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1,951 Mile Border Bicycle Ride Fuels Book

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  • Matt
    the website seems to be currently down, but hopefully it will be up soon - matt http://www.zoniereport.com/stories/mexico/border101.htmlIn the immigration
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 3, 2008
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      the website seems to be currently down, but hopefully it will be up soon - matt
      http://www.zoniereport.com/stories/mexico/border101.htmlIn the immigration debate, a lesson in Border 101
      Arizona man's 1,951-mile bicycle ride fuels book, online documentary
      Ryan Riedel, 25, lays down for a rest during a 1,951-mile trek along the U.S.-Mexico border. Here, he unwinds with Bruno, a Mexican teenager from Ciudad Juarez who traveled with him by pickup and helped him find his way during the beginning of the trip. The project is ongoing. (Courtesy Ryan Riedel)
      By Jennifer Silva
      TZR Correspodent
      Dec. 10, 2007
      TEMPE — Life gets more and more complicated. People have very little time to focus on extracurricular pursuits. Recycling a soda can and taking shorter showers are simple enough, but the rest is better left to heroes.
      Ryan Riedel knows this, and he knows he only has so much time before he must join the masses.
      That’s why, after graduating from Arizona State University in 2005, he chose to pursue social change at the U.S.-Mexico border over taking a long-awaited vacation with friends to a ranch in Magdalena, Sonora, or pursuing his dream career as an educator.
      He created Border 101, a website and soon-to-be-book that was based upon a bicycle ride through the borderlands.
      “If I really wanted to understand what was going on, if I wanted to be able to break through that media wall, I needed to go out and speak with the people who were actually living that border,” Riedel tells TZR.
      “People really need alternative news sources to be engaged in alternative ways to be able to respond,” he adds, “rather than the osmosis of false rhetoric that passes for reasonable debate that is going through the halls of Congress and cable news networks.”
      Telling the rest of the border story
      Riedel says current U.S. immigration rules are not sufficient. More than 4,000 migrants have died in the past 10 years, he says. Since October 2006, 238 migrant deaths were documented by No More Deaths, a humanitarian nonprofit based in Tucson. Border Patrol figures put the number of dead closer to 200.
      He says that as a “cyclist for social change,” he has been able to bring the border’s realities to the suburbs in the hopes that a solution to America’s illegal immigration issue can be found.
      Riedel believes that, in trying to find an immigration solution, the migrants should be allowed to assimilate and experience interdependence.
      “Growing up in suburbia – growing up in an environment in which things are really taken care of – you begin to understand that there are people around you for whom those same things are not taken care of,” Riedel says.
      Riedel, 25, launched the Border 101 plan as a 1,951-mile bicycle ride along the border – both sides – from southeastern Texas to the California coast. He would stop at various communities along the way to volunteer.
      He called it VolunTour 1951, and its ambitious schedule quickly made him feel burned out.
      “Now, it didn’t quite work out,” Riedel admits. “After about six weeks, I just reached an overload. I had no way to process what I was doing.”
      So he returned home earlier than intended with a personal task to complete before he could revisit the border.
      “From the people with cancers and brain cysts and birth defects and deformities in Mission, Texas, to the really poor with no food down in Brownsville, to the migrants that I had met all the way down the line, I just needed some time to think about it and recover and to really think about what I wanted to accomplish,” he explains.
      Riedel says the trip was a soul-taxing event, referring to a passage from one of his favorite authors, Luis Alberto Urrea, who has written several books surrounding life on the US-Mexico border.
      “He calls this kind of venture, or any type of experience where you put yourself out on the line and expose yourself to all the good and all the bad—he calls it a soul tax,” Riedel says. “Sometimes your soul is taxed. You just need time to recuperate and be able to love and hug and hang out on your parents’ couch for six weeks before you can go out again.”
      During this retreat for self-reflection and recuperation is when the project of a lifetime unfolded. He turned VolunTour 1951 into Border 101, an attempt to use digital media – audio, video, photo slideshows and more – on the Internet to a wide audience, including Arizonans.
      Border is in the blood
      To understand the challenge, one must understand Riedel’s background. His family is from Nogales, Arizona, and the Mexican state of Sonora. The former is the state’s busiest port-of-entry with more than 275,000 truck and bus crossings in 2006, while the latter is the Mexican state that shares Arizona’s border.
      Riedel grew up in a bicultural, bilingual environment, but he never learned Spanish. When he enrolled at ASU, he pursued a dual degree in Spanish and religious studies. He also worked as a student teacher for The Human Event, a two-semester seminar at the Barrett Honors College.
      After graduation, he came with the early model of Border 101.org, a website Riedel built where he offers a project overview, documents daily experiences from his border tour and offers readers the chance to get involved.
      The current version of the book will be divided into two parts: the east/west and north/south directions taken during the tour.
      “I separate Border 101 into two parts because ‘border’ certainly meant something different when I left the physical border,” Riedel says. “‘Border’ came to mean meeting across all lines—social, cultural, national, etc. in a way that was different from a geographical context.”
      The book will unveil vivid stories of Riedel’s adventures during the tour. Each story describes different people crippled by similar circumstances. An elderly man broke his leg when he was flung from a train. A middle-aged woman saved her broken toenails to show her kids just how difficult her journey was. A body surfaced on the American bank of the Rio Grande.
      All of these people shared one hope: to get to the United States to provide a better life for themselves and their families.
      “Once you see something like that, once you see the body that was once a person – the corpse that was once a human being – the impression you’re left with is that not only does something need to change, but it needs to change now,” Riedel says.
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      "I am an outlaw simply because I refuse to live by the laws that assert more rights to the inanimate property used to destroy life, than to the life that is being destroyed." Rod Coronado

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