Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Cuarenta Días en el Desierto - por David Wanish


"Cuarenta días en el desierto" describe tanto a Jesús Cristo al comienzo de su ministerio, como a la comunidad cristiana durante la Cuaresma. Para mí, de ahora en adelante, también describirá a los migrantes que enfrentan un peligroso viaje a través de México cuando van en rumbo a los Estados Unidos. Durante una delegación con la organización Acción Permanente por la Paz (Witness for Peace en inglés), aprendí que los migrantes que empiezan su viaje en el sur de México o en Centro América, pueden tardar uno o dos meses para llegar a Estados Unidos.  Este viaje con frecuencia incluye caminatas a través de tramos aterradores del desierto.


Una franja muy pequeña del enorme desierto mexicano.

Durante la delegación, que tuvo lugar en el estado mexicano de Oaxaca, visitamos a un refugio para migrantes, patrocinado por la Iglesia Católica, que ofrece alimentos, atención médica, e información útil a los que buscan desesperadamente una vida mejor para sus familias. Algunas de las necesidades más comunes que tienen los migrantes que pasan por ahí son nuevos zapatos (porque se gastan rápidamente), y tratamiento médico para sus piernas, que tienen ampollas o cortadas como resultado de haber caminado tantos kilómetros a través de las plantas espinosas y de la naturaleza. Algunos migrantes mueren y algunos desaparecen en el camino.


Los delegados llegan a COMI, un refugio para
migrantes que se encuentra en la cuidad de  Oaxaca

La mayoría de los migrantes salen de sus comunidades por razones económicas. Creo que son ellos a quienes el Papa Francisco tenía en mente en su reciente exhortación apostólica, cuando describió una economía de exclusión. "Las masas se encuentran excluidas y marginadas: sin trabajo, sin posibilidades, sin ningún medio de escape" (La Alegría del Evangelio, número 53)

Papa Francisco


Las personas de Oaxaca que visitamos durante la delegación  se han sentido excluidas de las decisiones que las afectan, incluyendo las negociaciones del Tratado de Libre Comercio de América del Norte (TLCAN), ahora con 20 años de vigencia. Este acuerdo dio lugar a más exclusión: la eliminación de subsidios para la agricultura y la pérdida de la protección constitucional de sus tierras comunales. Esto último ha permitido a las empresas extranjeras comprar sus tierras y ha resultado en la explotación tanto de personas como de recursos.

Un paisaje en Teotitlán del Valle, un pueblo cerca de Oaxaca.
Muchos de sus ciudadanos viven en los Estados Unidos. 

Para muchas personas, la única opción es la migración. Nuestro grupo tuvo la oportunidad de quedarse en un pueblo donde la mayoría de las familias tienen al menos un miembro que ha emigrado a los EE.UU. Aunque los migrantes envían remesas a sus familias, su ausencia crea problemas en las comunidades, como por ejemplo el desequilibrio entre el número de hombres y mujeres en la comunidad (la mayoría de los migrantes son hombres), y la separación de los miembros de la familia.


Un muro en COMI: "Justicia para Migrantes".

El Papa señaló que la exclusión económica depende de la "globalización de la indiferencia", donde el sufrimiento de nuestros vecinos ya no nos conmueve (La Alegría del Evangelio, # 54). ¡Vamos a despertarnos! La tasa de la migración de Latinos hacia el norte es una señal de que la balanza de la justicia está desequilibrada. Encontremos la compasión para ayudar a los inmigrantes, y en solidaridad tratemos de aprender más acerca de por qué están aquí.


Para más información sobre las delegaciones a México: http://witnessforpeace.org/section.php?id=108




Forty Days in the Desert - by David Wanish


“Forty days in the desert” describes Jesus at the start of his ministry and the Christian community during Lent.  For me, henceforth, it will also bring to mind migrants who make a dangerous journey through Mexico to the United States.  I learned on a tour with the organization Witness for Peace that the trip for those who start in southern Mexico or Central America can take one to two months and often includes walking through treacherous stretches of desert.


A tiny swath of the huge Mexican desert.

The delegation I attended, based in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca, included a visit to a Church-sponsored migrant shelter which offers food, medical care, and helpful information to those desperately trying to attain a better life for their families.  Some of the most common needs they have include replacements for their worn-out shoes, and treatment for their legs, which are badly blistered and cut from walking many miles through sharp plants in the wilderness.  Some die, and some disappear on the way.



The delegation arrives at COMI, the migrant shelter in Oaxaca, Mexico.

They leave mostly for economic reasons.  I believe their homelands are what Pope Francis had in mind when, in his recent apostolic exhortation, he described an economy of exclusion.  “Masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized:  without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape” (The Joy of the Gospel #53).  


Pope Francis

The people of Oaxaca whom we visited have felt excluded from decisions that affect them, including the negotiations of the North American Free Trade Agreement, now 20 years old.  This resulted in more exclusion:  a removal of agricultural support and even the loss of the Constitutional protection of their communally-owned land. The latter has enabled foreign companies to buy their land and has often led to exploitation of people and resources.

For many, the only option is migration.  Our group had the opportunity to stay in a city where most families have at least one member who has migrated to the US.  While migrants send remittances home, their absence leads to further problems for their communities, like an imbalance of men and women (most migrants are male) and the separation of family members.

A view outside of the Teotitlan del Valle, 
town near Oaxaca. Many of its citizens live in the U.S.

The pope observed that economic exclusion is sustained by a “globalization of indifference,” where suffering of neighbors no longer moves us (The Joy of the Gospel, #54).  Let us be awakened!  The migration rate of Latinos northward is a sign that the scales of justice are out of balance.  Let us in compassion reach out to them, and in solidarity seek to learn more about why they are here.


A wall at COMI shelter: "Justice for Migrants."


For information on joining a delegation to Mexico: http://witnessforpeace.org/section.php?id=108



Monday, June 23, 2014

Tales of Migration and Detention

by James Hutter, james.hutter@gmail.com

(This blog entry is part of a series. Click these links for Part 1, Part 2 & Part 3)
Our visit to San Francisco Tetlanohcan had been a powerful experience for many varied reasons. We saw first hand the effects that migration has had on the community – the loss of family members and the economic impact on the town. We also learned about the
group CAFAMI (Centro de Atencion a la Familia Migrante Indigena) and their efforts to share the tales of migrant families and to reverse the trend of migration. Yet, one particular event still stands out in my mind. One afternoon we had a few moments to meet with residents of Tetlanohcan to hear their personal tales of migration and their thoughts on immigration policy as a whole...
“I am the mother of 7 children in the U.S. My first went in 1990 and I have not seen him since.”
This was the first statement we heard as we gathered in a group to share stories of migration and detainment. The experience quickly turned into a highly emotional session in which residents of San Francisco Tetlanohcan tearfully told us their deeply personal tales. So impactful were these stories that many of us simply sat agasp. While we listened to tales of loved ones that had left home to migrate to the United States, it became clear to the delegation that some of the people in attendance had personally attempted to cross the Mexico-United States Border. It also became clear that a few of them had not had papers to do so.


“I tried to visit my family in the caravan through many states and the desert. I remember seeing all the crosses and thought about all of those that died and how they may have died.”

“One man on the caravan had the sad job of finding bodies. He looked for families or family members that were missing.”

The migration is not easy and it ventures through remote areas often in the vast desert. While the people leading the caravan may take different routes to avoid Mexican or U.S. Border Patrol, it is hard for migrants not to notice the sad markers from past travelers.
Travelers that survive the desert still have a high probability of being captured at the border. And while they all surely realize that they have broken the law in attempting to cross the border, almost none of them are prepared for the treatment they receive from U.S. Border Patrol agents if captured.
One woman told us that she was detained and never given any real information about her status or what Border Patrol had in mind for her. Would she be sent back quickly? Would she be imprisoned? Would something even worse happen to her? It was only after being detained for several days that Border Patrol informed her that the car she was traveling in had no license plates (hence their suspicion) and that she would be forced to testify against the smuggler who had brought her across the border. This was unsettling since many of the “Coyotes” (smugglers) now have Mexican drug cartel affiliations; testifying against a cartel member could be a death sentence. Her last hopes of safety faded even further as her Border Patrol captor told her and fellow captives that they were...
“Bitches. Fucking Mexican pieces of shit.”

A few other tales were shared and it became clear that many detained migrants are treated as less than human.
Our obvious questions were “Why are people are leaving in droves, and why would they would risk taking a potentially deadly journey?” One person responded,
“Both Governments are responsible for this... What good is educating people when there are no jobs?”

            While many felt that the U.S. has an unfair immigration policy for neighboring Mexico, there was a sense among some in the audience that the Mexican government is also responsible and has let their own people down. Both governments have failed to modify trade policies that have negatively impacted farmers in rural areas, and have depressed these regions. It's no wonder that people want to leave and look for work in new areas. And once people in the town have hit the lowest point of desperation and bravely decide to go elsewhere, their families are left to think...
“'We've lost them. We don't know if they are alive or dead. We don't know if border patrol has left them to die.”