First full day in Chiapas

Today we woke up with the heat already too much to bear! It got up to around 33 degrees with a humidity of 45! We don’t expect you to feel too sorry for us, but it took a little getting used to. We visited the International organization for Immigration in the morning, they tend to people who have been injured on their migration (potentially due to gang violence or getting on/off the train) to or though Mexico. They also tend to people with HIV, tuberculosis, and provide a place to stay for families with people in the hospital. They have up to 50-60 people at one time. The volunteers tend to the injured, cook, have sewing classes and workshops to help fund the shelter, they also get prosthetics for people that have lost limbs on their journeys.

We then drove to the town that is home to Cafe Justo where they grow and produce their own coffee beans. We had visited the one in Agua Prieta so it was neat to see where it started from, also a lot of families work at both places. We toured the building and saw the process of the beans being picked to the grinding of coffee. During the tour they brought us fresh bananas and ended it with a fresh cup of coffee, we all agreed that was the best cup we’ve ever had!

After a quick walk to the coffee fields in the rain (which ended up being quite the trek up two hills and deep into the field) we toured a lovely cabin built by one of the families. It was unexpectedly the most wonderful place we’ve seen here, with lush green grass, flowers, a pool, and palm trees. By this time the sun had long set and we walked over to a family’s house for dinner. Listening to the birds and music in the background and feeling the wind and dampness in the air it almost felt like we were on a tropical island. We drove back to Tapachula and are settling in for the night and will be ready to learn more tomorrow!

Once again thanks for all your prayers! Blessings!

Jolene

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Goodbyes and Hellos

We have officially transitioned into the last section of the tour – Chiapas and the Southern Border. Yesterday we had to say goodbye to two of our own: Megan and Thomas. We miss you guys already, and hope that you are doing well.

Megan, muchos gracias for your hard work, excellent leadership and eagerness to learn. Your insightful questions and thoughtful guidance was appreciated by all of us.

Thomas, thank you for your wisdom and insight, eagerly and humbly shared with us all. Your ability to generate conversation and bring laughter to hard days was very valuable.

We are now in Chiapas! We are staying at a hotel here in Tapachula and are eager to see the southern border and hear more about migration from Central America and add another layer to our understanding of this issue. Here to help us out are Myriam and John, two MCC workers serving in Chiapas and Guatemala respectively. We welcome them to team! Again, internet isn’t great here so we will try and post pictures once we are back in Mexico City. Also, tomorrow (Friday the 23rd) we are headed out to a cabin and a lake so we likely won’t have access to wifi, but will send out an update as soon as we get it back.

The Uprooted Team

Stories of Migrants

We have met many migrants along our journey with many of them willing to share their stories with us. Here is just a few stories from the migrant shelter we visited in Mexico City called Tochan Nuestra Casa (our house).

Jose
Jose is 18 years old and from Honduras. He just recently received his refugee status for the country of Mexico. He happily shared with us his refugee status ID which is a separate card from his Honduras ID. Although this allows him to legally reside in Mexico there is still a lot of prejudice and racism towards Central Americans and many private places do not recognize this ID (such as banks) making day to day life difficult.

Jose first left his community in Honduras when he was 16. Gangs were pressuring him to fight and do drugs. This led him to take ‘the beast’ up north to Texas. When he was 17 he was detained for three months. While there he tried to get an asylum case going but the lawyer he spoke with said that violence, gangs and drugs were not a special situation and everyone in Central American counties deals with that.

Thus he was departed back to Honduras. He tried to hide from the gangs and not let them know he returned but they found out. He was living with his grandma at the time and the gang told him if he did no cooperate with them they would kill his grandma. He did not cooperate and a gang member shot him in the leg. Once he recovered he fled to Mexico and that is how he wound up in Tochan Nuestra Casa.

Miguel and Gerry
Miguel and his 16-year old son Gerry are from Honduras as well. They lived with Gerry’s two other brothers back in Honduras. One day when Miguel’s oldest son was going to school he was kidnapped and killed by the local gang. Due to this and the other social problems being experienced Miguel and his two remaining sons decided to flee north. ‘The Beast’ is extremely dangerous with cartels and gangs charging for migrants to ride the train. Miguel and his sons tried getting on the train a number of times, each time being stopped by a gang member who demanded money. They never had any. One time they were being accosted by a gang member when a policeman approached. They thought the police man was there to help them but instead he gave the gang member a gun to continue accosting Miguel and his two sons.

Another incident that occurred was when Miguel and his two sons witnessed gang members rape and kill a mother and her eight year old daughter. Miguel remembers feeling guilt and fear as they could not do anything to stop it from happening.

This scared Miguel’s second son so much that he decided to stay behind leaving just himself and Gerry on their journey North. The two of them decided not to try and take the train anymore but instead walk. They spent two weeks walking to Mexico City.

These stories are hard to hear. Our hearts break for the suffering and violence experienced by our fellow humans, and now friends. Each migrant’s story is unique and we are eager to share more of what we have heard with you when we return.

Davida

Tapachula!!!!!

Hello all,

We have safely arrived in Tapachula! Currently we are adjusting to the heat and humidity, all the while trying to remember to constantly be drinking water. Tomorrow we are off to visit and shelter and meet up with some coffee farmers who are a part of cafe justo (you may remember that we visited the cafe justo headquarters in agua prieta). 

Our Internet connection is a bit temperamental, however we will do our best to post some pictures from our week in Mexico City soon. 

A brief hello

Yesterday we visited the migrant shelter in Mexico City. There we had the opportunity to talk to migrants who were either passing through on their way to the US or who were in the city trying to sort out their papers in order to become a permanent refugee in Mexico. We were impressed by the community that had developed at the shelter, it felt very much like a large family (We will share more about the people we met here later). We spent the rest of the day shopping at a market a few blocks away from Casa de los Amigos. In the evening we relaxed at the Casa and watched a movie called Caesar Chavez.

Well we are pretty pumped about today because we are off to see some Aztec pyramids. More updates to come!

Danielle

A Cultural Day in Mexico City

The day started by taking the subway and a train to a small Mennonite Church a ways away from the Casa. We saw some of your young Mennonite friends from the day before: Oscar played the electric guitar and drums while Yvonne translated for us. The whole congregation gave us a warm welcome and made us feel at home. The music was amazing with many Spanish songs being sung.

After church we had a pic-nic in the biggest park in Mexico City. We could see it from the airplane when we arrived even. We had tortas (sandwiches) and a variety of fruit including cactus! The park had a lot going on including an Indigenous group of Mexico doing a cultural display which included four men (one playing the flute and drum) propelling down by a string attached to their ankle from a 20 metre high pole. It was crazy!

We headed across the street to the other side of the park where the historic museum is located which is in an amazing castle on the top of a hill which oversees the city. We saw lots of interesting and beautiful art work, murals and displays. Although all the information was in Spanish, we could still understand much of the history through the displays, images and artifacts.

We quickly bussed home and many of us stopped for coffee at our new favourite coffee shop. We all put on our finest clothes and marched on down to the ballet folklorico. What an experience! First, the building was amazing with stain glass and murals everywhere and the building was basically made of marble. As we took our seats in the ‘nose bleeds’ and tied Jolene to her seat with Joel’s belt, due to fear of heights, we knew we were in for a real treat! The dances told the stories of Mexico and its many struggles and triumphs. One of our favourite dances was the deer dance depicting a Indigenous group in Mexico not influenced by modern culture and that maintained their original autonomy. The dance told the story of how hunters killed the deer.

As we walked back to Casa our night was still not over. The many street vendors were still out and a man was making ‘fire paintings’ with spray paint and lighting it on fire. Wow!

We all fell into bed exhausted after another full day in Mexico City. But, after a good nights sleep we are ready for another full day and eager to learn more about migration.

All the Best.

Danielle, Krystal, Sherianne and Davida

Adventures in Mexico City thus far

1. As we arrived at the airport, we were all surprised when a large black dog jumped up on Tyler and revealed his secret… He was smuggling sandwiches. Then half our group was even more surprised when our driver didn’t actually know where to go. After mucho confusion, both groups found their way to Casa de los Amigos.

2. We rode the metro. Clementine briefed us on how to be “not too polite or Canadian.” We needed to push our way on so we all made it. It was hard to know what to expect but after getting off the train pushing past a protest on the platform with music blaring, we have a bit of a better sense that… this city is just crazy.

3. Saturday morning we walked through a beautiful garden/park to a casita in the middle of the park. This was home to casa espacio de los refugiados. This is a hub for refugees and migrants to learn and network together and find support in the city. We learned the difference here for refugees and migrants and that Mexico is a hub for people to, not only move through on their way north, but to also come from around the world to seek refugee status. There are 1700 official refugees in Mexico City, but it was stressed that this number doesn’t mean much cause there are so many more living here. An example is that just 2 weeks ago bus loads of 1200 people came from Honduras, which our presenter told us is the most dangerous country in the world right now. We participated in a role playing activity where we had to think about our hopes and dreams and values and they were slowly destroyed as our country was overcome by violence. We had to think about what we would do, where we would go, and if we would have the strength to rebuild our lives.

4. We were joined by a mennonite young adult group for the morning and enjoyed lunch and a game of frisbee with them. Lunch was quesadilla’s from a street vendor. They were delicious! And luckily we’re all currently digesting them fine.

5. The afternoon (well late afternoon. Lunch here is at 3pm) we explored the centre of the city. We walked into churches and shops along a popular walking street packed with people, towards the central plaza of the city (is the largest plaza in Latin America and can fit up to 100,000 people!) Here we saw the municipal cathedral and the ruins of the pyramid it was built upon. It was an overwhelming afternoon of exploring Mexico City.

You can definitely tell that Mexico City is home to over 2/3 of Canada’s population.