Program Archives
On The Divide
Director: Maya Cueva & Leah Galant
Genre: Documentary
Program Length: 90 minutes
Broadcast Date: April 18th on P.O.V
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On The Divide follows three Latinx people living in McAllen, Texas — Mercedes, a pro-life protester who once believed in a woman’s right to choose, Rey, the clinic security guard who risks his life daily to make sure patients are safe entering the clinic, and Denisse, an ex-Catholic who is a volunteer escort. As threats to their safety increase, our characters are forced to question their deeply held beliefs.

McAllen, Texas is located in the flat landscape of the Rio Grande Valley — a sun soaked coastal plain, lined with palm trees and tall fences along the border of the southernmost tip of Texas. In McAllen, Tex-Mex traditions thrive— from panaderias selling the best pan dulce to the warm colors of the Texas sunset illuminating the extravagant quinceañera dresses in window displays. Yet, McAllen is in the midst of physical, political, religious, and cultural divisions.

The city’s population is mostly Latinx, Catholic, and undocumented. McAllen is home to the largest immigrant detention center in the United States, the planned construction site of Trump’s Border wall and the only abortion clinic in the entire region where many undocumented women have to travel far to get reproductive healthcare, risking deportation because of border checkpoints along the way.

In one of the over 70 churches in McAllen, Texas, we meet Mercedes Soto, a 35-year-old Latina woman praying at a pew with tattoos all over her body. Originally in and out of jail and gangs, she joined the pro-life church community after being convinced not to have an abortion. When Mercedes finds herself in an abusive relationship she begins to seek birth control — even though it’s against her religion. As sudden changes affect her personal life, Mercedes starts to uncover the the truth behind her pro-life community.

As Mercedes protests outside of the abortion clinic, we meet Rey Guerrero, a 66-year-old Latino security guard at the Whole Woman’s Health abortion clinic who must choose between his religious community and his job. Rey finds meaning through helping patients walk safely

inside the clinic and feels that it’s his duty to protect them. “My views have changed,” he says, “they got to change,” reflecting on how he once was anti-choice himself before working at the clinic. Shunned and threatened by his community, the clinic is all he has. If the clinic were to close, where would Rey go and who would he turn to?

Outside of the clinic next to Rey is 33-year-old Denisse Gonzalez, a mother of four who is an abortion clinic escort and fights to help keep the clinic open despite not wanting to have an abortion herself.

While escorting at the clinic with a heavy anti abortion protestor presence, Denisse is also studying to become a midwife but serious health complications may prevent her dreams of serving the community she loves from becoming a reality. On top of this, Denisse has witnessed how increased militarization on the border around immigration and laws preventing access to reproductive healthcare has severely threatened her family and community. Despite all of these challenges, her and her fellow clinic escorts fight to protect the patients coming to the clinic.

The thread between all of our characters lies with their interactions outside of the abortion clinic. When Mercedes, Rey, and Denisse are faced with political attacks on their freedoms, they realize they have more in common than they might think.

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Latino Public Broadcasting is the leader of the development, production, acquisition and distribution of non-commercial educational and cultural media that is representative of Latino people, or addresses issues of particular interest to Latino Americans. These programs are produced for dissemination to the public broadcasting stations and other public telecommunication entities. LPB provides a voice to the diverse Latino community on public media throughout the United States.
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