Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Nueva Suyapa Interviews

Over the past few days I have conducted interviews with many people through Nueva Suyapa and around the capital building in Tegucigalpa. A few people asked for photos after my last post so I am trying to update our Picasa album (hopefully it works this time).
Nearly every (I am not exaggerating) family has someone who has left for either the U.S. or Spain to find work. Over the next few weeks we will be giving you an idea of what it takes to get to the U.S. but the trip to Spain in comparison is safer, and cheaper. The potential migrant will take a plane to Europe as a tourist and then stay and work instead. This is also illegal without a work visa (same as in the U.S.) but a plane ticket will often run under $2000 as opposed to $6000 which is a common rate for Coyotes who take people from Honduras to the U.S. Ironically migrating to the United States illegally is very expensive. Most people cover these costs by getting loans from friends or family that they will then have to pay back when they find work. Spain is now clamping down on supposed tourists and cross checking to make sure people actually have plans to travel and not work so it is quickly becoming more difficult to migrate there as well.
Unfortunately I don’t have space to write about all our interviews so I picked a few to talk about instead.
I met Oscar at the Christian Reformed Church in Nueva Suyapa. He just got back from the U.S. after being detained for two months in Austin Texas for crossing the border illegally. Oscar has who brothers in the U.S. (North Carolina and New York) but his wife and children live in Nueva Suypapa. He said his trip to the U.S. was difficult especially for his wife and children because he had no way of contacting them and letting them know he was alright. Sometimes people leave for the States and are never heard from again either because they start a new life or because they die along the way. Because of his two month incarceration and subsequent deportation, Oscar’s financial situation has only gotten worse. He is now several months behind on rent and back (literally) where he started. Still, despite his bad experience, Oscar said he is not angry. He thanks God that the U.S. has been blessed with prosperity and prays that God will continue to be with them in the future.
In most of the interviews I have done so far, the theme of family comes up quite often. Many people decide to leave in order to support their families and unfortunately, it is the family unit that suffers the most. Kurt Ver Beek, Calvin College professor for the semester abroad program in Honduras, says one of the biggest reasons he often does not support people leaving is because of the many families he has seen suffer as a result of one or both parents being gone.
This spring Calvin students Jill Van Beek and Katie De Yong conducted interviews with teachers and children in a rural village in Honduras. The teachers reported that many negative behavioral patterns began when one or both parents left the home to work elsewhere. One teacher reported that children know how to love their siblings but don’t know how to love in the context of marriage.

Still, for many people the benefits of leaving far outweigh the negative consequences. Pastor Valasquez of the Christian Reformed Church in Nueva Suyapa talked about a young woman named Merari. She left for Spain the day after I arrived in Honduras because her and her siblings were under severe financial pressure. Here parents are not in the picture (I did not find out why) so her siblings are now staying with their grandma while she goes to find work. Pastor Valazquez said this could be good for Merari´s family since it is harder for women in Honduras to find work than men.
Over all it seems like the decision to leave is tough. For some families the financial benefits for a family member to leave for work and send money back are good enough to give them a significant boost while others suffer family disintegration, financial loss, or other hardships (I talked to one man who lost both his legs while trying to get on a train in Mexico). Still, more people decide to leave every day and it does not seem like that will change any time soon.
If you have more questions or comments about these interviews, let us know and we will do our best to respond.


Michelle B. said...

This may be a silly question, but why do they not fly to the US like they fly to Spain, as you mentioned?

Michelle B.

ATLAS Orange City Area said...

The stories are very interesting. I can't wait to hear "the rest of the story". We were wondering the same thing as Michelle. Mom

nate said...

The answer is that some people actually do fly the states. If you have a work visa you can legally enter the states and people obtain such a visa but then overstay thier permitted time. The majority of people however, cannot get such a visa because of limited numbers and strict criteria. If such a person tried to enter the states by plane the would be turned back at the airport once they landed.
Plane travel is possible in other places though. The man we talked to from Ecuador flew to Honduras (legally) before starting the more treacherous migrant journey to the states.