We seek refuge too: Central American migrant children

“WE SEEK REFUGE TOO:” Central American migrant children

 By: Ruben Figueroa

Thousands of kilometers divide them but the same misfortune unites them, their eyes are admired on the road, every minute they see unfamiliar faces. They are children displaced by violence and poverty; Europe experiences the worst migrant crisis in its history but Latin America does too. Our continent isn’t left behind but indifference makes the atrocity something common not only for the governments but also for society.

A Central American child and her family rest at the shelter in Chahuites, Oaxaca, before continuing to flee from poverty and violence in her country of origin. Photo: Rubén Figueroa

A Central American child and her family rest at the shelter in Chahuites, Oaxaca, before continuing to flee from poverty and violence in her country of origin. Photo: Rubén Figueroa

You don’t hear bombs, but yes blood is spilled

The last time that Zaylin and her husband were together was at a birthday party. Minutes before the party ended, her husband and his cousin said goodbye. Two hours went by when Zaylin received a call insulting her and asking that she be delivered; if not, they would kill her and her son. Moments before, the same criminals had “picked up” [meaning kidnapped] her husband and his cousin for having refused to sell drugs. They “were driven around” in a pickup truck all over the Honduran town.

After Zaylin hung up, she took her children and went to her cousin’s house seeking refuge. The next morning, her mother-in-law arrived to advise her that the two men were found dead. She waited until her husband was buried to flee, as the only option, to one of the most dangerous colonies of San Pedro Sula: “La Rivera Hernández.”

Nevertheless, the killers’ threats reached that place. Zaylin once again took her children –Michael, age 7 and Junior, one and a half- and began the flight towards Guatemala to later enter into Mexico. There, hiding between the mountains and fleeing from operations of the immigration authorities that ignore their misery, her migrant compañeros help her carry Junior, who is the smallest one.

Only like that did she achieve reaching a shelter in Chahuites, Oaxaca. Said shelter opened its doors after the migrants were impeded from climbing onto the train and became victims of the witch hunt undertaken by the Mexican government under the name: “Plan Frontera Sur” (Southern Border Plan). Zeydi and her children asked the Mexican State for refuge because they have much fear of returning to their country. “They will surely finish killing me and my children,” she exclaims with tears in her eyes, while the children play with Katerin and Justin.

The poverty and violence that obliges them to flee

Katerin and Justin travel with their father Marvin from Honduras. Their mother abandoned them because she had a nexus with “La Mara” (a dreadfully violent group of gang members). It was extremely difficult for Marvin to maintain his two children. With a job cleaning a commercial center, his weekly salary was just 1,500 lempiras (around 75 dollars) on a schedule from 7 AM to 7 PM. There were occasions on which Marvin left work late and he was robbed at least three times in his own neighborhood.

They heard shots every day. On one occasion, “two armed men arrived and knocked on our door at midnight,” he narrates. Katerin and Justin, just like their father, lived in an atmosphere of violence and poverty. One day before they started their escape, Marvin’s ex sentimental partner came to their house and threatened to do damage. “It’s better for the mother to leave the children without a father, she said. They left for Mexico the next day.

Nevertheless, violence accompanies and pursues them on the stretch between Arriaga (Chiapas) and Chahuites (Oaxaca). Marvin and his two little ones were assaulted with a luxury of violence. The criminals were carrying machetes and a firearm and during the assault one of the criminals pushed Marvin, because of which Katerin –only 2 years old- got frightened and began to cry very loud, and one of the criminals took out his weapon, pointed it at her father and demanded that he quiet the little girl.

Marvin denounced the acts at the prosecutor’s office and they want the Mexican government to grant them a humanitarian visa for having been victims of a crime. While they wait for a response from Mexican authorities, the shelter in Chahuites, Oaxaca supports them.

Life or “La Mara”

Napoleon didn’t think twice about leaving El Salvador, his birth country, for the purpose of safeguarding the life of his son, who “The Maras” wanted to recruit.

The confrontation between authorities and Salvadoran gang members has renewed the violence in recent years because “The Maras” seek to recruit youth by force.

In spite of that, on their travel through Mexico, alleged police pursued Napoleon and his son. After the pursuit, they approached a house near the highway to ask for water. That was when the inhabitants of that place threw a boiling soup at the body and demanded that they leave.

Like the majority that travel along the Arriaga-Chahuites route, Napoleon and his son were assaulted. Napoleon’s hand was injured during the incident.

“Chahuites” Shelter, a refuge for victims and the displaced

Seven of every ten migrants that arrive at this shelter are victims of assaults (robberies) and aggressions. It’s a humble place and much is lacking, but it’s necessary for the migrants that are now displaced on foot along the migratory route.

From Arriaga to Chahuites it takes from 15 to 20 hours walking. There are immigration agents on that path that pursue the migrants even in the woods.

This shelter is little known but it is an example of solidarity with the migrants. Irineo Mujica, its founder, saw the need for air-conditioning this space that currently shelters victims and displaced persons. It is a few meters from the railroad tracks.

Now the migrants have somewhere to rest in order to continue their journey. If they require it, they can also be accompanied to denounce vexations. This denouncing and accompaniment activity has provoked criminals to have it in their sights.

Nevertheless, the zone’s residents and businesspersons have been in solidarity with the shelter. Beans, corn and lentils is a common menu and fruits and vegetables occasionally arrive by means of a donation. The travelers always receive a hot soup well.

“Two cold iron lines that have witnessed the worst of tragedies guide the way. Only the darkness accompanies them, which is interrupted by flashes of lightening that, for a moment, illuminate the faces full of fear and full of hope. Torrents of water fall on the walking bodies that not only wet the weather-beaten shirts, but that also saturate the heart with emotion, a rare emotion that looks like terror when you hear the sound of nothing, of that oblivion that is more powerful than weapons, of that indifference that assassinates dreams.” RubenFigueroa


Photo and text by Ruben Figueroa

Human Rights Defender

South – Southeast Coordinator of the Mesoamerican Migrante Movement

Twitter: @RubenFigueroaDH

Instagram: @rubenfigueroadh


Originally Published in Spanish by Chiapas Paralelo

Translation: Chiapas Support Committee

Tuesday, September 8, 2015



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