Thursday, October 20, 2011


Eric wrote the following post about a guest we chatted with at Hotel Migrante:

Cristian is from Guatemala. His family lives in Puerto San Jose on the Pacific coast. Cristian is 23 years old and was working in Guatemala as a welder, building doors and window bars - specialized in customized designs such as flowers, birds, etc. After work he used to go fishing in the ocean to make ends meet. He has a wife and a 3 year old son in Guatemala. 

Five years ago Cristian made an attempt to migrate to the U.S. I can't remember how long it took him but at one point he was kidnapped for 5 days in Nuevo Laredo until family could pay a ransom. Eventually he made it to Houston, but was picked up and deported shortly thereafter. This time, he says, things have changed, are much worse and migrants, especially Central Americans, run much more risk that they did five years ago.

Cristian left home again six months ago with 130 Quetzales in his pocket (roughly 10 USD). It took him two months riding trains to make it to the border. He had been traveling with a friend who had made the journey several times and knew the ropes, more or less. However, this friend was unable to jump one train which Cristian managed to get on and since then the haven't heard from each other. 

At one point, in Sinaloa, he and a fellow traveler jumped from a train that was moving at high speeds to avoid a group of federal or municipal police that were stopping it to search. He said that when they jumped it wasn't possible to stay on their feet and they had fell hard, rolling. They got up and ran hard and only when they stopped did Cristian realize that he had hurt his knees. Months later they still hurt when he walks a lot.

We hardly have anything in common, really, with these guys, but we did bond over one thing with Cristian.  I am not sure which trip north it was on, but at one point, Cristian and his friends used bicycles to get across Chiapas.  He said that in this way, crossing through one of the most dangerous parts of the journey, that at any given point, they only resembled campesinos of the local area.  I had heard this same story a few years ago from some Honduran guys I worked with hanging drywall in New York.

Since arriving at the border Cristian has been back and forth along it for 4 months looking for the best way to cross North.  Who knows what all happened to him in those travels.  Without money and phone problems, Cristian had not spoken with any family member for six months!  We were able to get him through to his folks in Guatemala using Skype on our phone and will never forget that smile- as if some weight he was carrying had been lifted off his chest. ¨At least now they know I'm alive and well.¨ Eventually we hope he can get through to relatives in the states who will send him sufficient funds to cross over.

I am amazed again and again at what lengths these guys will go to, reaching for a dream that so many of us take for granted: the right to dignified work, the right to feed one´s family and the right to travel without risking your life at every turn of the road. At one point Cristian told us that ¨Aquí en Baja California está muy tranquilo, aquí sólo me han agarrado una vez!¨ ¨It´s pretty safe here in Baja California, here I´ve only been assaulted/kidnapped one time!¨

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this post, Eric. I can't imagine being a traveler outside my country and not being able to get in touch with my family for so long. Even considering the safe, predictable conditions under which we 美国人* are used to traveling, I expect my loved ones to tell me they've arrived safely, and that's usually the first thing I do when I get somewhere.

    As you guys travel, I've been appreciating the updates I've received on your whereabouts and plans. I wish all the families at home could be so fortunate.

    *I felt weird identifying as "American" in this post, since that guy is American, too. So I just went with unambiguous Chinese.