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Women on the Border

Doing great things in Palomas and Deming


Claudia Sheinbaum or Xóchitl Gálvez? Which of these two women will be the first woman in Mexico’s history to be elected President in the national elections next June?  Whoever wins will hopefully bring much needed additional focus on women’s issues. Having said that, I want to briefly profile four women who have already changed the lives of many in the Palomas, Mexico-Deming, New Mexico area.

Ivonne Romero and her husband, Sergio founded the Pink Store in Palomas almost 30 years ago. Just a block from the United States border, it is a wonderful combination of an excellent restaurant and a superb collection of folk art, ceramics, silver and jewelry from all over Mexico but especially Jalisco, Guanajuato, Michoacán and Queretaro. Not only does she provide much needed employment for at least 25 residents of Palomas but the sales of the folk art are vital to artisans all over Mexico.

On any given day, the restaurant is full of tourists who has crossed the border for dental appointments or to purchase eyeglasses or prescription drugs. This wasn’t the case a few years ago when the high level of violence kept the tourists away. Nonetheless, Ivonne kept the store open then out of loyalty to her employees, even though there were no customers.

On June 25, 2021, Sandra Magallanes became a United States citizen, a struggle that took her many years.

“I am an immigrant like many are, but the United States is truly my home,” she said. “I still love my country of birth (Mexico) and I visit it regularly but I cannot deny there are opportunities that the Unted States provides that were just not available where I grew up.”

Sandra has been a constant force – maybe savior is a better word – for migrants in both Palomas and Deming. I’ve seen her at the Motel Six in Deming providing meals for migrants from as far away as Turkey and Cuba, at the Deming Armory, which was initially the entry point for migrants, and in Palomas at the fire station where migrants are housed through the Mexican government’s Punto Beto program.

“Sandra is amazing,” said Barbara Gabioud, who is the leader in her church’s role ( the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Silver City) in supporting migrant programs in Palomas. “I refer to her as the fairy godmother of the Palomas shelter; She goes day or night for any emergency. She carries all the asylees she has met in her heart and never forgets about them even after they make it to their sponsors.”

An example of this involved a man named Pedro from Guatemala who broke bones in his feet falling off the border wall in 2021. The Border Patrol picked him up and shipped him back to Mexico where he ended up in the Tierra de Oro shelter in Palomas, awaiting transportation back to his home country. My interview with him on March 24, 2021, was one of the saddest I can remember. Not long afterwards, however, Sandra arranged for him to return to the U.S. where he was able to get decent medical care. Now he is living and working in Ft. Meyer’s, Florida and Sandra remains in contact with him.

Ariana Saludares is a force of nature, never stopping in her commitment to bettering the lives of both those who live in Deming and the hundreds of migrants who are processed through the shelter she has established. In 2019, she founded Colores United, a non-profit dedicated to her community.

One of her early projects was Charlie Cat’s, a restaurant that not only offered food for migrants who were housed in the nearby motel but important job training for local youth. She now has a combination coffee shop/work center located at 110 Gold Street in downtown Deming. With funding via a grant from the University of New Mexico, she can offer counseling for local citizens who are struggling to deal with the complexities of applying for state assistance programs. The coffee shop in front also functions as a training ground for young people, many of whom are migrants.

Originally, Saludares was a leader in establishing a migrant shelter in the former National Guard Armory in Deming; now she has renovated another property for that function and has a relationship with the Border Patrol whereby they send up to 100 migrants a week to the center. She and her staff, including several volunteers, assist these migrants with medical care and also arrange transportation for them so that they can go to their family members or sponsors in other parts of the United States. She receives minimal support from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Joseline Ramirez came to Deming from Juárez with her mother and sisters in 2017 and quickly realized she was way behind in terms of her education. Schooling in Juárez had been totally inadequate. Now 24 years old, she is struggling to catch up. She works for Saludares, manages Saludares’s migrant shelter several days a week and works the other days as the manager of Saludares’s coffee shop in downtown Deming. She is also a student at New Mexico State University, goes to Las Cruces for classes several days a week and is focused on earning a degree in business administration. It is a demanding schedule, but this young woman is going to be a success.

These four women are leaders in regard to border issues and examples of what women can accomplish for those in need.

Morgan Smith writes frequently about border issues and can be reached at Morgan-smith@comcast.net.

Claudia Sheinbaum, Xóchitl Gálvez, Mexico's President