My (Spanish-speaking, angelic) San Francisco friend, Diane and I are in Tijuana to help support the 7,000 Caravan members who are on the Mexican side of the border waiting for a chance to apply for asylum in the US. Since first meeting up with the Caravan five weeks ago near the Guatemalan border, we observe that some things have changed and some have not. The bad news first….
More caminantes arrived in Irapuato on Saturday morning, 1200 of them, mostly Hondurans. This second group had less than the first. Many arrived in shorts, without jackets or blankets or socks. Sneezing and coughing, eyes glazed over. One man had bare feet. The temperatures at night have fallen to the low 40s.
It’s become more difficult to predict the path of the Caravan since it left Mexico City. News reports are unreliable, plans change and there are break-off groups. I went to Irapuato on Saturday after hearing various reports — The migrants were headed there. The migrants were not headed there. The migrants were headed there but only in small numbers.
When the Caravan was traveling through isolated territory where we could find no accommodations between Huitxla and Juchitan de Zaragoza, Diane and I spent a few days exploring the Mexican state of Chiapas. Continue reading
After two nights in Juchitan, the Caravan members woke before dawn yesterday to clean up the garbage at their encampment and then headed north at 6am. They had originally planned to take the route to Oaxaca City but at the last minute decided to trek through Veracruz — less mountainous but more dangerous because of the cartel criminals. Some will hop the freight train, also dangerous.
We arrived yesterday in the town of Juchitan de Zaragoza along the coast in Oaxaca where the Caravan was scheduled to arrive this morning. We had heard about Juchitan, known for its matriarchal social structure and large community of gay and transgender residents. Turns out there is plenty more here that makes this community special.
My phone rang in our hotel room at 4:15am Tuesday morning. It was Francisco: “Como estas, Kim? Voy a llegar at 4:45 ok?” We think he called to make sure we would actually be awake when he arrived to pick us up at our Tapachula hotel. I met Francisco the day I arrived in Tapachula because he was the taxi driver who took me from the airport to my hotel. On that ride, I told him I was there to support the Caminata, and he replied “Todos somos iguales bajo dios.” We are all the same under God. Then he said he wanted to help too.
Yesterday, my San Francisco friend Diane and I arrived in the unassuming, humid and hot city of Tapachula, in the state of Chiapas, Mexico. It’s definitely a weird choice for a visit — unless you want to support the people of the Caminata de Migrantes, referred to in the English language press as “The Caravan.”