October 21, 2009

The Journey to the US is Dangerous, but So is Guatemala City

One of the first places I began to look for deportees in Guatemala was in the airport, where deportees arrive from the United States. I exchanged numbers with them, and asked them to call me in a month or so to let me know how things are going.

To my surprise, this strategy has been moderately successful, even when I don’t secure an interview. This morning, a young man called me, telling me I gave him my number nearly two months ago at the airport. We chatted for a bit, and arranged to have an interview on Saturday. This one I expect should work out.

About two weeks ago, I called a young man I met in the airport. He told me he’d be glad to talk to me, but only could do the interview on Sundays, as he was working the other six days a week. I called him the following Sunday, but he wasn’t around. So, I picked up the phone and tried again today. He told me he is too busy to do the interview. He is in Xela, preparing for a trip to the US, leaving in the next couple of days.

I asked him why he is leaving, when he knows how dangerous the trip can be. He cited two reasons. The first is that he is having trouble finding a stable job here. The second is that Guatemala City is dangerous. The job he had required him to ride public transportation at night, and the newspapers are full of accounts of assaults, robberies, and murders on the buses, especially after dark.

Recently, three armed robbers got on the bus in zone 7 at 8:30pm and took everyone’s belongings. This made the front page news, not because of the event itself – but because the passengers on the bus shot and killed two of the assailants. Guns are legal in Guatemala, and two of the passengers were armed and fired at the robbers. The third got away with the passengers’ belongings.

Because of the violence in Guatemala City, the lack of opportunities for stable work, and the opportunities available in the US, this young man plans to risk the trip across Mexico and to the US once again.

On the trip, he risks being robbed on the freight trains going north. One of my interviewees explained to me that, as you are riding on the train, there are parts where you go through a tunnel, and it is completely dark. You have to hold on tightly, and can’t see anything. Right at that moment, thieves board the train and frisk you. You can’t let go, or else you die. When the train comes out the other side of the tunnel, you are left without your money. How the thieves are able to get your money without holding on is a mystery to me.

This young man also risks being kidnapped. Zetas, narco-trafficking rings in Mexico, often kidnap migrants and hold them for ransom. They call their family members and tell them to come up with $6,000 or they will kill the migrants. The Zetas are to be believed. They will kill you if your family doesn’t come up with the money in time.

If and when this young man gets across Mexico, past the gangs, robbers, and kidnappers, he will have to cross the treacherous desert, dodge Border Patrol agents and try to make it safely to his final destination. He may well make it – thousands do each year. He said he will call me when he arrives. I’ll look forward to hearing from him.

No comments:

Post a Comment