Friendship Park

Kaitlin Barker Davis


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As usual in December, the dirt road to Friendship Park is washed out from a rainstorm, so we walk the mile to the La Posada gathering. The mud smells faintly of fabric softener and will linger in the soles of my shoes for weeks.

The first time I went, there was just one fence where the U.S.-Mexico border runs into the Pacific Ocean. Husbands and wives could exchange a kiss through the chain links. A mother could caress the face of her deported son. As we bowed our heads in silence, listening to the names of those who perished in their crossing, we could reach through the fence and hold a hand. As we sang carols in Spanish and English, we could throw candy over the top and watch it rain down on the other side, watch the children happily scoop it up.

Now there’s a second fence. Armed border patrol agents stand on each side of the gate. A square white sign hangs from the crossbar: Maximum Occupancy 25. We show our ID. We filter through in 30-minute shifts. They remind us: No fingers through the fence. They check us for candy and make us leave it behind.

The double fence ends at the sand, where wooden pylons continue out into the surf—where it’s no longer a real barricade, just the idea of one. But the children understand. When the wind blows their beach ball through a gap in the pylons, they don’t chase it. They wait and watch, hoping someone on the American beach will toss it back. Do they know that from this beach the border fence snakes east, collecting graffiti until it reaches sufficiently deadly desert, where names are added to the list that we read here at Christmastime, when an innkeeper welcomed two strangers?

Kaitlin Barker Davis

is a

Guest Contributor for Panorama.

Kaitlin Barker Davis lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband and two children. Her essays on place, travel, and motherhood have appeared in The Best Women's Travel Writing, Nowhere Magazine, Narratively, Sunday Short Reads, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. She writes a Substack newsletter about the intersection of travel and motherhood called Field Notes at She has an MFA in creative nonfiction from Seattle Pacific University, and you can find her at


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