Camino de San Diego

Journeying Toward Justice

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A Faith-Based Pilgrimage Along & Across the US-Mexico Border 

In this unprecedented time, Via International will provide participants from churches and other faith-based institutions the opportunity to build relationships with community leaders working along and across the U.S. Mexico border. Co-hosting the experience will be leaders of The Border Church / La Iglesia Fronteriza, a binational community of faith dedicated to accompanying the migrant people of God along and across the border.

El Camino de San Diego will offer groups of up to 18 the opportunity to participate in a virtual pilgrimage along and across the US-Mexico border.  Participants will meet community leaders engaged in “journeys toward justice.”  These hosts and guides will share their spiritual journeys and their practices of working for justice at the grassroots. Participants will be encouraged and inspired to celebrate their own journeys and embrace their own practices of working for justice in their communities.


Community and Region

Human migration is a global phenomenon that has become a defining feature of life in the 21st century – per the United Nations, “An estimated 244 million people currently live outside their country of origin, many having moved for a variety of reasons in which the search for protection and the search for opportunity are inextricably entwined.”  To contend with migratory flows, the United States federal government, under Presidential administrations of both parties, has worked across several decades to “harden” the US-Mexico border.   Despite these efforts,  growing numbers of people of Mexican and Central American ancestry are now found in cities and towns throughout the United States, demanding ever greater language and cross-cultural competencies of leaders and institutions.  And for all the popular portrayals in the news and social media, the overwhelming preponderance of human encounters along the US-Mexico border continue to be characterized by fundamental human values like family, work, friendship and communion.

These values are powerfully on display at three historic sites in San Diego and Tijuana, sites that function as important sites of pilgrimage in the US-Mexico borderlands.

Chicano Park was established on April 22, 1970, when local activists demanded that land under the Coronado Bridge be donated to the community. Over time, the bridge’s pillars became a canvas for the artistic expression of Chicano culture. Chicano Park, now the largest outdoor mural park in the nation, has received international recognition as a major public art site for its commanding mural paintings of the past and present struggle of Mexican and Chicano history. The park has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2016. Chicano Park receives many thousands of visitors throughout the year, culminating in the annual anniversary event (Chicano Park Day), typically attended by up to 15,000 people. 

La Plaza “El Chaparral” is adjacent to the Garita El Chaparral, the pedestrian crossing of the San Ysidro Port of Entry, the busiest land border crossing in the world. Tens of thousands of people cross through the Garita El Chaparral each day while commuting to work from Tijuana to San Diego. Thousands also arrive annually at La Plaza “El Chaparral” to seek asylum in the United States.

Friendship Park is the historic binational meeting place overlooking the Pacific Ocean on the US-Mexico border. At the park’s center stands a stone monument first established at the end of the U.S.-Mexico War to demarcate the new international boundary. The monument’s base sits half in the United States and half in Mexico, symbolizing the international friendship called for in the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo. On August 18, 1971, then-First Lady Pat Nixon inaugurated the surrounding area in the U.S. as California’s Border Field State Park, expressing hope that the site would someday be home to an “International Friendship Park.” This location has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1974. Thousands of people visit the Mexican side of Friendship Park each weekend.  Thousands more visit each year and from both sides of the border to visit with their loved ones “through the wall.”

Each of these sites receives thousands of visitors annually.  What do we have to learn from the people who visit these historic locations, and from the local leaders who serve as “curators” and “custodians” of them?

Typical Program

A typical experience of virtual pilgrimage along the Camino de San Diego consists of six parts – this is a template from which you can work with Via’s staff to design your group’s experience: 

  • An Orientation will introduce participants to enduring themes — including colonialism, white racism & nationalism — that have given shape to the religious and cultural context of the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. The orientation will be hosted by Rev. John Fanestil (Ph.D. in History, USC) and will include expert representatives from religious traditions that are foundational to life in the borderlands today.
  • Three Immersive Site Visits will introduce participants to local leaders working for justice at three landmark locations in the California/Baja California borderlands:
    • Chicano Park, where we explore the journeys of “chicanos” and “fronterizos”;
    • Friendship Park, where “deportees” and “mixed-status families” are foregrounded
    • La Plaza El Chaparral, where we meet with “migrants” and “asylum-seekers.”
  • Sunday Worship with The Border Church / La Iglesia Fronteriza, a binational community of faith dedicated to following Jesus, accompanying the people of God along and across the U.S.-Mexico border.
  • A Closing Retreat will challenge participants to explore their own place within the global community of faith, “the migrant people of God,” to embrace their own journeys toward justice, and to identify ways that they can live out their own unique callings in their home contexts and communities.

Check out a Sample Itinerary



Local Community Development Organizations

The Border Church – The Border Church / La Iglesia Fronteriza  is a nonsectarian Christian ministry centered in the celebration of open-table communion on the U.S.-Mexico border. Its mission is to seek the reign of God by following Jesus and by accompanying the people of God along and across the San Diego-Tijuana border.

Binational Friendship Garden – Located within the bounds of Friendship Park, the Jardín binacional de Amistad / Binational Friendship Garden promotes native flora and friendship literally across the US-Mexico border.

Friends of Friendship Park – The Friends of Friendship Park are members of the community working to create a future in which the public will have unrestricted access to Friendship Park / El Parque de la Amistad, the historic meeting place at the westernmost end of the US-Mexico border.

Unified U.S. Deported Veterans – It’s all about veterans helping veterans. That’s right, there are U.S. VETERANS who fought for their country and then were deported after serving time for a crime!

Madres y Familias Deportadas en Acción – Founded in 2015, Madres and Familias Deportadas grew out of relationships with people in the USA who wanted to help families separated by deportation. The organization seeks to encourage a more balanced narrative about Mexican migration and people who have been deported to Mexico.

Chicano Park Steering Committee – This volunteer staffed committee helps to maintain the National Historic Site, Chicano Park. Giving tours, helping in mural restoration, and planning the annual Chicano Park Day, the Steering Committee is a symbol of community development embodying the spirit of the Chicano Movement.

Chicano Park Museum – The Chicano Park Museum educates individuals about Chicana/o, Latina/o, and Indigenous culture and history.  Preserving a history of struggle, the Museum empowers individuals to become agents of change in their own community.

Via International – Via’s Community Development initiative supports leaders promoting sustainable community development in the California/Baja California border region. Our responsive and inclusive approach supports a wide range of programs, always and everywhere designed by local leaders who are best positioned to know the needs of their communities.



For convenience a custom Zoom link will be used for all group meetings … but we all know that ZOOM fatigue is very real. Our expert presenters use a variety of tools to ensure that virtual site visits do not resemble business meetings or classroom lectures.


The PADLET app provides a platform for interactive learning throughout the entire program. A HomeBase padlet makes for a one-stop location for all essential information.  Separate padlets create opportunities for individual participation and group interaction both during and between site visits, while creating a record of the collective experience. Click on the image to view a sample Padlet


Google Earth allows us to travel through space, gaining panoramic perspectives of the San Diego/Tijuana region, while dropping into specific locations for a “street view” and to meet up with local leaders.  Here is a map of some important locations on the Camino de San Diego.

And here is a 2-minute sample.


The Givebutter software is designed specifically for online crowd fundraising campaigns.  If your church or organization cannot underwrite the entire cost of a virtual pilgrimage, and if you don’t want to ask your participants to pay too high a registration fee, we can help train them to raise the needed financial support from family and friends. Click on the image to explore a current campaign.



  • Explore the Bible as a book “by migrants, for migrants, about migrants.”
  • Discover the historical origins of the US-Mexico border and the challenges of identity and belonging this history has presented to the region’s residents.
  • Come to understand different experiences of the border – from “immigrants” to “refugees” to “fronterizos” (or “borderlanders”).
  • Meet the real people and hear the real stories behind the images you see on your screens or the events you read about in the news.
  • Learn about the journeys toward justice undertaken by courageous migrants and deportees and those who work alongside them as allies.
  • Participate in a process of self-exploration and self-understanding, while embracing your own “journey toward justice.”


  • "We are one.... exciting to get to 'know' our neighbors!"
  • "The border region is a wonderful and exciting world with great challenges and opportunities. So great to learn about this complex world and its charms, needs, and human drama."
  • "I learned a lot through the personal stories of people interviewed and I was able to see unique perspectives by "visiting" the various Friendship Park monuments"
  • "Hearing the women speak about their lives, their experiences with the organization, their children’s progress, and more was very moving."
  • "Thank you so much for making this an insightful, seamless online interaction with all of you down at the border. It has been wonderful to get to know you, and we hope one day we can meet someday in person."

Via Global Education creates opportunities to learn from local leaders and engage directly in the work of sustainable community development.  The intentional formation of community leaders — among both visiting and hosting communities —  is the focus of every trip we lead.

Program Development

Via’s unique expertise combined with collaborative input from your leaders and participants will produce a refined itinerary. We enjoy unique access to local partners and can create and coordinate all activities for in-person trips and virtual visits.

Transformational Learning

Via creates dynamic cultural exchange through presentations by local experts and partner organizations. A Via Guide will accompany your group through its entire experience to maximize the relational learning of participants.

Sustainable Development Support

Your support not only underwrites your (virtual) site visits, but also affords stipends to local community leaders; supports grassroots organizations working for social justice and sustainable community development; and helps to sustain Via International’s ongoing work with Communities, Programs, and Partners.

For More Information or to Request a Quote

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