We also seek refuge

Separated by thousands of kilometers, they are united by the same tragedies, their eyes marvel at the path as they see new faces every minute. These children are displaced by violence and poverty; if Europe is experiencing the worse migration crisis in its history, Latin America isn’t far behind. Indifference makes atrocities such as these seem common in the eyes of both governments and society.

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Blood is shed even if there are no bombs involved

The last time Zaylin and her husband were together was at a birthday party. A few minutes before the party ended, Zaylin’s husband and cousin said goodbye to each other. Two hours later, Zaylin received a call by someone who insulted and asked her to turn herself in, threatening to kill her and her husband if she didn’t. Shortly before that, these same delinquents had “picked up” her husband and her cousin because they had refused to sell drugs. The drove them around in a truck across the entire Honduran town.

After hanging up the phone, Zaylin hung up and took her children to her cousin’s house, seeking shelter. The following morning, her mother-in-law visited to tell them that the two men’s bodies had been found, lifeless. Zaylin waited until her husband was buried to flee to the Colonia Rivera Hernández, one of the most dangerous neighbourhoods of San Pedro Sula, and her last resort.

The murderers’ threats followed her there. Zaylin then took her children –7 year-old Michael and the year and a half-old Junior– and fled, first through Guatemala and then to Mexico. Hidden in the bushy hills, and fleeing the migration authorities who, unaware of her misfortune, hunt migrants down in their operatives, Zaylin receives help from fellow migrants who help her carry little Junior.

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Thanks to them, Zaylin found her way to a shelter in Chahuites, Oaxaca. This shelter for migrants opened its doors after migrants were prohibited from riding on top of the freight trains that cross Mexico from South to North, turning them into victims of the Mexican government’s hunt in the name of the “Plan Frontera Sur” (Plan Southern Border). Zeydi and her sons applied for protection from the Mexican State since they are very afraid of returning to their country. “If we did, they would probably end up killing me and my children,” she declares with tears in her eyes while the children play with Katerin and Justin.

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Poverty and violence is what forced them to flee

Katerin and Justin are traveling from Honduras with their father Marvin. Their mother abandoned them because of her ties to “La Mara,” a highly violent gang. Providing for two children proved to be the utmost challenge for Marvin, who worked from 7am to 7pm as a cleaner in a shopping center, making only 1,500 lempiras a week (75 dollars). Sometimes Marvin worked late and he was assaulted at least three times in his own neighborhood.

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Shots rang out every day. Once, “two armed men knocked on our door at midnight,” says Marvin. Just like their father, Katerin and Justin lived in an environment of violence and poverty. On the eve of their departure, Marvin’s ex-romantic partner came to his house and threatened to hurt him. “I don’t give a fuck if the kids grow without a dad,” she told him. The next day, they started the journey to Mexico.

Despite fleeing, violence continues to follow and dog them on the path between Arriaga (Chiapas) and Chahuites (Oaxaca). Marvin and his two small children suffered an extremely violent attack at the hands of delinquents armed with machetes and firearms. During the attack, one of them pushed Marvin, scaring 2 year-old Katerin who began to cry very loudly. One of the delinquents took out his weapon and aimed it at Marvin telling him to shut the child up.

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Marvin reported this attack to the “the public prosecutor’s office”), seeking to obtain a humanitarian visa from the Mexican government for having been victims of a crime.  While they wait for an answer from Mexican authorities, they find support in the shelter in Chahuites, Oaxaca.

Life or “La Mara”

Napoleón didn’t think twice about leaving his native country of Salvador, to save his son, whom the “Maras” sought out to recruit,  The “Maras”’ forcible recruitment of young people has increased violence in recent years, leading to frequent confrontations between authorities and Salvadorean gang members

Despite having fled El Salvador, Napoleón and his son were chased by so-called policement while crossing Mexico. After the chase, they stopped at a house near the highway to ask for water. The people who lived in that house threw a pot of boiling instant soup at them, telling them to go away

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Like the majority of people who walk the path between Arriaga-Chahuites, Napeleón and his son were attacked. In the attack, Napoleón was wounded on one of his hands.

The “Chauites” shelter, a refuge for victims and displaced persons.

Seven out of ten migrants who come to this shelter have been victims of attacks and aggressions. It is a modest space that lacks many conveniences but it fulfills a need for protection in migrants who walk along the migratory path.

It takes 15 to 20 hours to get to Arriaga from Chahuites by foot. The only other people to be found on this path are Migrations’ agents who chase migrants all the way into the hills.

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Situated a few metres from the train tracks, this shelter is a show of solidarity toward migrants. Its founder, Irineo Mujica, saw the need to recondition this space that shelters victims and displaced persons.

Now, migrants have a place to rest before they continue on their path. If they need to, they can also be accompanied to report violations. Offering this possibility of accompanying migrants wishing to report violations has turned the shelter into a target for delinquents. In spite of this, locals and business owners in the area have been solidary with the shelter. Beans, rice and lentils are a typical menu, sometimes supplemented with donated fruit and vegetables. Walking migrants always appreciate a hot soup.

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“The path is guided by two cold lines of steel that have witnessned the worse tragedies. Darkness is their only companion, interrupted by lightning that briefly illuminates faces that are full or fear and full of hope. The floods of rain falling on the walking bodies soak their weathered shirts, also soaking the heart with emotion, with a strange emotion that seems like terror when you heRd the sound of nothing, of that forgetting that is more powerful than weapons, that indifference that murders dreams.” RubenFigueroa

Photos and text by Ruben Figueroa

Human rights defender

South-Southeast coordinator for the Movimiento Migrante Mesoamericano

Twitter: @RubenFigueroaDH

Instagram: @rubenfigueroadh

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