Our Reporter Travels With Migrant Caravan
Well, for a couple of days we embedded her, she’s not going to be climbing the mythical wall
BY ALEJANDRA BORBOLLA
Ale was sent by this paper to embed herself with the migrant caravan, and this is what she took away from It after several days on the road. She also writes the cooking column and the Ask A Mexican piece each issue. She is working her way through University, majoring in industrial design. Her mother works for the paper full time, and her grandmother worked here before her.
Most of us have read the news about the “caravana migrante”, some of us empathize with them, some of us not so much. Depending on where the migrants are coming from, is the reason they left their country, but the caravan had been in planning for longer than what we all think, it was not spontaneous. Most of the people from Salvador, are running from or involved with “Maras” a tough gang. While it is true that some people who escape the Maras do so because they unexpectedly came asking for money and a part of someone’s small businesses. But some others, especially young men, are running because they owe something to the organization, either money, blood or drugs. Some young kids had to leave their country because they got in the gang thinking it was cool, but did not have the guts to stay when they saw what was expected of them, and it is difficult to get out of it.
Some others come from Guatemala, where a volcano erupted and slowly ate away their businesses or ran them out of their homes, but also some of them just want to make a pretty good life without working so hard. Some who come from Nicaragua are tired of the government, and the people from Venezuela… well, I think we all know why they are trying to get to the U.S.
There is a wide spectrum of the people who are travelling, some of them even have high school diplomas, only a handful have degrees, most are very uneducated, less than Mexicans, and some of them really just want to make more money in an easier way. Some of the kids travelling have been instructed to say that who they are travelling with is their mother or father, when really, it’s a neighbor who their real parents paid to take them to the U.S. where they often have relatives to care for them.
Some of them also raised a significant amount of money for the journey, about $4000 USD, and they don’t need the charity they are getting from Mexicans. In the shelters, they are being provided with food, but they don’t like it and throw it away, they would rather go out and buy pizza and coca cola. Some others belong to the santero religion, which came from the Caribbean slave trade, and they truly believe they are being poisoned so they throw the food away. Some others just don’t like it and put the whole plate in the garbage as it comes to their hands.
They also can’t carry much, so most of the things they are given they leave behind, unless it’s a good coat or jacket, or a good blanket, but they will not carry the shirts they are given with the president’s party on them. The fact that some families are travelling is not only dangerous to them, but also for the rest of the group. Lately, a lot of women and children are
being kidnapped, and the single males are getting nervous they will get caught in the crossfire when the Mexicans come to get these women. On the other hand, some of the families do not want to continue travelling with the single men, as they often drink, or smoke weed, and get in trouble with the police.
The immigrants have asked plenty of times to the police to put under arrest those who break the law in the caravan, but the police just won’t do it, as they have orders to try to leave arrest as a last resort, and maybe because jail is an expense this government can’t take. Fights are common, especially at night when they men (mostly, but there are also some feisty ladies) want to go out and buy alcohol, which Mexican police has been trying to contain.
Local shops and mini markets that are close to the camps either limit entry or close down for the day, afraid to get robbed. One reason these people are moving north so quickly is local towns are paying hiring buses to get them to the next town, and then that town hires buses to take them from there. The immigrants are also conscious that they are not very welcome in the country, so that has made them be a little more reserved and probably defensive. Some of the women are on the lookout, like hawks, for any “help” disguised as bad news, but sometimes they don’t even trust each other.
The leaders are chosen irregularly, but the choice is collective. It depends on who looks more alert, wise, responsible and brave. Most of the leaders were some kind of leader back in their country, either teachers, community politicians or something similar. Most of them also rotate the position, because they know they can easily slip if they’re tired enough. Not all of the caravan is planning on going to the U.S., but most are not worried about how they are going to get over the border, they just know they will get in to the U.S., no matter what. Each one of them seems to think they are the exception, either in a fervent belief in help from their God, or help from the wad of cash they’re carrying, or their own cunning. If they get a fair chance, and the luck to go through the border or find someone who is sympathetic enough to help them, fine. If not, they are willing to pay $1200 USD to get legal papers and work in Mexico. None of them think going back is an option.
Most of the caravan fell in love with Queretaro, a state near Mexico City, but some of them are quite afraid of Tabasco and Veracruz, where they experienced crossfire. The children are starting to realize this trip is not a vacation, and do not behave like regular kids would. They don’t scream, cry or play. They gather food and water and bring it to their mothers, who don’t put the supplies in their bags because they would be too heavy to carry, and anyway they know they will get help in the next town. Other kids are now used to the community and even walk around alone, as long as they are with the group, while their mothers rest or eat. They do know to stay with the group, as everyone fears being kidnapped by Mexican gangs and pressed into the drug trade, pimped out, or ransomed.
All of the blankets that have been donated and placed in the places where the caravan is supposed to concentrate, are left there and the government still doesn’t know what to do with them. Same goes with clothes donations, and the people from the companies hired to clean up after the migrants are the ones getting their wardrobe full. One thing they do all have in common in faith. Be it whatever religion they follow, they all pray or meditate and strongly believe they are protected by some almighty force. If the caravan works for them more are to come, if it fails, Mexico might get a couple thousand more citizens. Hopefully citizens that add to the economy and society.