On March 25, 2018, at 6:00 a.m. thousands of central Americans, including children, babies, adults, families and even grandparents, embarked on foot on a migrant viacrucis headed to the United States.
Their journey is described as a viacrucis, or way of the cross, comparing the migrants’ arduous journey to the different stages of suffering endured by Jesus Christ on his way to Calvary.
They are expected to arrive in the center of Mexico in approximately 30 days.
The director of Pueblos Sin Fronteras and Coordinator of the Migrant Viracrucis, Irineo Mújica, said that the Viacrucis, includes displaced members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTTI) from central American communities, 150 unaccompanied minors, 30 babies, some of whom are breastfeeding, adolescents and elderly among the journeyers who are estimated to total around 1,500. The pilgrimage started in the Mexican southern border city of Tapachula with the purpose of arriving in Mexico and the United States in search of asylum.
One of the coordinators of this group, Irineo Múgica, explained that this odyssey is carried out every year during Holy Week, as migrants take on their own cross in faith as they pass through Mexico.
Along the way, they suffer many hardships, from theft to even death. Women are frequently raped but keep quiet out of fear. The Mexican state governments have vowed to respect migrant rights, but migrants have told of countless cases where those who ought to protect them have joined in the abuse.
Who will defend migrants from aggression? Left with impossible choices, they endure silently for fear of repercussions.
In Tapachula, their point of departure, the migrants gather hungry and thirsty under a scorching sun. The caravans, as they are called, include many young children who are also victims of hunger, thirst, and heat.
What the mothers really want, is to find a job to provide for their children and to work without fear for their lives. They seek asylum and refuge from lives without human rights.
They are migrants from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. They will stop in the coastal municipalities of Huixtla, Mapastepec and Pijijiapan where some will take the train to continue on to Oaxaca, Veracruz, Puebla and then to the north of the country.
Theirs is a journey without prospects and filled with risks.
More than 200 mothers and their children embarked on the journey hoping for Mexican solidarity and support. In Guadalajara, Mexican organizations and individuals waited for them with food, water, medical care, and transportation.
Six large buses, aligned in a caravan, awaited some of them. These were generously secured by private donations from Mexico and the United States with the intention of sparing mothers and young children from having to ride atop The Beast, the train ride of death.
The migrants are headed to the border with the United States, where some will surrender to the authorities to request asylum. They are escaping human rights violations, including, gender violence, political and military violence, gang violence, illiteracy, lack of adequate medical care and lack of work and living wages to support their children. Women and teens are in extreme danger of violence, abuse, and death. They know that an anti-immigrant climate awaits them in the United States, but they feel they have no choice.
What do they want Mexico and the US to know?
- The migrants want Mexico and the United States to recognize their rights as refugees according to international laws.
- They want both countries to know they seek protection and they are not criminals.
- They want to shed light on the humanitarian crisis that exists in their countries of Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala.
- They want Mexico and the United States to realize the degree of crisis that they face every day in Central America.
- They ask for respect regarding their rights; that they listen to them, and that those who need protection, receive it.
The migrants entered Mexico by the Suchiate River, which divides Mexico and Guatemala, located about 45 kilometers from this city. They began their pilgrimage at 6:00 in the morning from the Miguel Hidalgo Central Park in Chiapas. Hanging on to homemade crosses and marching shoulder to shoulder they encouraged each other with a chant:
“Migrants are not criminals. We are workers. We are international workers. Why do you kill us? Why do you assassinate us? When we are the hope of Latin America!”