A story

Filed under: Mexico, Yucatan Diary — evs global change @ 20:54

I have often heard from my boss that **** is a village with a high rate of emigration.
Actually walking in **** you have the impression that an age group misses, particularly that of my peers up to 35.
I found out chatting with the villagers that anyone has, at least, one family member or friend in the U.S. We have simple chats, like the ones at the bar, although I am not attending the folk “cantinas”: as a woman and foreigner, in a village so small, a visit to a cantina would be the end of my reputation and my work.
So they are stolen words, small traces that as Arianna’s thread, lead to a special place, the key site.
It is the first time I can say that my addiction to tobacco has brought me to something good. Thanks to it (which I believe has already significantly reduced the duration of my life) a night I asked Blanca, the cook, a ride with her trici- taxi to go to ****.
Once in the down-town, already quite late, Blanca asked the taxi driver to pick me up as soon as I was finished. She looked at me like somebody who knows a lot and said, ” es una persona de confianza, con él puedes regresar al complejo sin problemas a esta hora”.

That was how I met Carlos. He returned at the appointed hour and we left. The trici-taxi is the most common way to travel short distances: it is a motorbike pulling a cart covered with a plastic sheet to protect from rain or sun. That’s where customers stay, as seats wooden planks or, in the case of the best equipped covered with plastic cushions.
Carlos began the conversation. Usual questions like: where are you from? Where did you learn Spanish? How long have you been living in México? Do you like to stay here? He added that he spoke little English because he lived in USA for 6 years. In that occasion he already mentioned his tortuous journey to cross the border. When we arrived, we continued to talk. He was caught while crossing the border by police, he was sent back and he tried again, not without fears for his life. He was happy that everything ended well and he was not to re-cross the border again in those conditions. There ended our first chat.
I found the courage to call Carlos some time later. It was another interview that gave me the strength to do the nerve and ask specifically to see each others to talk about his experience. A few days before, for a research work, I went to interview one of the partners of the Cooperative, Choni. From the interview turned out that her husband was in the U.S. without a visa, without any document. She has not seen him for seven years and their family situation was aggravated by the fact that nor Choni nor her children had ever obtained the permission to go as a tourist in the U.S. for lack of requirements. In the case of her children, being minors, they need the father’s permission to emigrate. It was easy to imagine that the father, illegal in the U.S., could not expose himself.
Their story had touched me so much. I realized the trail of pain that leaves behind the migration, especially if it is simply dictated by necessity.
More research work, some official statistics, although it is impossible to record or make estimates of the illegal presence of foreigners, gave me an idea of how high is the volume of the phenomenon and how it has increased since 1994, with the entry of México in NAFTA.

Statistics have the ability to turn people into numbers, to deprive them of their faces and their experience. Statistics hide the lives of flesh and bones men, the small drops that shape the river of history. I would be never told, why a person may decide to leave his family, his country, risk the life to go elsewhere. I would be never told about the journey to appear in official statistics of the residents without permission.

Unexpectedly, Carlos gladly accepted to meet us. We met at the eco-tourism complex and he took me to his house, so I could meet his wife as well.

His home is beautiful, spacious and bright. We sit in the lounge and Carlos, as reading my thoughts, says that the house is the reason why he decided to migrate to the USA.
I do not need to ask questions or to introduce why I am interested … Carlos wants to tell his story: My only role is to listen, to transform myself into a blank page where his story can be embossed. The room is pervaded by his words and the sweet and moist eyes of his wife.
“Before leaving for the U.S., we lived in another house. It consisted of just one room, which was where we slept, ate and spent our day, my wife, my son and I. The walls were made of plasterboard and the roof of tin. We were simply too poor to afford another. I worked in transportation for the government, but what I earned was not enough to give us a decent house. I told my wife that I was going to the U.S., but she did not believe me and even wanted me to go. Only when I returned from **** with my flight ticket, she realized I was speaking seriously”. His wife mentions a gesture of assent with her head, she looks back to a distant past, and her face assumes an expression of resignation before irreversible decisions of others.
“I bought a ticket to Mexicali, the capital of Baja California. I began to get in touch with some relatives who live in the United States, ****, California, to inform them of my coming and to organize the trip. My sister-in-law lives there.
When I left was June the 9th, 2003. I was not alone: I travelled with my niece and her five-year son. Our relatives managed to get in touch with a young man with dual nationality. This guaranteed him to cross the border without problems. He was our contact person with the coyote. Do you know who the coyotes are? Yes, right: the people who lead the trip along the border. You can meet many of them at the airport. By a masking approach, they ask if you go to the other side. At that time the price ranges to cross the frontier was from 1300 to 2000 U.S. $, depending on the route. The cheapest is through the desert. There are good and bad coyotes, you have to be good at choosing “.

Hearing these words, I realize that my whole mental universe on coyotes, smugglers and other pseudo-guides has a kick. There aren’t coyotes or buenos or malos, smugglers or good or bad for me … they just may have a negative connotation. Carlos puts their shape under an ambiguous and ambivalent light. Throughout his story I can not understand what he really thinks, what was the relationship. Sometimes he shows the human side, others he reveals foul aspects. At one point, I realize that people need a huge leap of faith to offer themselves and all that they have to a coyote. Faith. This word will appear again during the story.
“Which are good and which are bad coyotes? The worst are those who are in contact with groups of offenders. During the trip the group of migrants can be attacked by groups of criminals who were previously contacted by the coyote. And so they end up being robbed even the little they bring with them. There are coyotes good, those that bring you to destination”.

I wonder where they find the money to pay for the trip. Also if during the trip they travelled just with the coyote or it was a group. Carlos will answer telling.

“The trip is paid on the arrival by relatives or the contacts on the other side. I returned the money working. The migrant does not bring much with him, almost nothing. My wife had sewn a secret pocket inside of my trousers to hide the little money I brought with me. ”

I smile thinking of the wisdom of women. My mother’s face appears before my eyes, while embroidering the initials of my name on my clothes.

“We stopped at a motel waiting for the call. Then we were told we had to go to the park. There a car came. We went up and the car took us to a small house where we slept.
Where were we? In San Luis Rio Colorado, Sonora. We were greeted by a woman. We stopped at this house 2 days. They gave us food and a place to sleep. But we were under surveillance: when I needed to call my wife I had to ask permission to go out and to explain where I was going and why. It’s a measure so that people do not escape. For them would mean losing money.
We were alerted by the woman that the departure was at 11:00 pm. We left in a car with tinted windows. We were four: my niece, her son, me and another woman. We stopped in a place where we were joined by another car with four other people, other 4 migrants. Finally we reached the place where we tried to cross the border for the first time. I say first because the attempt failed miserably that night. The coyote had warned us not to touch anything, do not touch the wire because it would have tripped the alarm. But while we were crossing, the trousers of one of the women remained entangled in the barbed wire. All around was lit up, and in less than a minute came the Migra. In that moment we saw the coyote running away. One of the policemen pulled his gun and ordered him to stop, to stop or he would have shot. The coyote stopped, his hands rose up. The policeman caught him, and seizing him by the hair pushed back the head of the coyote and put the gun in his mouth: <<That’ll teach you to escape! >>. No. No, he didn’t shoot. But we were terrified “.


“What happened next? They took us to the police station, divided men and women. They made pictures, they took our datas. We didn’t have eaten for hours, we were hungry, but they didn’t give us food. They presented the two options we had: to begin a trial before a court or return home. I chose the latter. Thus they brought me to San Luis Colorado by coach. In San Luis, I did not know where my niece was. I waited for hours in the same place they left me. Finally she came down from another coach. ”
“We had a number that the coyote had left us in case of emergency. We called. They brought us in the same house where we had spent the previous nights. This time we stayed there a few days. We had to wait longer because in those days a bus carrying migrants capsized right on the border. This incident generated controls all across the area. Then we moved to another house. This was really close to the border and near the offices of Immigration”.
“What I saw in the place chosen for crossing the border again was a place steeped in sadness. Many people waiting for the right moment to cross. Men and women wrapped in their clothes worn out, sitting or sleeping near the wall that separated us from our goal. They hid their faces in the light of the Mexican police. We didn’t take anything with us, or food or water. I drank water from a small tank. Some Mexican and American people of good heart leave these containers of water in the desert because it is the place of migrants passage “.
“This time we had to cross the border, passing under the wall. Yes under the wall holes were dug, people pass throughout them to go from a side to the other. We had to check the Migra’s steps. This time it wasn’t only our group: we were three groups. Each group would have passed through a hole. The indication was to check that there were no Migra’s cars passing and if not, that was the right time to start running as fast as possible “.
I need to interrupt Carlos. I need to ask how to cross the border in this way with a five-year-old child.

“Sure. He couldn’t have crossed the border with us. The child was asleep with a tablet. He was entrusted to a pair of coyotes, a woman and a man with dual nationality. For the boy they presented false documents and he passed as their son”.
“Across the wall the Migra’s cars passed along the road. We had the indication to run as fast as possible. Running in the parts where there was no asphalt and rolling along the road”.

I do not understand the dynamics. Carlos sits on the floor and draws with his finger a kind of map to describe the route.

“Here’s the wall, the three groups are arranged in proximity to the holes. My group was at the centre. We had to dive in and climb the other side, as I said. Now after the wall there is not a paved road. There we had to run. Then we had to cross a piece of paved road. We had to lie down and to go rolling. This paved road, as you can see, has an oval shape ”

He points his finger on the two extremities of the egg he has drawn “when the Migra car was in these points, we could have crossed the street. We had to roll on this part to avoid that they saw us.
While crossing one of the groups was spotted and stopped. Their bad luck, gave us time to escape.
After crossing the road, there was another section where to run and then another piece of road where to roll again “. Therefore the “egg” designed by Carlos had the outline of paved road and a sandy heart.

“After passing this part, it was just running. I jumped in a sandy channel 2 m deep. I was running out of my feet, to the city, where we had the appointment with the coyote. The coyote never came. We knew later that he had been captured by the Migra. We were afraid to knock on the door of the appointment. What would happen if we were wrong? We spent most of the night hidden in the street, under a plastic sheet that I found. But at 5 am, a woman opened the door and told us to enter. She took us to the bottom of the house. Then she made the call. And when she names me and my niece, she told us we had to climb over the wall behind the house. In the other side a man was waiting in the car. We climbed. What a strange feeling! We spent the whole night hiding, terrified that the Migra could have seen us and now we were passing before their eyes, sit comfortably in the car, as if nothing had happened”.
“We were going to Yuma. There we were accommodated in another house for several days. A sweet woman greeted us. She gave us clean clothes and delicious food. And in Yuma we met the child. We were ready to leave again. We were travelling across Arizona. As we were further from the border, the coyotes began to get in touch with our relatives”.
“The appointment was given at a gas station. Await our relatives, while coyotes offered us drinks. They finally came. My parents paid for my trip 1800 US$. I could leave with my relatives to ****, 4 more hours travelling. I started my trip on June the 9th, I arrived on the 21st”.

How were the six years that Carlos spent in the U.S.? As soon as he arrived, his relatives had found a work for him in a carwash. After two years he worked for another car wash from 8:00 to 18:00 and at the same time he was working in a restaurant from 22:00 at early morning. He managed to find a third job for his days off as kitchen help in a restaurant. A wage was needed to pay his expenses in the U.S., such as rent, food etc… The rest was for his wife.
In Los Angeles he was able to buy a false insurance number that allowed him to work.
His son joined him. They decided to return when the works of his house in México had been completed and paid. Also he put aside the money for the wedding of his son.
The return was much simpler. He obtained a new passport at the consulate and returned by plane.

Carlos’s wife will know about the trip of her husband only years later. Both, in those years of solitude prayed. “Faith has helped us in these years of separation. We prayed every day. Thanks to my faith I’m here, alive, telling my story. Not everybody had my fate; many have died along the way. Has it been worthy? I met many people; I have many friends from all over the world living there. I suffered a lot, I risked my life, I worked as a mule, now I have my home, and my son got married. We can live in dignity. As in all things, there’s good and bad. The life itself is a journey, a journey through suffering and joy”.


Ps: In order to respect the privacy of the characters appearing in this post, I use pseudonymous. Moreover I decided not to specify the village where the interview took place, or sensible name of places. 


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