Friday, May 9, 2008
On May 6 I met up with Steve in Guatemala City. After four miles of walking and five local buses over six aggravating hours, we arrived at the Casa Del Migrante or Migrant`s house. The house is run by the Scalabarini order of the Catholic church and was set up as a safe place for migrants to rest before heading out again. The facility is so new they are still finishing the second half. The quarters are modest but very clean and well kept. Compared to the alternative of sleeping on the streets the place was amazing. Father Abraham was not quite sure about us at first (gringos showing up saying they are journalists and want to stay the night) but his generosity won out in the end. All the facilities including three meals are offered free to migrants but people are only allowed to stay three nights before moving on. This is because they want to maintain their ministry for migrants and not simply house the homeless in Guatemala City (there are other missions for that).
Steve and I stayed two nights and had some great opportunities to talk to migrants as well as the volunteers and priests that ran the house. Steve will tell you a little more about our interviews but I wanted to talk about an interesting observation from the night before we left. That night we gathered together and talked about human rights at the prompting of Father Abraham. Each night he brings us together before going to bed to talk about a topic pertinent to migrants.
As the conversation rounded the horn I was struck by the diversity of the group. Everyone spoke Spanish (Steve and I were they only second-language Spanish speakers) but each in their own accent. Father Abraham was raised in Mexico. Juan and Adolfo are from Guatemala although they each had lived in the States for some time, spoke English, and brought their own unique perspective. Then there were Juan and Javier, the brothers from El Salvador. Javier had lived in the states for 9 years but was deported after he was stopped for not using his turn signal. This time he decided to bring his brother to the States with him. On the other side of the room was Eric, a Garifuna (black) man from the north coast of Honduras. He spake English quite well but his Spanish accent was so thick I could not understand it. Just a few days ago he had been beaten by Guatemalan police and was here to rest and recover. In the corner, tucked away in his quiet but confident demeanor, was Julio. Julio is from Ecuador and was told to come here by another church after being robbed of his last $300. It is an extremely long trip from Ecuador to here and there are still 2500 miles until the U.S. border.
An English equivalent to this group would be like gathering people from British Colombia, Texas, Australia, New Zealand, and New York all with the same goal. As an outsider it was hard to catch all the cultural subtleties going on but they were definitely there.
Earlier today I was going through the library here and say a poster asking the question: ¿Somos familia en la migracion? Are we family in migration? It´s hard to imagine such a diverse group being family yet stories of migrants helping and sharing with each other are very common. People here need to rely on strangers and sometimes that means getting robbed or beaten but without this family of migrants, No one would get where they wanted to go.
That next morning one of the guys had a loaf of bread he had bought the day before. Instead of eating it himself he broke it into bite size pieces and shared it during breakfast. There was not enough for all nine of us but he shared it anyway. I imagine we are going to run into a lot more generosity of this kind on our way to the states. At least we hope so.
at 9:46 AM