At The Border is a long-form written piece, photography and stand-alone video I did for Red Canary Magazine. The subject here is Pastor Albert Rivera who I first interviewed for another long story for Los Angeles Magazine in 2018, The Last Caravan. Those two stories and Rise of the American Favela, (my other RCM story) all edited by Joe Donnelly.
I’ve been doing photography and video for all long-form pieces since the LA Weekly days.
Two little girls in Sunday dresses play in the church at Ágape Misión Mundial, a shelter in the Nueva Aurora neighborhood of Tijuana, Mexico serving dispossessed migrants. Nearby, church services are gearing up in a big room with orange walls, sheer red curtains and tidy rows of white plastic chairs that fill quickly as a four-piece band warms up. Keyboard, bass and drums open with a chorus of “The Blessing,” a popular evangelical anthem. Singer Julio Garcia sets the tone for today’s service: gratitude. As a child, Garcia’s family worked in the old Tijuana landfill that the church was built on. Now, he’s about to graduate from law school. Like the rest of the young parishioners in the band, the church sponsored his education.
Across the border, a new administration has inspired a cautious sense of optimism for migrants here as Sunday services get underway. Francisca López, a woman in her 40s, pours out her soul to Jesus Cristo as others gather in front of the low stage. “Gracias, Señor! Gracias, Señor!” she prays.
Colored lights strobe as the sound system threatens to buckle under the bass. It’s 11:00 a.m., 20 minutes into the devotional service when Tony, a visually impaired parishioner in his 60s, breaks into an emotional testimonial. He plays tambourine in a spirited dance, then genuflects.
The room is packed a little tighter on Sundays, but the devotional service is a daily ritual here in the church at Ágape Misión Mundial, a sanctuary for some asylum seekers. Perched on a big hill, down a rutty road off a main thoroughfare, the compound was constructed nearly two decades ago on top of a landfill that was decommissioned in 2002, long before Mexico had adopted environmental regulations.
Pastor Rivera_photo by Sam Slovick
Girls play in the church at the Ágape Misión Mundial migrant shelter in Tijuana_photo by Sam Slovick
New Patriot at the Chaparral Migrant Camp in Tijuana_Sam Slovick
Ágape Misión Mundial shelter entrance_Sam Slovick
Carmen with her sever fingers freshly bandaged_Sam Slovick
Pastor Rivera in his office at the shelter_Sam Slovick
Migrants from Agape feed the migrants at the Chaparral Camp_Sam Slovick
Stuffed toy in the street at the Chaparral Migrant Camp_photo by Sam Slovick
Teens at the Ágape Misión Mundial shelter_photo by Sam Slovick
Young migrant at the Chaparral Camp_photo by Sam Slovick
Eco Waste from the Pastor’s office at the Ágape Misión Mundial shelter_photo by Sam Slovick