and Evidence has found that coffee pulp isn't just a nuisance to be discarded. It can have an incredibly positive impact on regrowing deforested areas of the planet.

via British Ecological Society

In 2018, researchers from ETH-Zurich and the University of Hawaii spread 30 dump trucks worth of coffee pulp over a roughly 100' x 130' area of degraded land in Costa Rica. The experiment took place on a former coffee farm that underwent rapid deforestation in the 1950s.

The coffee pulp was spread three-feet thick over the entire area.

Another plot of land near the coffee pulp dump was left alone to act as a control for the experiment.

"The results were dramatic." Dr. Rebecca Cole, lead author of the study, said. "The area treated with a thick layer of coffee pulp turned into a small forest in only two years while the control plot remained dominated by non-native pasture grasses."

In just two years, the area treated with coffee pulp had an 80% canopy cover, compared to just 20% of the control area. So, the coffee-pulp-treated area grew four times more rapidly. Like a jolt of caffeine, it reinvigorated biological activity in the area.

The canopy was also four times taller than that of the control.

Before and after images of the forest

The forest experienced a radical, positive change

via British Ecological Society

The coffee-treated area also eliminated an invasive species of grass that took over the land and prevented forest succession. Its elimination allowed for other native species to take over and recolonize the area.

"This case study suggests that agricultural by-products can be used to speed up forest recovery on degraded tropical lands. In situations where processing these by-products incurs a cost to agricultural industries, using them for restoration to meet global reforestation objectives can represent a 'win-win' scenario," Dr. Cole said.

If the results are repeatable it's a win-win for coffee drinkers and the environment.

Researchers believe that coffee treatments can be a cost-effective way to reforest degraded land. They may also work to reverse the effects of climate change by supporting the growth of forests across the globe.

The 2016 Paris Agreement made reforestation an important part of the fight against climate change. The agreement incentivizes developing countries to reduce deforestation and forest degradation, promote forest conservation and sustainable management, and enhance forest carbon stocks in developing countries.

"We hope our study is a jumping off point for other researchers and industries to take a look at how they might make their production more efficient by creating links to the global restoration movement," Dr. Cole said.


This article originally appeared on 03.29.21

Health

Please read this before you post another RIP on social media

There is a hierarchy of grief and it's important to know where you fall on it before posting about someone's death.

Image from GOOD.

Working through grief is a community thing.


Grieving in the technology age is uncharted territory.

I'll take you back to Saturday, June 9, 2012. At 8:20 a.m., my 36-year-old husband was pronounced dead at a hospital just outside Washington, D.C.

By 9:20 a.m., my cellphone would not stop ringing or text-alerting me long enough for me to make the necessary calls that I needed to make: people like immediate family, primary-care doctors to discuss death certificates and autopsies, funeral homes to discuss picking him up, and so on. Real things, important things, time-sensitive, urgent things.

At 9:47 a.m., while speaking to a police officer (because yes, when your spouse dies, you must be questioned by the police immediately), one call did make it through. I didn't recognize the number. But in those moments, I knew I should break my normal rule and answer all calls. "He's dead??? Oh my God. Who's with you? Are you OK? Why am I reading this on Facebook? Taya, what the heck is going on?"


Facebook? I was confused. I hadn't been on Facebook since the day before, so I certainly hadn't taken the time in the last 90 minutes to peek at the site.

"I'll call you back", I screamed and hung up. I called my best friend and asked her to search for anything someone might have written and to contact them immediately and demand they delete it. I still hadn't spoken to his best friend, or his godsister, or our godchild's parents, or a million other people! Why would someone post it to Facebook SO FAST?

While I can in no way speak for the entire planet, I certainly feel qualified to propose some suggestions — or, dare I say, rules — for social media grieving.

How many RIPs have you seen floating through your social media stream over the last month? Probably a few. Death is a fate that we will each meet at some point. The Information Age has changed the ways in which we live and communicate daily, yet there are still large voids in universally accepted norms.

This next statement is something that is impossible to understand unless you've been through it:

There is a hierarchy of grief.

Yes, a hierarchy. It's something people either don't understand or understand but don't want to think or talk about — yet we must.

There is a hierarchy of grief.

Hierarchy is defined as:

  1. a system or organization in which people or groups are ranked one above the other according to status or authority, and
  2. an arrangement or classification of things according to relative importance or inclusiveness.

What does this mean as it relates to grief? Let me explain. When someone dies — whether suddenly or after a prolonged illness, via natural causes or an unnatural fate, a young person in their prime or an elderly person with more memories behind them than ahead — there is one universal truth : The ripples of people who are affected is vast and, at times, largely unknown to all other parties.

A death is always a gut punch with varying degrees of force and a reminder of our own mortality. Most people are moved to express their love for the deceased by showing their support to the family and friends left behind.

In the days before social media, these expressions came in the form of phone calls, voicemail messages, and floral deliveries.

If you were lucky enough to be in close proximity to the family of the newly deceased, there were visits that came wrapped with hugs and tears, and deliveries of food and beverages to feed all the weary souls.

Insert social media. All of those courtesies still occur, but there is a new layer of grief expression — the online tribute in the form of Facebook posts, Instagram photo collages, and short tweets.

What's the problem with that? Shouldn't people be allowed to express their love, care, concern, support, and prayers for the soul of the recently deceased and for their family?

Yes.

And no.

Why? Because there are no established "rules," and people have adopted their own. This isn't breaking news, and you're not trying to scoop TMZ. Listen, I know you're hurt. Guess what? Me too. I know you're shocked. Guess what? Me too. Your social media is an extension of who you are. I get it. You "need" to express your pain, acknowledge your relationship with the deceased, and pray for the family.

Yes.

However...

Please give us a minute.

We are shocked.

We are heartbroken.

Give the immediate family or circle a little time to handle the immediate and time-sensitive "business" related to death. In the minutes and early hours after someone passes away, social media is most likely the last thing on their minds. And even if it does cross their mind, my earlier statement comes into play here.

There is a hierarchy of grief.

Please pause and consider your role and relationship to the newly deceased. Remember, hierarchy refers to your status and your relative importance to the deceased. I caution you to wait and then wait a little longer before posting anything. This may seem trivial, silly, and not worth talking about, but I promise you it isn't.

If the person is married, let the spouse post first.

If the person is "young" and single, let the partner, parents, or siblings post first.

If the person is "old" and single, let the children post first.

If you can't identify the family/inner circle of the person, you probably shouldn't be posting at all.

Do you get where I'm going with this?

In theory, we should never compare grief levels, cast the grief-stricken survivors into roles, or use words like status and importance. But maybe we need to at this moment (and for the next few weeks and months).

The "RIP" posts started hitting my timeline about an hour after my husband's death, and I certainly didn't start them. This created a sense of confusion, fear, anxiety, panic, dread, and shock for the people who knew me, too. What's wrong? Who are we praying for? Did something happen? Did someone pass? Why are there RIPs on your wall and I can't reach you? Call me please! What's going on?

That's a small sample of messages on my voicemail and text inbox. I had to take a minute in the midst of it all to ask a friend to post a status to my Facebook page on my behalf.

Your love and expressions of support are appreciated and needed, but they can also be ill-timed and create unintended additional stress.

The person is no less dead and your sympathy no less heartfelt if your post, photo, or tweet is delayed by a few hours. Honestly, the first couple of hours are shocking, and many things are a blur. Most bereaved people will be able to truly appreciate your love, concern, prayers, and gestures after the first 24 hours.

I've learned this from the inside — twice within the last four years. And I assure you that if we each adopted a little patience and restraint in this area, we would help those who are in the darkest hours of their lives by not adding an unnecessary layer of stress.

A few extra hours could make all the difference.


This article originally appeared on 05.07.19

Gardiner Brothers/TikTok (with permission)

The Gardiner Brothers stepping in time to Beyoncé's "Texas Hold 'Em."

In early February 2024, Beyoncé rocked the music world by releasing a surprise new album of country tunes. The album, Renaissance: Act II, includes a song called "Texas Hold 'Em," which shot up the country charts—with a few bumps along the way—and landed Queen Bey at the No.1 spot.

As the first Black female artist to have a song hit No. 1 on Billboard's country music charts, Beyoncé once again proved her popularity, versatility and ability to break barriers without missing a beat. In one fell swoop, she got people who had zero interest in country music to give it a second look, forced country music fans to broaden their own ideas about what country music looks like and prompted conversations about bending and blending musical genres and styles.

And she inspired the Gardiner Brothers to add yet another element to the mix—Irish stepdance.


In a TikTok that's been viewed over 17 million times, the Gardiner Brothers don cowboy hats while they step in time to "Texas Hold 'Em," much to the delight of viewers everywhere.

Watch:

@gardinerbrothers

Beyoncé 🤝 Irish dancing #beyonce #countrymusic

Michael and Matthew Gardiner are professional Irish-American stepdancers and choreographers who have gained international fame with their award-winning performances. They've also built a following of millions on social media with videos like this one, where they dance to popular songs, usually in an outdoor environment.

The melding of Irish dance with country music sung by a Black American female artist may seem unlikely, but it could be viewed merely as country music coming back to its roots. After all, country music has its roots in the ballad tradition of the Irish, English and Scottish settlers in the Appalachian region of the U.S. And despite modern country music's struggle to break free from "music for white people" stereotypes, it has roots in African-American traditions as well. For instance, the banjo, which has long been used in bluegrass and country music, was created by enslaved Africans and their descendents during the colonial era, according to The Smithsonian.

People are loving the blending of genres and culture that the TikTok exemplifies.

"Never thought I’d see Irish step dancing while Beyoncé sings country," wrote on commenter. "My life is complete. ♥️"

"So happy Beyoncé dropped this song and exposed my timeline to diversified talent 👏🏽👏🏽," wrote another.

"Beyoncé brought the world together with this song 😭," offered another person.

"Ayeeee Irish Dancing has entered the BeyHive chatroom… WELCOME!! 🔥🔥🔥" exclaimed another.

"I don’t think I can explain how many of my interests are intersecting here," wrote one commenter, reflecting what several others shared as well.

The Beyoncé/Gardiner Brothers combo and the reactions to it are a good reminder that none of us fit into one box of interest or identity. We're all an eclectic mix of tastes and styles, so we can almost always find a way to connect with others over something we enjoy. What better way to be reminded of that fact than through an unexpected mashup that blends the magic of music with the delight of dance? Truly, the arts are a powerful uniting force we should utilize more often.

And for an extra bit of fun, the Gardiner Brothers also shared their bloopers from filming the video. Turns out stepping in the rain isn't as easy as they make it look.

Beyoncé Bloopers #texasholdem #gardinerbrothers

@gardinerbrothers

Beyoncé Bloopers #texasholdem #gardinerbrothers

This article originally appeared on 2.26.24

An English doctor named Edward Jenner took incredible risks to try to rid his world of smallpox. Because of his efforts and the efforts of scientists like him, the only thing between deadly diseases like the ones below and extinction are people who refuse to vaccinate their kids. Don't be that parent.

Unfortunately, because of the misinformation from the anti-vaccination movement, some of these diseases have trended up in a really bad way over the past several years.



Wellness involves a lot of personal choices and the tradeoff between personal liberty and shared public good.

Measles is the starkest example. There were about 61 cases of measles in all of 2012, but in just the first seven months of 2014, there have been nearly 600.

As this chart shows, vaccinations are not like taxes rates or even freedom of speech. The impact of one's personal health choices can have a significant impact on the population around them, in their communities and even on a national level. It makes that trade-off all the more complicated and one not easily distilled into one convenient political or religious ideology.

Obviously, the topic of vaccinations has become immensely more complicated since the onset of COVID-19 in 2020. But history teaches us valuable lessons and information is power. No matter how you feel about vaccines today, this chart is a reminder that medical science can be used for incredible good. Without breakthrough vaccinations in the past, many of us would likely not be here to have the debate about our personal choices now and into the future.


This article originally appeared on 11.21.14 and this infographic is based on data from 2012.

Health

Women are shocking their boyfriends by showing them how tampons actually work

The viral videos are a great way to educate men on a sensitive topic.

via TikTok

Menstrual taboos are as old as time and found across cultures. They've been used to separate women from men physically — menstrual huts are still a thing — and socially, by creating the perception that a natural bodily function is a sign of weakness.

Even in today's world women are deemed unfit for positions of power because some men actually believe they won't be able to handle stressful situations while mensurating.

"Menstruation is an opening for attack: a mark of shame, a sign of weakness, an argument to keep women out of positions of power,' Colin Schultz writes in Popular Science.


The big problem with menstrual taboos is the way that males are educated on the subject leaves them with a patchwork of ideas that don't necessarily add up to the whole picture. First, there's the information they get from growing up with women in the house.

Then, there are the cryptic descriptions of menstruation seen in advertising and the cold, scientific way the topic is taught in sex education.

"Boys' early learning about menstruation is haphazard," a 2011 study published in the Journal of Family Issues reads. "The mysterious nature of what happens to girls contributes to a gap in boys' knowledge about female bodies and to some negative views about girls."

Unfortunately, the gaps in the average man's understanding of a complex female health issue can put women in a difficult position. Whether it's denying them positions of power or a failure to understand their discomfort.

That's why it's so important for men to become better educated about menstruation.

A group of women on TikTok are helping the men in their lives better understand the subject by showing them how tampons work on the inside of their bodies by dousing them in water. They call it the Boyfriend Challenge. Some of the guys' reactions are clearly over-the-top, but it's also obvious that many of them have no idea how tampons function.

A video by the Demery family has gone viral attracting nearly eight million views. It's fun to watch, but it also shows men how tampons function and what women go through during their monthly cycle.

@thedemeryfamily22 His reaction is priceless😂 #cutecouple #pregnant #prego #viral #InLove #couplegoals #trend #tampon ♬ original sound - Kolby&Jas❤️

Rachel's man just uttered the phrase "vagina parachute."

@mrshillery829 Of course I had to make my husband do this! I will forever call tampons “vagina parachutes”! LMAO!! #tamponchallenge #husbandpranks #funny #fyp ♬ original sound - Rachel Hillery

Paulina's man was completely flummoxed by the inner workings of a tampon. "You've been carrying this like, inside of you?" he asks. "The whole day?"

@paulinat showing him how a tampôn works😭 @fabioguerrrraa ♬ original sound - Pau Torres

This guy thinks it's "like a butterfly."

@amanialzubi showing my boyfriend how a tampon works 🤣😳❤️ ( @originalisrael ) #comedy #couple #couplegoals #foryou #trend #tiktok ♬ original sound - amani

Ryley just blew her BFF's mind.

Let's hope this challenge gave some men out there a better understanding of what women go through every month and a little more sympathy for the women in their lives.

Hopefully it also makes them feel a little more comfortable around period products and inspires them to pick up the correct box of tampons next time they're at the grocery store.


This article originally appeared on 01.27.21